Just when you thought you had the corporate crown jewels under lock and key it now appears that veteran CIA spies can moonlight and help your competitors determine what is going on inside your company! I just finished reading a book titled “Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy” by Eamon Javers. In his book Javers details how companies are employing CIA Agents to spy on their competitors. Using cutting-edge technology, age-old techniques of deceit and manipulation, and sheer talent, spies act as the hidden puppeteers of globalized businesses.
Because the US Federal Government cannot pay these seasoned employees enough compensation, they are now permitted to use their skills during off hours. This permits them to leverage their experience and techniques, such as reading the body language of CEOs during interviews to see if they are telling the truth. Javers discusses a theory called “cognitive dissidence” which says that when someone attempts to hold two conflicting ideas in their brain at the same time, normal people will display noticeable patterns of discomfort. The human brain will do almost anything to avoid this discomfort and will attempt to do or say things to circumvent the truth. The classic example is Bill Clinton’s “There is no affair” and “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Agents trained to detect body language and innocuous activities can detect valuable information that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Although somewhat surprising, most people would accept these techniques as creative ways of keeping ahead of the competition. However, several other examples that Javers divulges borders on what most people would think of as illegal. For example, companies hire spies to listen to employee’s conversations at restaurants. Illegal? Probably not. A little shady? Maybe.
Javers goes on to discuss a case called the “The Chocolate Wars” between Hershey and Mars where Hershey’s spies were dumpster diving in Mars’ garbage looking for corporate information. The spies were very meticulous about their activities. To ensure that the Mars janitors did not notice the missing garbage bags they replaced what they removed with “dummy garbage”. They searched for discarded emails, calendars and other documents that would tell them anything about what was going on inside their competitor. They also paid employees at a resort to listen in on executive conversations. You might be surprised to learn that none of this is illegal in most states.
So the question that I would like to pose is… “in the area of document security, both physical and digital, what safeguards do you have in place today that will reduce this current threat to your corporate information?”
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