Beware of hot foreign spies who want to steal your data

It’s no exaggeration that sex buys intellectual property, trade secrets, customer data, and any information or network access of value.

sexy spy

“We’re probably looking at a 300-percent increase in cases involving hot foreign spies, sex, and dating in the last year over the previous year,” says T. Casey Fleming, CEO, BLACKOPS Partners Corporation, a management consulting company on security to the Fortune 500.

That 300-percent represents 20-cases in total, accounting for only the smallest fraction of the estimated thousands of cases that go undiscovered each year, says Fleming. “Of the 20 cases we saw in the past year, the three largest represented many billions of dollars in stolen innovation and trade secrets,” says Fleming.

If you agree it’s high time to clip the high cost of foreign spies, follow CSO under cover and learn the tools and methods these culprits use to bait and hook high-value employees and bleed your organization dry of data. With help from information soldiers who protect corporate assets on the front lines of data theft, you’ll learn offensive techniques to thwart their alluring approaches.

The Targets

Foreign spies target companies with treasured trade secrets, some in the UK and more in the US. The activity spans all industries. “Most recently the attacks have been specifically against the technology, finance, healthcare, energy, and defense industries,” says Fleming.

People targeted include sysadmins, executives, and really anyone with a lot of data access. “If you’re important enough for your organization to pay to fly you around the globe for meetings and put you up in hotels, then you definitely have enough data access for hot foreign spies to target you,” says Fleming.

About 50-percent of the hot foreign spy activity BLACKOPS Partners Corporation sees is opportunistic and 50-percent is targeted (stalking) activity, according to Fleming. “Hot foreign spies will frequent a bar or restaurant near a target company, connect with people and once they find someone who is a high value target at the company, they go deeper,” says Fleming. Otherwise they stalk specific executives and sysadmins they find on social media who have lots of inside access in the organization.

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These seductive information hounds lay in wait at dating sites and coffee shops as well as hotel bars and restaurants where they use honeypot schemes to involve their victims in dating and sexual relationships before blackmailing and extorting them for access to corporate secrets, according to Fleming. “They use blackmail, threatening to tell their company and spouse about the affair if they don’t cooperate,” says Fleming.

“Sites we’ve uncovered as sources of attacks by hot foreign spies over the past 12 months include, Zoosk, Ashley Madison, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tinder,,” says Fleming. Spies connect with employees who are looking for fun and excitement, dates, affairs, and even escorts.

Actual cases of foreign spies

In one case where BLACKOPS Partners Corporation consulted, a female spy used a honeypot scheme on an executive who worked at a Fortune 100 financial services company who had a profile on LinkedIn. “She targeted the guy on LinkedIn because of his name and title. She stalked him, looked up his home address, connected with him in a bar, took information off his laptop and cell phone, and eventually stole his laptop and cell phone,” says Fleming.

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This sexy seductress stole customer information including many records with personal identifiable information. She was able to use his access to retrieve the passwords for many other domains and servers. “They had free access inside the company for about a year,” says Fleming.

In an earlier case that BLACKOPS Partners Corporation did not handle, a private defense contractor to the US Navy in Hawaii shared top secret military data with his much younger Chinese girlfriend who turned out to be a foreign spy.

The woman ran a honeypot scheme on contractor Benjamin Bishop, which led to the revelation of the Navy information. Once he was caught up in the affair, she told him that he must continue to spy for her or she would tell his wife and the Navy about the whole thing.

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