The paper attempts to examine and understand the challenge of espionage to industries and businesses in America. However, in doing so, it shall also look at the historical development of espionage and examines how the advances in technology in the recent years have facilitated the act of espionage, and also the measures that may prove useful in controlling industrial espionage. As a prelude to the research, it may be worthwhile to understand how industrial espionage is defined, its nature and implications.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines industrial espionage as "an individual or private business entity sponsorship or coordination of intelligence activity conducted for the purpose of enhancing their advantage in the marketplace." [Cited Boni and Kovacich, 2000; p. 48] While the definition may imply industrial espionage to be more or less the same as business or competitive intelligence, John F Quinn explains the essential difference between the two - while business intelligence is generally under private sponsorship using an "open" methodology, espionage may be either government or privately sponsored and clandestine. [Cited Boni and Kovacich, 2000; p. 47]
In the highly competitive and globalized business environment, proprietary intellectual property and economic information is considered the most valuable commodity by all nations, particularly the advanced ones. Businesses and/or governments involve in espionage activities for the purpose of unlawfully or clandestinely obtaining sensitive financial, trade or economic policy information, proprietary/sensitive economic information; or critical technologies including but not limited to data, plans, tools, mechanisms, compounds, designs, formulae, processes, procedures, programs, codes or commercial strategies, whether tangible or intangible, for competitive business advantage. The proprietary information so stolen may have been stored, compiled or memorialised physically, electronically, graphically, photographically or in writing and may be reasonably protected by the owner and not available to the general public. [Boni and Kovacich, 2000; p. 48]
Proprietary information may be stolen by employees accessing the business and company databases, hackers breaking into the company server, or sponsored teams of burglars. While companies may lose vital business information through employees leaving the job, espionage occurs when the employee willfully looks for the data, steals it, copies it and sells it for money, or for his own unit, when he intends to produce a similar item. Espionage by competitors involve spying the activities of other businesses and unlawfully gathering of secret information, so that they can steer their businesses by adopting appropriate strategies and stay at par with, if not ahead of, competition in the marketplace. Interested outsiders and competitors adopt many methods including bribery, detective spying through shady agencies, searching through garbage, also referred to as 'dumpster diving,' scams to trick workers through 'social engineering', or even expose loopholes and weak points in the lives of workers and blackmail them for gathering information.
The theft or unlawful receipt of intellectual property and econo