What Can You Learn At Corporate Spy School?

What Can You Learn At Corporate Spy School?

Unfortunately, corporate sky school doesn’t come with James Bond-style gadgets or (ahem) other excitement. However, business espionage is enough of a problem that local security firm Specialist Corporate Intelligence Agency (SCIA) is running a series of “spy school” events to educate businesses about common risks surrounding theft of corporate information. Lifehacker chatted to SCIA CEO and forensics veteran Navid Sobbi about the warning signs that might signal covert activity in your workplace.

Picture by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images

“We’re not going to teach people to become spies,” Sobbi tells me, somewhat disappointingly. “It’s mainly a place where we’ll get executives from corporations and government agencies and teach them about threats that are out there. The Australian market is very relaxed about espionage issues, but we’re starting to find it happening more and more. We’re trying to make them aware of the risks.”

What are the most popular ways to spy on a business? Top of the list are keyloggers (which track everything typed on a PC), followed by listening devices. “Listening devices are so prevalent you can buy them on eBay for a couple of bucks,” Sobbi said. Cameras are less common: not because they’re any more expensive, but because the need for a line of sight makes them much more obvious. A bug dropped in a board room can stay there for months. Even harder to detect are smartphones in record mode (though SCIA does have tracking equipment which can detect some of that activity).

So when should companies start worrying that rivals or staff might be trying to intercept confidential information? “If there’s something big happening in a business — a corporate merger, a new business deal, a restructure, or even just big new clients — they’ve just got to secure their intellectual property. As soon as something big happens, look at employees and their behaviour. If they start acting differently or trying to get information, if they’re asking too many questions, that’s a warning sign. Where there is an opportunity, there’s always a threat. ” Technology can also provide clues: ticking noises on a VOIP phone system or flickering on its screen might suggest power from an intercept device further down the line.

As with much of security, cementing the basics is vital. “We’ve been in a client site and the CEO had his door wide open and our equipment accidentally touched the mouse, and his Outlook opened up and all the emails were right there. That’s a really elementary mistake.”

SCIA is officially launching the corporate spy school concept at the Security 2012 conference in Sydney this week.



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