A former Apple engineer was arrested by U.S. authorities at San Jose International Airport while preparing to board a flight to China earlier this week and charged with stealing proprietary information related to Apple’s self-driving car project.
Your economic espionage agent may not be a fabled operative; it may just be your employee. Sometimes a trusted one.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, intellectual property (IP) accounted for $5.06 trillion in value added, or 34.8 percent of U.S. GDP in 2010. IP alone accounts for over 40 million U.S. jobs and over 60 percent of all U.S. exports. U.S. companies have a lot to lose.
What makes employees commit economic and corporate espionage? Most workers are unconcerned about the privacy of corporate information: More than half (56%) of employees in a recent survey say that they do not believe it is a crime to use competitive data taken from a previous employer. Half of the employees who left or lost their jobs in the last 12 months kept confidential corporate data, according to a global survey from Symantec and, worse, 40% plan to use it in their new jobs.
Employees steal not only confidential information but relationships deemed privy to the business. 11 years after being employed by us, one of our employees was found to be siphoning off margins of deals through back end discounts to himself through another company. Another ex-CEO was found to siphon funds as discounts to suppliers and customers.
A woman employee of 5 years was caught siphoning funds during an internal audit. She was fired under corporate fraud laws. She walked away with company data and a company owned laptop refusing to return it and used the blatantly to harm the company and other employees.
These employees exist in our midst and are harmful to any organization they serve. Their criminal actions bring economic and reputational harm to any organization they associate themselves with.