Top 6 Industries At Risk

Take a look at areas most-targeted by corporate and industrial espionage.

Identifying the top 6 industries at risk for corporate or industrial espionage involves considering factors such as competition, value of intellectual property, economic impact, and the potential for information theft. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the following industries are commonly considered to be at higher risk:

6. Healthcare:

  • Healthcare organizations, like investment firms, also handle vast amounts of sensitive health-related data, making them a target for data breaches. Often sensitive information is gathered by state-sponsored threat actors for the purpose of gaining a competitive edge in military, economic, or political interests.

    Case Study: In 2020, CareCentrix filed a lawsuit against Marcus Lanzar and Signify Health, accusing Lanzar of corporate espionage and theft of confidential information.

5. Finance and Banking:

  • Financial institutions handle vast amounts of sensitive data, making them a target for cyber espionage. Insider trading and theft of financial information are potential motives.

    Cast Study: Credit Suisse hired private detectives to spy on their former head of wealth management after moving to rival company UBS. Credit Suisse planned and carried out nearly 7 spying operations between 2016 and 2019.

4. Energy:

  • Oil, gas, and renewable energy companies face the risk of espionage due to the strategic importance of energy resources. Theft of advanced technologies and exploration data is typically most at risk.

    Case Study: In 2011, McAfee announced that a campaign of coordinate cyber-attacks originating from China, dubbed “Night Dragon“, had targeted and stolen data relating to oil field operations and financing.

3. Defense and Aerospace:

  • National security concerns, classified projects, and cutting-edge technologies make defense and aerospace industries a significant target. Espionage in this sector can have far-reaching implications.

    Case Study: Lockheed Martin, the company that manufactures the F-35 for the US Government, was breached in 2009 and again in 2011 by unknown adversaries.

2. Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology:

  • Companies in these industries invest heavily in research and development. The race to bring new drugs or medical technologies to market creates a competitive environment, making them susceptible to espionage.

    Case Study: In 2001, Proctor & Gamble stole sensitive information from trash bins of competitor Unilever. The operation spanned over six months and resulted in almost 80 pages of confidential documents being recovered from the dumpster outside Unilever’s Chicago office. P&G ultimately admitted to doing so and settled with Unilever to the tune of $10 million.

1. Technology and IT:

  • High innovation and valuable intellectual property make the technology sector a prime target for espionage. Theft of trade secrets, software, and advanced research can be lucrative.

    Case Study: In the 1980’s, Hitachi was charged with conspiring to steal confidential computer secrets from IBM. At least two employees at Hitachi plead guilty and were fined and placed on probation.

These are just a few of the more prominent cases effecting the 6 most at-risk markets today.

However, it is important to realize that emerging technologies and geopolitical factors can influence the risk profile of industries.

As markets change from year to year, so to does the landscape of industries at risk for espionage evolve over time. And the risk level can vary among individual companies within these sectors.

In previous years, industrial espionage has effected the auto sector (Volkswagen vs. General Motors) and the hospitality industry (Starwood vs. Hilton) to name a few.

Just because an industry isn’t listed above does not make it immune to espionage. At the end of the day, espionage is a war of information and if you have competitors, you can bet that they can benefit from your intellectual property, trade secrets or other proprietary information.

It is best practice for organizations in these high-risk sectors often invest significantly in cybersecurity measures and employee training to mitigate the threat of corporate espionage.

Even as technology advances and expands, it seems that the war for information is still fought with spies. Becoming aware of these issues is the first step in preventing them.

Thanks for reading!

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