Corporate espionage is a serious threat if you are running a successful business. Businesses, no matter big or small should be aware of it. The recent spying incidents at Apple are clear incidents that even such big names of tech industries aren’t safe from such acts.
For the second time in six months, Apple accused a Chine national engineer of stealing Apple’s trade secrets related to self-driving cars. The investigation began when another employee reported seeing the accused, Jizhong Chen was found taking photographs in a sensitive area. Chen was working as a hardware developer engineer in the company.
According to the complaint, Chen allowed Apple Global Security employees to go through his personal computer. The employees found thousands of files which contained Apple’s intellectual property and included diagrams, schematics, and manuals. Along with that, security personnel found a hundred photographs taken inside an Apple building.
The authorities were successful in apprehending Chen the day before when was all ready to leave for China where Chen had applied for a job at an autonomous vehicle company recently. The vehicle company happens to be a direct competitor of Apple’s project. Also, another photo was found in Chen’s possession which demonstrated an assembly drawing of an Apple-designed wiring harness for an autonomous vehicle.
Espionage has affected all kind of companies. According to a G4S, a British multinational security services company has estimated the cost of corporate espionage as high as $1.1 million trillion annually. And, the impact of confidential or sensitive company information getting stolen is estimated to be around $400bn a year. This is alarming. The board of all companies should consider this as a serious risk instead of only focusing on the threat of a cyber-attack.
Companies need to pay attention to their internal processes and the security measures used to keep confidential data safe. One of the best ways could be using the best employee monitoring app to monitor your employee activities. Most companies give their employees a cell phone for work-related tasks, installing the best employee monitoring app could assist the higher management in knowing who the employees are talking to and whether they are involved in any unethical, suspicious activity such leaking information to rivals or stealing data.
If your business never had to suffer a fate such as Apple or any other company who lost substantial information because of corporate espionage, here is what you need to learn:
The first thing you need to do is gather complete information on who, what and how:
Who: It is possible that the person who is spying on your company is an upset employee who is dissatisfied with the way things are going for him. It could also be a competitor, supplier or anyone else who has easy access to sensitive data of the business.
What are they looking for?
This question can have numerous possible answers. Let’s take a look at few of them:
- Client information: For any business, their customer’s information is the most valuable as it contains their financial information as well. Stealing client information not only threatens client privacy but leads to a loss of clients as well.
- Financial information: This includes the financial information of the business. And stealing this information could allow rivals to offer better deals to steal business, deals and steal employees even.
- Marketing information: When someone knows the marketing angle you are going to adopt, they would know just the right step to respond to your campaign and ruin it even.
- Trade secrets: corporate espionage could include stealing protected information and trade secrets treading the existing products as well as products which are getting developed.
Rivals could be after any of these and cause massive loss to your business.
How could you keep your company data safe?
- Review the processes and practices you have for new employees. There should be a strict screening process.
- Share important information with relevant employees only.
- Conduct a thorough security audit. Test the rights of data access and the rights of physical access to the sensitive spaces for all the employees (IT professionals, engineers, and cleaners).
- Track the printer and copier usage along with the restricting removable media storage. Most important USBs.
- You can try to control data leakage using data tagging, tracking, encryption, and machine learning methods.
- Establish a Clean Desk Policy which specifies that employees have to clear up their desk before leaving the workplace of all papers and any other documentation.
- Using the best employee monitoring app allows you to monitor your employees’ movement during work hours and see the kind of activities they are involved in.
- Dispose of sensitive printed material at the right time. Establish a security policy of shredding the documents as soon as you are done.
- Another important way to keep things under control is by using security cameras in all the common areas such as hallways and entrances etc.
- Establish badge access in buildings, elevators and the floors which contain important sensitive files and information. This way, no one would wander the buildings uselessly be it an employee or an outsider.
The ideas mentioned above are some tips you could implement right away and protect your business against corporate espionage. The key is to keep educating your employees constantly. Let them know about the potential threats your company could face and the role they play in your company’s security. Make rules and establish simple safety procedures and security procedures such as password changing. Teach them with the example of social engineering and how hackers/rivals could use it to get access to company data.
Remember, your employees make up the first defense line against corporate espionage. And also the best one too as we can clearly see from the Apple example. An employee, who noticed something odd about Chen came forward and reported him.