by admin_lauth | Jan 2, 2018 | Private Investigations News
Spies, Espionage, and Intellectual Property Theft
Government and military entities are not the only ones spying and conducting espionage investigations to protect our national security. More and more corporations and even small businesses are now hiring expert private investigators to conduct espionage investigations and counter-surveillance to protect “trade secrets” and other classified information.
Cases of economic espionage, industrial espionage, corporate spying and corporate espionage are commonly conducted for commercial purposes but can also include personal information that can later be used to blackmail, discredit and control enemies and competitors.
Espionage or “Insider theft” can cause significant personal and financial harm and described as an individual obtaining secret information without the explicit permission of the owner. For example, a corporation or company spying on another company’s activities, collecting data and information for gain or cause damage, most commonly through the doorway of employment.
Espionage involves clandestine activities. Though methods and motives of spying have changed over time, the desire to uncover competitor’s secrets has not. There is a war going on, and spying the primary weapon.
Federal Effort to Combat Economic Espionage
According to a 2015, CNN Politics Report “FBI Sees Chinese involvement amid a sharp rise in economic espionage,” the FBI announced the bureau has seen a 53% increase in economic espionage and intellectual property theft cases leading to the loss of billions of dollars.
The FBI concludes “insider threats” or employees familiar with the inner workings of a company who obtain sensitive industry secrets in exchange for large amounts of cash are becoming more common and pose a significant threat to companies worldwide.
To combat this ever-increasing menace to American businesses, the FBI produced a video “ ” to raise awareness.
Private investigator Thomas Lauth, CEO of Lauth Investigations International, says, “Global trade of fake goods is damaging U.S. markets, along with theft by U.S. retail workers.”
Pirated and imports of counterfeit goods are worth nearly half trillion dollars annually with much of the proceeds going to organized crime, according to the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office.
“Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact,” reports fake products like footwear, handbags, even strawberries, are commonly presented to the U.S market. While there is significant financial damage occurring, products like pharmaceuticals, toys that are harmful to children, baby formula, and failing auto parts are endangering lives.
According to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a 2015 Department of Justice press release, “The digital age has revolutionized how we share information, store data, make purchases and develop products, requiring law enforcement to strengthen our defenses against cyber crime – one of my top priorities as Attorney General, “said Lynch. “Companies like Sony and Target – have demonstrated the seriousness of the threat all business face and have underscored the potential for sophisticated adversaries to inflict real and lasting harm.”
While the Attorney General’s Office, FBI, Homeland Security and law enforcement are allocating more resources to combating intellectual property theft from dangerous outside adversaries, companies throughout the world are encouraged to take the necessary steps to protect their own intellectual property from outside and insider threats.
Insider Theft of Intellectual Property
Experts maintain upwards to 70% of a corporation’s value is found in Intellectual Property (IP). Insider threats come from the inside because the “thieves” are given access to their day-to-day employment.
The value of an organization’s secrets, product plans, customer data, and price lists cannot be underestimated. It becomes necessary to find a balance between productivity and protocol that allows a watchful eye to protect sensitive data and detect insider threat activity. Operational staff should be prepared with information to help them better understand how insiders can damage their agency, and in the various methods used by insiders. They are the front line to help battle IP theft crimes.
Insider thieves commit crimes for varying reasons, to include gaining a competitive business edge, to start a competing business, or personal financial gain.
It is not uncommon for thieves to use networks to send internal server data outside of an organization. The most common method of stealing data is the use of external media such as a writable CD or USB mass storage device. Using corporate email accounts to send information off-site to personal emails and competitors is also common and requires monitoring to prevent such abuse.
It is necessary for organizations to identify risks and develop standards of best practices and policies that address the many ways IP can be exploited. These should include but are not limited to IT Security, removable media policy, controls and inventory, physical security, logs, and indexing tools to identify patterns in behavior. It is especially important to implement heightened security measures during reorganization, acquisition, downsizing, mergers or other organizational events.
Non-Compete Agreements Protects the bottom-line
Employee departures resulting in the scheming of trade secrets and clients has increased significantly in recent years. Many employees leave their employment to begin a similar start-up or pursue freelance work. As a result, it has become common for former employees to approach old clients, steal data, marketing materials and even share negative information to damage their former employer’s credibility.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, with the help of investigators, over the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of departing employees being successfully sued by former employers for breaching Non-compete Agreements (CNC).
Considered one of the most effective ways to prevent the theft of a company’s secrets, having a Non-compete in place and requiring every employee to sign it, can prevent damages that could otherwise last years.
