New FBI Campaign Targets Trade Secret Theft

The Federal Bureau of Investigation rarely likes to call attention to its ongoing spy tactics. However, the agency recently launched a national campaign designed to draw attention to a growing problem in the United States—economic espionage.

“We’re doing something we’ve never done before, and it’s almost counterintuitive in the espionage business,” FBI Counterintelligence Assistant director Frank Figliuzzi told CNBC. “We’re talking to the general public about the threat from economic espionage.”

Unfortunately, trade secret theft is a growing problem and poses a serious threat to our economy. Trade secrets worth more than $13 billion have already been stolen from American companies like Bridgestone, Motorola and DuPont. Moreover, the FBI reports that arrests for economic espionage have increased two-fold over the last four years, and the agency has already surpassed last year’s arrest total halfway through this fiscal year.

Figliuzzi also highlighted the focus of espionage has shifted significantly since the end of the Cold War. “The target has changed to unclassified or what I like to call pre-classified technology, data research, the things that we all have at our place of employment, and we need to make the general public aware that the threat is to them and where they work,” Figliuzzi said. “They want what America has.”

To alert the public about this ongoing threat, the FBI will be putting up billboards in cities and regions targeted by the agency for their high concentrations of government contractors, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and North Carolina.

How Can I Help?

Given the increased threat, I urge companies to thoroughly review how they handle their trade secrets and other proprietary information. Because current or former employees and contractors are often behind trade secret thefts, it is important to have robust safeguards in place.

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