Sophisticated hackers seldom generate enough incriminating evidence to get caught. Mark Lanterman, C.T.O. of Computer Forensic Services, estimates it’s less than one percent. Over the past few years, there have been several high-profile cyber attacks against companies, including Target, Home Depot, and Sony.
Beginning in 2006, 70 companies, governments, and non-profit organizations were hacked, and spies continued to take information for two years. These ongoing cyber attacks were first reported by Dmitri Alperovitch, and have since been nicknamed “Operation Shady RAT.”
In 2009, hackers stole proprietary information from U.S. and European Energy Companies. Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP had their topographical maps hacked. These computerized maps locate potential oil reserves, and according to investigators the attack resulted in the loss of “project financing information with regard to oil and gas field bids and operations.” The hack was dubbed “Night Dragon.”
Both Operation Shady Rat and Night Dragon are said to have originated “primarily” in China, but information is vague.
Before copyright and patent protection, corporate espionage was just another nine-to-five way of doing business. However, some companies still attempt to acquire trade secrets. Data security is so tight that corporations rarely attempt to hack one another. Besides, businesses like to take an Us against Them stand against hackers. It is, as they say...good for business. At the same time, if there’s really a less than one percent chance of hackers getting caught, then companies may want to change their tactics. With these 10 cases of industrial espionage, the perpetrators weren’t so lucky.
10 Oracle Monitors Microsoft
9 Hewlett-Packard Steals from Itself
Big Brother is watching. And apparently so is Hewlett-Packard. In 2006, in an attempt to ferret out the source of boardroom leaks, Hewlett-Packard went Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and snooped on its directors, reporters, and employees. The company, the largest U.S. personal computer and printer manufacturer at the time, sifted through garbage, set up surveillance, planted spies, and hired investigators who posed as company directors and reporters in order to obtain phone records.
8 Steven Louis Davis Thieves Gillette’s Razor Design
7 7. Four Pillars Enterprise Company Sticks It to Avery Dennison
6 Procter & Gamble Dumpster Dives Unilever
It was only 14 years ago, but technology moves fast and P&G’s attempt to spy on hair care rival Unilever seems quaint by today’s standards. Procter & Gamble didn’t tap, bug, or set up equipment to record 10 different phone lines. This was no Cyber-Pearl Harbor. In 2001, P&G “operatives ” went undercover as dumpster divers and went through Unilever’s trash in search of intel that might enable the company to gain an edge over their rival. The spying operation was carried out over six months, and agents acquired almost 80 pages of confidential documents from the dumpster outside Unilever’s Chicago office.
5 Starwood Lodges a Complaint Against Hilton
In April 2009, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide filed a corporate espionage suit against Hilton, forcing the hotel chain to stop the development of its Denizen brand. The lawsuit claimed that two former Starwood executives hired by Hilton stole more than 100,000 confidential documents. The documents had information about Starwood’s W chain, and according to the lawsuit they were going to be used to assist Hilton in replicating Starwood’s niche of "lifestyle hotels." Starwood said the “truckload” of documents contained “competitively sensitive information.”
4 Volkswagen Drives Away with General Motors’ Secrets
When Jose Ignacio Lopez, chief of production for GM’s Opel division, left for a job with rival Volkswagen, he allegedly he took a bundle of confidential documents with him. He also took seven of Opel’s top executives, which means the Detroit manufacturer was no doubt angry and embarrassed. But was it looking for revenge?
It was 1981. Arcades were hot. MTV launched…and so did the first Columbia Space Shuttle. The Osborne 1, the first portable computer, was unveiled at a computer fair on the West Coast. Things were technologically simpler in the pre-Internet era, but corporations were still stealing secrets.
2 Avant! Corporation Steals Code from Cadence Design Systems
In 1995, Cadence Design Systems sued Avant!, accusing the software rival of stealing code, copyright infringement, conspiracy, and other improprieties. The Avant! case is considered one of the most notorious white-collar crimes in the history of Silicon Valley. “What makes the case unique,” according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Julius Finkelstein, “is that you have a large, publicly traded company that was built on stolen property.”
How did Avant! Corp. steal the code? Simple. Four Cadence engineers struck out on their own and formed Avant! in 1991. They brought the purloined code with them.
1 Britain Pinches China’s Tea Secrets
Britain’s thirst for tea has waned. The volume of tea consumed in the last decade has fallen by 20%. However, in the 1800s, Britain loved tea. Tea and cakes, according to Anna, seventh Duchess of Bedford, was the best antidote to a late afternoon “sinking feeling.”
Before the British East India Company dominated the tea trade, the brew was monopolized by China. Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist and adventurer, was hired by the British East India Company to smuggle tea’s secrets –plants, seeds, etc. –out of China and into British-ruled India. Allegedly, Robert Fortune disguised himself as a Chinese merchant. According to Sarah Rose, author of For All the Tea in China, Robert Fortune’s smuggling operation was the greatest act of corporate espionage in history.”
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