Nation States' Espionage and Counterespionage
An overview of the 2007 Global Economic Espionage Landscape
By Christopher Burgess
April 21, 2008 — CSO —
Newspapers around the world regularly cover the leveling of the global playing field, often called "the global marketplace," and highlight the entrance of vibrant, new cultures and economies into the entrepreneurial mix. In effect, more and more of our fellow citizens around the world are developing increasing amounts of new and exciting intellectual property and applying this intellect in ways never before imagined.
Thanks to readily available infrastructure, individuals, companies and the countries and economies to which they contribute are able and universally welcomed to step up and participate. In a level playing field, these entrepreneurs compete with the ideas and capabilities of others, not locally, but globally. That's the good news.
Unfortunately, not a month passed in 2007 without a reference to intellectual property theft or a revelation that IP theft was being sponsored by a nation-state. More frequently, we hear of yet another government condoning, encouraging and creating a mandate for its national intelligence and security resources to steal intellectual property for competitive and national advantage.
At the same time, numerous governments have struck alarm bells, warning their citizens to protect themselves—"The thieves are coming!" they say. These warnings of nation-state-sponsored activities in the realm of industrial espionage have truly reached critical levels within the developed world, and the warnings are applicable to all nations, industrial sectors and companies, not just those that have stepped forward and accepted the political risk of calling out the unsavory activities taking place in the marketplace.
These pronouncements are quickly followed by yet another government setting up a new or improved counterintelligence or counterespionage entity to protect their country's interests in the public and private sectors from these self-pronounced and empowered nations whose intelligence apparatus are targeting the intellectual properties of the world's corporations.
The playing field is crowded with actors both new and old. Amazingly, the combined level of activity exceeds any level previously encountered, including the apex of the Cold War, when geopolitical and ideological battle lines truly existed. It is the enhancement of the global communications infrastructure that has in essence leveled this playing field of industrial espionage, for all the nation states.
Now, more than eight years since the climax of the Cold War, the threat of industrial and economic espionage has percolated once again to the forefront, and the tools of the intelligence collector are again being dusted off and put to use, as nations make use of what is referred to as the "second oldest profession." They are willing to make the political decision to support their indigenous corporations and companies with the provision of competitors' intellectual property the old-fashioned way—they will just take it.
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