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PAIA Section 51 Manual



Post-Industrial Espionage

Competitive intelligence professionals emphasize that they can satisfy 95 percent of their executives' needs for information about competitors using open, public sources and legal, ethical methods. Most companies stop there--but not all of them. Two recent news items suggested the lengths to which some information thieves are willing to go.

In September 2000, Irwin Jacobs, founder and chairman of Qualcomm Inc., finished a speech to the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in Irvine, Calif., and stepped away from the podium in a hotel ballroom. After talking with members of the audience for about 20 minutes, he discovered that his laptop computer was gone. Although local police considered it to have been a commonplace theft of a $4,000 piece of equipment, Jacobs told The Wall Street Journal that the information on the portable's hard drive could have been far more valuable to foreign governments. (At the time, Qualcomm was negotiating a deal for CDMA service across the People's Republic of China.)

It was later revealed that Jacobs' laptop had been protected by nothing more than a basic Windows password. Security experts say that's no protection at all. "That's dynamite," says Graham Titterington, senior analyst for technology consultants Ovum Ltd. in London. It's bad enough, he adds, that senior executives may carry sensitive financial information and other critical enterprise data on a portable machine, but if that laptop enables them to access back-end systems behind the company firewall, "that's the biggest possible security hole in the company's fence."

In October, Microsoft Corp. discovered that for three months someone had been breaking into the corporate network to look at the source code of products under development. It is not known how many other documents were also accessible to the hacker, but those sources could have included contracts, e-mail, marketing documents and other key components of the company's business strategy and operations.

Unlike the police view of the theft of Jacob's laptop, Microsoft officials had little doubt that this break-in was an act of industrial espionage. The incident was a reminder that breaking into networks has become a useful tool for illegally cutting corners. Obviously, the protection wasn't ironclad, but Microsoft's security team is considered top-notch and few corporations have more resources or greater incentive to maintain the integrity of their information channels. If they can't keep their knowledge safe, who can?


-Open Yet Guarded: Protecting the Knowledge Enterprise
-Integrating CI into KM
-Post-Industrial Espionage
-Open Dialogues and Closed Communities
-quantumiii and Competitive Intelligence
Professional membership - quantumiii is proudly associated with SCIP - the international Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals

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