How to Recognize a Spy in the Workplace

Spies often appear only as curious employees.
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Your company may not have any trade secrets, but every business has proprietary information that is valuable to others. Customer lists, contract prices and business plans can give competitors a strong advantage at the cost of your profits. An internal spy attempting to steal proprietary information can be difficult to detect but will usually display patterns of behavior.

    Step 1

    Identify individuals who are well educated, intelligent and highly motivated. Someone hired to steal company documents, information and secrets will be experienced in the operation of a business and can identify the value of your company's intellectual property.

    Step 2

    Screen for employees who are outgoing rather than introverted. Corporate spies don't slink around in the shadows; they are everyone's friend. To enter a company to steal information, a spy will be socially adept and able to manipulate people to gain their trust -- and information.

    Step 3

    Avoid limiting your search to people who have a great understanding of the technical skills necessary to bypass your information security system. Security systems can be compromised by something as simple as plugging in an infected USB memory stick. A spy is just as likely to be in marketing as in your IT department. Screen all departments for unusual behavior.

    Step 4

    Investigate individuals who are frequently wandering, talking or in locations where they do not need to be to complete their jobs. Professionals who aim to steal secrets will always have a reasonable excuse as to why they are in a particular part of the company -- especially if they are in areas that have no connection to their job duties. Look for an overall pattern. Implement and regularly inspect access logs to restricted physical areas and data to make wandering or browsing by an employee easier to detect.

    Step 5

    Educate your staff about the current state of corporate espionage. As employers modify their safeguards, spies improve their methods. Keep your staff abreast of current security standards by having security meetings in all departments. Test employees with simulated spying scenarios to make your employees less susceptible to social engineering. The best defense is awareness and training experience.

    Step 6

    Identify information that needs to be protected. Focus your efforts on information that is most valuable. This may involve consultation with legal counsel and outside security consultants. Protect data that takes investment, time or capital to generate and that would be difficult to replace. This may include engineering process optimization, research in progress, customer lists, customer preference data or strategic plans.

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