Cyber Spying Awareness Campaign

Friday, July 31, 2015 @ 01:07 PM gHale

Cyber attacks continue and the sophistication levels keep growing so knowing that the FBI is kicking off a campaign focused on educating business and industry leaders about the mounting threat, and monetary losses, of economic espionage.

As part of the campaign, the FBI is releasing a video entitled, “The Company Man: Protecting America’s Secrets.”

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The video, created by the FBI in collaboration with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, follows along with an actual case involving the attempted theft of trade secrets from a U.S. company by a foreign competitor.

Although the exact dollar figure on the costs and losses to U.S. businesses as a result of economic espionage is difficult to accurately report, the losses are substantial.

In a 2013 report by the Blair Huntsman IP Commission examining the theft of American intellectual property, the study estimates the total losses estimated to be in the “hundreds of billions” each year. Those numbers do not take into consideration those companies who either do not detect, do not report, or under-report losses tied to economic espionage.

Those responsible for the theft are usually foreign competitors or governments looking for trade secrets, production methods, innovations, and even insights into labor or trade disputes. Investigators are not only seeing an increase in attempts to steal proprietary information but those attempting to steal those secrets are getting more brazen in their efforts, said Assistant Director Randall Coleman of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

“We’ve had cases, and it’s outlined in the video, where we have people literally walking into warehouses and factories attempting to steal secrets,” Coleman said. “It’s actually shocking the lengths they will go to try and steal information.”

These foreign competitors deliberately target economic intelligence in flourishing U.S. industries. Foreign competitors create an elaborate network of spies to aggressively target current and former foreign nationals working for or retired from U.S. companies and research institutions; recruit and perform technical operations including bribery, discreet theft, dumpster diving (in search of discarded trade secrets), computer intrusion, and wiretapping; and establish seemingly innocent business relationships between foreign companies and U.S. industries to gather economic intelligence, including proprietary information.

The FBI and the Department of Justice broke cases, including:
Walter Lian-Heen Liew (aka Liu Yuanxuan), a California man who was sentenced in July 2014 to 15 years in prison on multiple economic espionage-related charges and was ordered to forfeit more than $27 million in profits in connection with his theft of trade secrets from DuPont regarding its chloride-route titanium dioxide (TiO2) production technology and the subsequent selling of that information to state-owned companies of the People’s Republic of China.

Yihao Pu, a computer science engineer who was sentenced in January 2015 to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $750,000 in restitution in connection with his theft of sensitive trade secrets from a trading firm in New Jersey and a Chicago-based financial firm.

Traditionally, the most likely targets for economic espionage have been large corporations with a nexus to products and services relating to the U.S. government, but Coleman points out the targets of the theft are also changing.

“While those defense and technology industries will always be targets, we have found that the secrets behind any product — an irrigation sprinkler head, for example — can be valuable in the hands of someone who wants to find out how it works,” Coleman said.

The goal of the FBI’s campaign is to not only raise awareness of the threat of economic espionage but to educate those with proprietary information about the warning signs of an insider threat or attempted breach.

Click here to view the video.