Private investigation firms are playing a significant role in the effort to safeguard information, the detection of costly breaches and providing an evidentuary solution presenting facts when litigation is necessary.
Lauth Investigations International is working to prevent intellectual property breaches, global piracy, counterfeiting and insider threats with data mining experts and field investigators who focus on safeguarding IP and detecting violations utilizing sources that are not commonplace to HR and Operations Supervisors. “It is vital to be able to detect violations to prevent violators from reaping profits and expanding their worldwide market, where damage can extend for years,” says Lauth.
Brand Protection areas include:
Music and Apps
Tools and Hardware
Cosmetics and other Products
Logos and Authentic Branding
Content and SEO Detection and Protection
Plagiarism, Marketing Materials and Website Protection
“Our investigators conduct trademark infringement for brands, large and small, trekking through some of the most complicated cases and vast markets such as Hollywood celebrities, apparel, and electronic clients,” says Lauth. “Our team provides intellectual property and litigation support for small business and corporations working with corporate executives, HR, and those in Operations Supervision to provide research and investigations, crisis intervention, employee screening, vendor and supplier screening, electronic discovery, surveillance, loss analysis, and expert testimony if needed.
Working to protecting your brand
“Our private investigation firm will not only work with key staff and operations supervisors to identify current and potential breaches, we work with companies that operate throughout the world to implement the right policies and safety protocol to help protect their IP into the future,” says Lauth.
Lauth Investigations offers free consultations and guidance to help protect your brand. Following are a few tips to help you better protect your IP.
- Protect web content and marketing materials by utilizing a DMCA account and protection badge.
- Think globally. Obtain trademark protection for worldwide protection.
- Set up a Google Alert to police your brand.
- Obtain IP Protection for Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents.
- Register trademarks with the US Patent Office.
- Develop a Policies and Procedure Handbook and have each employee review and sign.
- Utilize Marketing Analytics software such as TrackMaven and Travel IQ for online tracking.
- Monitor unregistered infringements.
- Create various divisions for a more controlled environment.
- Create a distinctive mark.
- Develop and implement a Non-Compete Agreement.
For more information about how you can protect your IP, please visit www.lauthinvestigations.com or call 317.644.2788.
Kym Pasqualini, Lauth Investigations Feature Writer
by admin_lauth | Jul 7, 2014 | Private Investigations News
Photo courtesy of Kate Ter Haar, Flickr
Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and other whistleblowers have sparked an intense debate on the ethics of leaking secrets. Some view these people as martyrs, others view them as traitors. Numerous laws and acts have been put in place to protect those who choose to expose an entity’s wrongdoings, but where do we draw the line between honest whistleblowing and smear campaigns?
The subject of a leak and the method in which a whisteblower announces their findings all play a role in the ethics of a case. Is the accuser attempting to enact revenge on a corporation by tarnishing their reputation, or are they genuinely trying to alert the public of fraud, harmful practices, and other misdeeds? Many employees keep quiet when they witness corruption because they fear losing their jobs and risk damaging their chances of future employment. And even if an attempt is made, businesses will go to great lengths to cover their tracks, including forcing employees to sign contracts that prevent workers from speaking up about company policies. Consider the case of Donna Busche, whose story was mentioned in this Washington Post article. According to the Post, Busche was fired after raising safety concerns about the nuclear facility she managed. The nondisclosure agreement prevented Busche and her coworkers from reporting mishaps, and also made it impossible for them to receive financial rewards for whistleblowing. Like many others before her, Busche was accused of being fired for other reasons, despite her claims that she did it for ethical reasons.
Measures such as the Dodd-Frank act of 2010 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement act of 2012 are meant to protect people like Busche. However, some believe that the government isn’t doing enough to enforce these rules, while others believe that the law encourages people to lie for financial gain. Dodd-Frank rewards whistleblowers with up to 30 percent of the recovery, which can generate millions for the prosecution in a big case.
Going Against the Government
The legality of whistleblowing becomes even more muddled when it involves the government. Snowden’s most recent revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) have some lauding him as a hero, while others accuse him of treason.
Most recently, a women by the name of Sabrina De Sousa is being punished for her involvement in the kidnapping of Abu Omar. Aljazeera America ran an article about the former CIA operative, who claims to be used as a “scapegoat” for the CIA. De Sousa was working with the CIA in Italy at the time of the kidnapping, but made several attempts to alert Congress to investigate the CIA’s actions. She believed that their treatment of Omar was a huge mistake, and after failing to receive support, found herself being accused for being the mastermind of the operation.
