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Corporate espionage goes undetected in India

By Leslie D'Monte & Sapna Agarwal in Mumbai
February 10, 2007 02:11 IST
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The arrest of a Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited employee for allegedly leaking information to a competing company is one of the few cases of corporate espionage that have come to light.

However, a majority of corporate espionage cases go undetected.

If detected, very few complaints come to light. And in the few cases that complaints are registered, hardly any action is taken.

"Only 20 per cent of corporate espionage cases are detected. Of this, a mere 20 per cent get reported and only 10 per cent can be solved," says Raghu Raman, CEO, Mahindra Special Services Group.

Moreover, there have been very few convictions in India till date for corporate espionage or data theft, while not a single case has been registered under Section 66 of the IT Act 2000 -- the recent online ticket booking fraud cases where airlines were duped, a case in point.

"In data theft cases, proving the crime is difficult. Besides, it could span across countries, under different jurisdictions, making it more difficult for law enforcement agencies," explains Vijay Mukhi, president, Foundation of Information Security and Technology.

"Every company I meet knows they are victim of some or the other form of data theft, but are not aware of how to deal with it," he adds.

"Any corporate leveraging intellectual property rights, offering cost-effective solutions or innovative or ingenuous solutions and not taking structured measures to protect its IPR, loses 5-10 per cent of their revenues to data theft," corroborates Raman.

Corporate espionage (online or offline) is any activity that a company carries out to obtain information about its current, potential or future competitors through illegal, unethical or immoral means. The problem is that even in the most digitised of companies, over 70 per cent of information is still in non-digital forms.

Companies that invest heavily in firewalls and other protection measures forget that over 15 per cent of their employees are talking to headhunters and prospective new employers at that very moment, say experts.

"We get at least one or two cases every month, besides many inquiries; our clients ask us for specific information from their competitors or send dummy interviewees to find out salary packages," says Sunil Sharma, CEO, Authentic Investigation, Delhi.

Ajay Jugran, Partner of law firm, Lawcombine, says, "This malady is deep-rooted. It's prevalent when Public Sector Undertakings call for bids. Trading in bidding information is rampant."

"Companies are even using annual maintenance contractors to plant surveillance software in rival firms. The software gives a daily log of the data via e-mail. Corporates have not woken to this fact despite the fact that the law (unless for national security purposes) does not permit this," explains cyberlaw expert and Supreme Court lawyer Pavan Duggal.

Is there a solution? Companies the world over are known to hire Sweep Teams to plant and detect eavesdropping devices.

Sachit Kumar, Director of Delhi-based Globe Detective Agency, says: "We help clients by sending undercover agents. The rate of success is 95 per cent in most cases."

The charges for these moles could range anywhere between Rs 30,000-75,000 per month.

Technology can also help. There are sophisticated bug-detectors and eavesdropping protection kits. Besides, there's the vanishing e-mail called VaporStream -- a system that lets people send e-mails that cannot be tracked, copied, forwarded, or printed -- leaving no trail.

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Leslie D'Monte & Sapna Agarwal in Mumbai
Source: source