Industrial espionage became almost a necessity for most modern countries. This type of espionage is sometimes referred to as mild or low-profile espionage activity.
However, it is often not less dangerous than other field operative activities. To get results, agencies usually have to invest in unique people for long periods of time.
This type of activity has to be played very carefully as an information leak from an organization may reveal the mere existence of a mole and terminate his or her activity permanently.
It is a very complicated and sophisticated long-term espionage activity that requires diverse skills to get to the right position in the organization, access to the appropriate information and the ability transfer it.
There are many types, forms and ways to perform such espionage. Industrial espionage usually is referred to as economic or corporate espionage.
The main target is for commercial purposes. However, there are other targets such as those for national security purposes and this type of espionage is conducted by governments worldwide.
In such cases, the targets are corporations, mainly those based on sophisticated technology such as: aerospace, telecommunications, biotechnology and others.
Post war era industrial espionage has taken on additional forms such as sabotage. This act is performed in cases where the target is to cause delays in certain developments, such as industries developing advanced military weapons.
Recruiting agents has many forms. A good and simple way is to identify a dissatisfied employee who is willing to cooperate for financial benefits in conjunction with revenge.
An inside-job is considered one of the best ways to get the information needed.
In certain cases some convincing may be required to get the level of cooperation needed, which may include blackmail, bribes or benefits.
Although recruiting an insider is a favorable way, there is no comparison to the well-trained dedicated home agent. The use of inside agents or home agents may be at corporate level, government level or both.
In order to hide the original source ordering or requiring that data or process, there are often levels of operatives or organizations in between.
In certain cases governments prefer to do this type of spying rather than make use of their own intelligence agencies. Governments use their business delegates, students and academics for information gathering.
Industrial espionage during the period of 1960-1980 was very difficult. However, with the introduction of super fast computers and the Internet, it has become much easier to transfer data. Accordingly, new measures of counter-espionage have been developed, but they still have not eliminated the possibilities for copying and stealing information.
The U.S. National Counter Intelligence Center (NACIC), in their reports to Congress, has indicated the existence of foreign industrial espionage activities.
They reported that the main targeted industries are information systems, aeronautics, biotechnology, electronics, sensors, armaments, energy related materials, nuclear systems, telecommunications, space systems and weapons.
The methods of espionage include surveillance and specialized technical operations such as signal intelligence. The foreign students studying in the U.S. and foreign employees of U.S. firms and agencies are very common sources for recruitment.
There are similar activities during international conferences and trade fairs. Other sources are sponsorship of research projects in the U.S. and assigning foreign commercial or science officers to joint research and development projects. In addition, a vast range of disinformation is used in many areas. There is an extensive range of free or open information that can be and is exploited. There are many publicly accessed databases that are available to all. In addition, anyone can ask for information directly or via email, communicating with scientists and discussion groups.
Actually, these days it is almost impossible to hermetically close and protect information from leaking.
As long as data is kept digitally and online and humans or betraying humans are involved, guarding and saving information is very difficult.
According to the FBI, economic spying by countries considered friends or adversaries of the U.S. is increasing each year. They have confirmed that hundreds of foreign counterintelligence investigations involving economic espionage are pending before the Bureau.
Such espionage can make an enormous contribution to the national security of the spying country.