A Difficult Decision
Although the majority of Americans won’t be involved in cases like Snowden’s and De Sousa’s, some may find themselves in a difficult position. A whistleblower is oftentimes the spark needed to ignite a corporate fraud case. Before deciding to go public with information, it’s important for potential whistleblowers to look over contracts they may have signed and learn more about their state’s laws. Even corporations who find themselves the subject of a leak will need to launch an investigation to prove the accuracy of such claims.
by admin_lauth | Feb 4, 2013 | Private Investigations News
Whether your company is entering a merger, considering an investment, or assessing a competitor’s advantage, due diligence is a necessary factor to ensure a successful outcome. Business leaders know the importance of growth but every opportunity presented holds the potential for success or failure.
Business intelligence consists of collecting and organizing large amounts of data that enable businesses to identify opportunities and develop strategies that promote long-term success. Hans Peter Luhn, a researcher for IBM, said in a 1958 IBM Journal article, “Business intelligence is the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action toward a desired goal.”
Making better decisions based on business intelligence
Successful business leaders know the importance of information gathering and review before making any business decision. They draw information and knowledge from various professional disciplines including business consulting, law firms, journalists, and of course investigators.
For instance, when considering a merger with another company it is crucial to know as much about the company’s history, business management, ethics, financial solvency, possible undisclosed liabilities, leadership of the company, and their affiliations. All business transactions have potential risks and it important to assess these risks prior to entering any business transaction. The public information gathered can be quite revealing and prevent a decision that could devastate years of hard work, reputation, and even avoid litigation in the aftermath.
Another circumstance that could arise is that your company may want to know the demographics of your competitor’s clients. The information gathered would contain the number of products offered by the company, how many were products were purchased, how many were sold to men or women, the age brackets of those who purchased the products, the average income level, zip code, and level of education. Utilizing a combination of commercial due diligence and intensive analytical due diligence can forecast sales growth; identify a competitor’s operational metrics, procurement, customer management, and even fraud.
Benefits of internal business intelligence
While business intelligence can identify external opportunities and risks, internal business intelligence can be equally important. For instance, in the Human Resources Department of a company, the data collected on employee’s absences can be a predictive trend and therefore a strategy developed to combat income loss and retain employees. The same company may want to gauge how their latest marketing campaign is increasing sales in order to produce a trend analysis report and present the information in east to understand graphs and charts in PowerPoint at the next Board Meeting. The advantage of data analysis is endless when assessing performance measures of a business.
The risks of economic espionage
Corporations of all sizes face risks both internally and externally. Protecting trade and investment secrets has become increasingly difficult for large corporations entering the age of cyberspace. International corporations face increased loss and risk that ultimately affects the American economy.
In June 2000, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported Larry Ellison, Chief Executive of Oracle admitted to hiring a private detective agency to investigate groups that supported Microsoft. Oracle was trying to uncover ties to research groups that had been releasing studies supportive of Microsoft during an antitrust trial.
Claiming it was his “civic duty” to investigate Microsoft’s affiliations, it was uncovered, the investigative group hired by Oracle attempted to buy trash from two housekeepers at the Association for Competitive Technology.
In a June 28, 2012, statement before the House Committee on Homeland Security and Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counter Intelligence Division, estimated more than $13 billion losses to the American economy due to economic espionage.
Whether an insider employee is selling trade secrets, a competitor is attempting to infiltrate, or a company is the target of cyber-attacks, more and more companies, governments, and nonprofits face significant risks. Business intelligence when conducted legally and ethically can protect more than the bottom-line.
Private Investigators specialize in business intelligence
Professional investigative teams have private investigators that can verify information, collect information about financial transactions, assets, investments, liabilities, and identify existing contracts, business practices, and even political associations. The information is then provided to the client providing a solid base for decision-making.
Business intelligence involves research, measurement, querying, analytics, data mining, performance management, reporting, identifying benchmarks, information sharing, and regulatory compliance. To implement effective business intelligence strategy, it is important to have skilled investigators to help your company obtain the needed information while conducting a legal, ethical, and discreet investigation.
According to Thomas Lauth, owner and lead private investigator at Lauth Investigations International, business intelligence has become a necessary component of business management worldwide. “From a negative media campaign to competing for a contract, knowing who your opposition is and their political and media affiliations, marketing and internet campaigns, and even motives will give you the competitive edge” says Lauth. “The old saying, it is better to be safe than sorry, rings true.”
Kym L. Pasqualini
Social Media & Awareness Expert
Lauth Investigations International
201 N. Illinois Street, 16th Floor-South Tower
Indianapolis, IN 46254