October 25th, 2006 05:03 EST
KEEPING SECRETS New Initiative Offers Tips for Businesses
An executive of a hi-tech American firm on a business trip overseas returns from a jog and finds her electronic key won’t open her hotel room door. A hotel employee explains it will take an hour to get a replacement and can’t let her in. The executive thinks nothing of it and waits in the lobby.
Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? What the executive may not realize is that someone could be going through her baggage at that very moment, looking for trade secrets. It’s called economic espionage, and it’s more common than you think.
In fact, if your company does any military research—or other classified work for the U.S. government—it’s a safe bet that foreign countries and business competitors would love to learn more about your work. And they are willing to go to great lengths to get it.
That’s why the FBI recently launched a new Research and Technology Protection (RTP) program, part of our long-standing InfraGard program. Now in its 10th year, InfraGard is a national partnership between the FBI and the major industries that make up the critical U.S. infrastructure.
The RTP program gives businesses, academic institutions, and other entities important information—including intelligence reports—about the threats they face. They can learn, through the InfraGard website, how foreign adversaries are using every means at their disposal to acquire information and technology. And how to prevent it.
“It’s better for us to let them know what the threats are, so they can be our nation’s first line of defense,” said Kevin Favreau, Special Agent in Charge of Counterintelligence at the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office, who helped spearhead the development of our RTP program. “It’s about sharing information with the people who need it the most.”
The program also encourages companies to report when they have been victims of foreign spies —or even if they think they’ve been unsuccessfully targeted.
“Sometimes a company may get a strange request for information about one of their products. It’s just strange enough that they’ll withhold the information, but they won’t report it to us,” said Supervisory Special Agent Shelagh Sayers, who is leading the RTP program. “But that kind of information is valuable. Who is targeting them? How? What are they after? If they tell us, we can share the information with other members—or launch an investigation if it’s warranted.”
When it comes to economic espionage, the stakes are high. “If companies lose a secret or a product and a company in a foreign country starts producing it, our companies lose money. Sometimes enough to be ruined financially,” Sayers said. “There’s a lot of great information out there that we want to share to keep that from happening.”
So how can a company get access to the RTP program? First, they have to join a local chapter of InfraGard. Then they can apply for access to the Research and Technology Protection portion of the site.
Resources: FBI Counterintelligence Page