Cyber security

What is corporate espionage? And how to prevent it

12 August 2022

The world of corporate espionage isn’t restricted to the world of James Bond films or spy novels, it's a real threat to a variety of industries.

Financial and commercial gain is the primary driver of cybercrime.

What is Corporate Espionage?

Corporate espionage is also known as industrial espionage, corporate spying, or economic espionage, this practice involves the theft of a company's valuable data and information. Where a spy for MI6 acts on behalf of the government to uncover international secrets, corporate espionage occurs between rival businesses.

Like any form of cyber attack, this practice encompasses a wide range of techniques that are all designed to obtain sensitive information or disrupt business operations.


What Are The Different Forms Of Corporate Espionage?

Industrial espionage, or corporate espionage comprises two main forms:

1. Intellectual Property Acquisition

Innovative manufacturing processes and techniques are intellectual property that corporate espionage targets. In addition to this, internal processes and patented products are information that other organisations will benefit from knowing. Operational information such as sales and consumer data, research and development plans, and marketing strategies are also valuable.

2. Trade Secret Theft 

Using a combination of social engineering techniques and malware, corporate espionage agents can steal trade secrets and conduct technological surveillance of an organisation.

Although corporate espionage mostly occurs between organisations, governments can also be victims. For example, a potential recipient of a government contract could attempt to obtain inside information.

For businessowner, or the owner of an organisation, or staff responsible for its internal security, it’s best practice to implement security measures to keep valuable information secret.

To understand how to prevent corporate espionage, it’s important to learn the techniques and tools that are used.

The Tools & Tactics Used In Corporate Espionage

  • Trespassing. An unauthorised person could gain access to a business's property and access files to obtain information
  • Posing As An Employee. By posing as an employee of an organisation, either in-person or online, someone could learn trade secrets or retrieve sensitive data
  • Man In The Middle Attack/ Wiretapping. Wiretapping on a phone system or an online man in the middle attack allows people to listen or view competitive intelligence
  • Hacking & Malware Attacks. Subverting existing software for malicious purposes or deploying malware.  A cyberattack on an organisation by a competitor could provide the attacker access to sensitive information and private data using this tactic
  • Phishing Attacks. Fake emails can trick employees into revealing confidential information or clicking a link that installs malware
  • Taking Advantage Of Poor Security Practices. Competitors could exploit weaknesses in a company's network security to gain access to information and data

Corporate espionage is conducted covertly and is based on exploiting security weaknesses and poor security practices. Most of the time industrial espionage cases can be prevented with robust procedures and processes.

Disrupting Corporate Espionage & How To Protect An Organisation

Corporate espionage may be unique to other forms of cyberattacks. However, the prevention of the practice is similar to how any security incident is halted.

For an organisation to be confident it’s intellectual property, operational data, and valuable information is secure, they need a comprehensive security strategy. This is a series of processes and procedures that ensure a layered form of defence is in place.

For anyone involved in the security management process of an organisation, ensuring there are appropriate protections against corporate espionage is essential.

Two examples of ways to protect an organisation are Zero Trust and Modern Desktop.

What Is Zero Trust?

Zero Trust is a security concept that assumes parties inside or outside an organisation can be compromised and then impersonated. This approach relies on increased verification checks using technologies such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), device health status, and encryption.

The correct processes are also vital to ensure complete protection against an industrial spy. For example, employees should only have the access to the internal IT systems they need in order to fulfil their job role.

What Is Modern Desktop?

Modern Desktop involves the running of an organisation using the Windows 10 operating system on internal computer systems, as well as Microsoft 365 in the cloud. It gives users access to the latest productivity tools that are secure and protected, while still enabling users to operate remotely.

How Bluecube Safeguards Against Corporate Espionage?

  • Compliance Services. Our team takes staff through Cyber Essentials, a government-backed scheme that offers cyber protection for an organisation. This defends against the most common, basic forms of cyberattacks
  • Office 365 Configuration. We perform assessments of O365 security configuration to improve our clients’ security position
  • Incident Response. Our team investigates suspicious user activity that may result in business emails being compromised or credential theft
  • Tracking Emerging Threats. All our clients use software that has vulnerabilities relevant to their industry and technologies. We track these and provide and apply relevant protections
  • Securing Identities, Data, & Devices. We implement security protections using expert strategies and approaches such as Zero Trust and Modern Desktop

At Bluecube, we view every cyber security incident as a vital opportunity that needs to be analysed and learned from. This information should advise on the cyber security strategy and protections used for our clients. That’s why any organisation can have confidence the risk management measures our team implements are effective.

Looking for Cyber Security protection? Contact Bluecube

We provide a layered cyber security defence using protections applied at the identity, data, and device levels. To find out more, fill in an enquiry form on our contact page today, or give our expert team a call on 0845 257 8010.