Economic espionage is a form of espionage that specifically focuses on unlawfully obtaining critical economic intelligence, such as intellectual property (IP) and trade secrets. Intellectual property and trade secrets are both essential and valuable to the general economy and society, nation states, and companies. Data, new technologies, processes and other important research & development (R&D) information can all be part of intellectual property. But also trade secrets, business plans and market intelligence are targetted in espionage. Due to the high value of economic intelligence, companies try to protect their intellectual property from being stolen. Depending on the IP value, the financial damage that can be done with economic espionage differs tremendously. Apart from stealing information, it can also be altered or erased to sabotage the organisation capacity to operate.
Due to the high impact that economic espionage can have, laws and legislation are in place in many countries to criminalize and penalize individuals who commit such acts. Economic espionage can be conducted in various ways, for example by insiders within a company or institution. Also, methods are used such as cyber-attacks, bribery, dumpster diving and wiretapping to obtain high value information. Economic espionage is mainly instigated by nation states, while industrial espionage is done by companies. In our definition both are part of economic espionage. Economic and industrial espionage is most commonly associated with technology-heavy industries.
Related keywords: counterintelligence, economic loss, corporate espionage, nation state espionage