Magazine article Security Management

Countering the Threat of Espionage

Magazine article Security Management

Countering the Threat of Espionage

Article excerpt

THE STUNNING RAPIDITY OF THE changes witnessed in the world order have not altered the basic premise that information for countries or corporations is the key to competitiveness and survival. The methods and techniques used to protect this information--counterespionage--have taken on economic, as well as political, implications in a developing global economy.

The first step in developing a comprehensive counterespionage strategy is to examine the nature of the threat and the motivation of the spy in the corporate structure. History has shown that spies are motivated by money. Financial problems or outright greed coupled with the opportunity to capitalize on access to classified information led to the spate of national spy cases in the late 1980s.

AT FIRST GLANCE, the payments from Soviet and Chinese intelligence appeared extremely generous. John Walker, for example, received $1 million during a seventeen-year period for selling U.S. submarine technology to the Soviets. More recent is the alleged spy activity of Aldrich H. Ames, a CIA counterintelligence officer, and his wife who lived in the Washington, D.C., area. Both are charged with turning over top-secret documents to the Soviet Union and later to Russia. It has been estimated that Ames was paid more than $2.7 million since 1985 for his work as a double agent.

The payoff for corporate spies can be much greater than the figures cited here. Chien Ming Sung, an employee of General Electric (GE), received $1 million per year to pass along secrets of industrial synthetic diamond production to a South Korean company. This secret alone, notes Peter Schweizer in Friendly Spies, has been estimated to be worth $500 million annually in future sales. Sung's espionage career was brought to a halt as the result of an investigation of his activities to recruit a GE technician, who reported the suspicious contact to company security officials.

Is this an isolated or unusual occurrence in the business world? The 1992 ASIS-sponsored Proprietary and Technology Theft Survey brought this question directly to the U.S. business community. The results of the survey were issued in the article, "Trends in Competitive Intelligence," that appeared in the January 1993 issue of Security Management. The thirty-two respondents reported dollar losses of $1.82 billion as a direct result of intellectual property theft from their businesses.

Ironically, Richard J. Heffernan, CPP, and Dan T. Swartwood, authors of the article, note that these same respondents reported average annual expenditures of $15,000 to safeguard proprietary information. This incredible disparity is symptomatic of the fragmented, piecemeal manner in which the security industry has struggled with the development of a cohesive counterespionage strategy both in government and in business.

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, attempts to create a true government-wide counterespionage strategy were frustrated by bureaucratic rivalries, turf wars among the members of the national counterespionage community, and a constant scramble for resources to justify efforts. As late as 1987, after the enormity of the damage caused by the Walker ring had been recognized, the chief of operations for the U.S. Army's worldwide counterespionage unit made the startling announcement that the Army was spending more to support its musical programs than on its worldwide counterintelligence mission.

Beginning in 1986, however, dramatic actions were taken in the development of a national counterespionage strategy. The highest levels of government directed that a coordinated and cohesive counterespionage program be implemented by all members of the national counterespionage community--the Department of Defense, FBI, CIA, and Department of State. Private businesses can use the strategy and techniques developed under this government program as a guide in their efforts to deter, detect, or investigate incidents of industrial espionage. …

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