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CORPORATE ESPIONAGE


throughout that high-profile meeting, you are potentially broadcasting to the world. Even innocuous kit like a wireless keyboard can send information to the street. So does that mean corporate espionage is simple to protect against?


To a point. It’s less about buying a £100k piece of top-level protection and more about taking care of the basics: being explicit about data security in contracts, and pursuing those in breach; keeping email logs to track trails; and auditing and patching systems. Sony’s recent hacking scandal showed that even tech giants are failing at the latter. Finally, know where your key IP is and who has access to it. If


you leave a hole in your defences, it will be exploited. “Information gatherers are highly trained professionals,” Maripuu warns. Finally, however, it’s about establishing the culture. “If companies


“It’s a day-to-day occurrence to have


people leaving their job and taking intellectual property with them. The weakest link is always the people”


UK and Swiss companies to see whether they’re being monitored,” says Hines. “Their view is that this is confidential information and that rivals can benefit if these discoveries leak out.”


The weakest link All this is illustrative of a definitive truth about espionage – the biggest threat is human, and on the inside. All the 007-style stuff is comparatively rare. “There’s a gap between the top-level glamorous corporate espionage and data leakage,” says des Forges. “It’s a day-to- day occurrence to have people leaving their job and taking intellectual property (IP) with them. The weakest link is always the people.” White Rock reckons human error is responsible for 80 per cent


of corporate espionage – being tricked into sharing information via social engineering attacks, which include ‘phishing’ emails and other online scams; emailing confidential documents; or losing USB keys. By contrast, Maripuu says only three per cent of corporate espionage is down to those sexy high-tech attacks from outside. The other 17 per cent? That’s caused by something incredibly


mundane – a lack of basic housekeeping, like not clearing desks or destroying documents, and failing to secure keys. You couldn’t make a Bond film out of that (although we would like to see Q pimping a shredder). And that’s before you factor in misuse of mobile technology. Corporations are now handing out smartphones and tablets to employees without giving security a second thought. Yet such tools are recorders, with wireless capabilities, and if you’re fiddling with one


34 businesslife.co August/September 2011


opened their minds and implemented the counter-measures overtly it would have a positive effect,” she adds. “Employees would know they couldn’t risk it because they’d be found out. Yet we’re still getting called in over weekends or through the night. It’s all very hush-hush.” Ten years ago you may have questioned why you


needed a firewall for your network. Now it seems you need one round your entire business. n


DAVE WALLER is a freelance business writer For your Ikos only


AS TALES of corporate intrigue go, few are as cinematic as the 2009 divorce of Ikos co-founders Elena Ambrosiadou and Martin Coward. She is one of the world’s richest women, he her maths-whizz ex. Ambrosiadou accused Coward of stealing Ikos’s software trading


secrets so he could set up a rival fund in Monaco, where he lives with his Brazilian girlfriend. First she bugged his house and planted a GPS tracker on his Aston Martin. When Coward called in private investigators to sweep the house, they unearthed the devices which, in a twist more Austin Powers than James Bond, had recorded the movements of the bugging team that Ambrosiadou had hired. Court papers state that the bugs recorded a conversation between


Coward and his mother, in which they discussed ‘issues concerning the claimant’s business plans, investments and tax affairs’. Coward is suing Ambrosiadou for spying and harassment and claims his human rights have been breached. Meanwhile Tobin Gover, a former Ikos employee, claims Ambrosiadou sent someone to spy on him too. Dutch agent Laura Merts moved into a flat in the Cyprus apartment block where he lived with his wife, spending Christmas with the couple and even looking after their child. Ikos responded in May, saying it ‘lawfully’ investigated Coward


and ‘a number of former employees’ because of concerns over property theft, and went on to assure the firm’s investors that all steps were taken to protect ‘its trade secrets’. People will clearly go to great lengths these days with a view to making a killing.


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