When we think about the term Counterintelligence, we often consider this the business of secretive three letter agencies, Hollywood’s take of action-packed spy thrillers and practically anything that was written by Tom Clancy in his time. We don’t often align counterintelligence with organizations within the corporate and industrial sectors, unless of course, that is our job within the organization – to prevent industrial espionage.

Counterintelligence in the corporate and industrial world is a real system, a real discipline that takes the kind of tactics that officers within CIA are trained to do. Whether it is an aggressive competitor, an angered ex-employee or an opposing party – people and entities want to steal the secrets of companies and even sabotage their greatest profit making assets. If you are a business owner, whether for a large or small organization – counterintelligence is a tool you are going to want to have on your side.

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This is not a definite guide to corporate counterintelligence. It merely defines the basic tactics needed to help thwart espionage and sabotage within the workplace. While I recommend you read and use this guide as a tool, you still need to continue to gain more knowledge and understanding of how counterintelligence should be integrated into the corporate sector of national security. Believe it or not, by integrating counterintelligence into your company, you are helping to protect the homeland because some of the people that want to sabotage you – are terrorists, radicals and enemies of the state. It’s a Whole Nation we live in now and it’s time to join the Whole Community by practicing the kind of counterintelligence that will give your company the security and privacy results that it so desires…


Quit being the Security Guard – You’re the Secret Agent

Too many companies and organizations take a defensive route when it comes to espionage and sabotage happening within the corporate world. Money is spent ten-fold into defensive measures, security systems, cameras, contractors and so on that has a sole purpose of guarding against corporate and industrial espionage rather than targeting and going after it. You need to take an aggressive approach about it. Your company should make a name for itself to stop industrial espionage in its tracks rather than cower down and guard against it the best it can. If you suspect it is happening to your company, go after it and use every legal aspect that you can use at your disposal. Find the source of the threat and take it out – using legal means of course. Make sure you are not committing a crime while trying to stop another from committing a crime in the process.


Corporate Cultures can Prevent Double Agents

Many businesses, not only across the nation but also around the world are starting to understand the ideology and need of a corporate culture. A corporate culture helps to define each and every employee of the company and express to them, their importance within the company while keeping the production and services of the company of track so that it can continue to grow in profit and sales. A corporate culture can help prevent double agents or those who turn on the company because it is actually recognizing these people as important assets of the company and showing off their work. People who work hard for the company should be rewarded, promoted and made aware that their work is a success for the company. If you ignore your best people, don’t appreciate them or demand more with giving them a ‘pat on the back’ here and there – their loyalty could essentially decrease to a point where they wouldn’t care to hurt you if the right circumstance came about, such as a great offer from the competition or something similar to that.


Invest in Counterintelligence!

Don’t expect to master corporate counterintelligence if you push the job on someone who already has their hands full with some other task. Your company needs its own dedicated corporate intelligence officer – if you can afford to make it happen. If not, work on making that budget possible. If competition is coming after you, you need to go after them by spending money of efforts to disrupt and thwart their attempts to sabotage your organization. You need to learn and master these tactics as well as others and use them to your advantage. Don’t let the “enemy” strike first – you should make the first strike when you know it’s appropriate so that you set an example right away and show the “threat” right away, who the boss is. Counterintelligence is a real tool for the workplace and if you don’t have this tool, you are vulnerable to anything…


Do you even know what all this is?

One problem with companies and organizations that fail at preventing espionage and sabotage on the corporate sector level is that they really don’t understand what counterintelligence is. There is a history behind it – something to look into, learn about and realize what lessons can be learned from seeing past experiences and incidents that have occurred. Learn from other victims of corporate threats – research their stories and what they did or could had done to prevent the incident from happening to begin with. You can learn from the mistakes of others and how to prepare your company to defeat the threats and errors that others were not able to. Most of all, you need to understand how to commit espionage and sabotage against another company in order to truly understand how to defeat it. But with that sort of knowledge, don’t ever let yourself fall into the level of committing such acts and ruining your reputation or even getting charged with a crime in the process.


Data Analysis and Intelligence Sharing

Having trade secrets is one thing but don’t ever stoop to a level of not sharing intelligence with other companies. The IC or intelligence community of the homeland security sector of the nation made this mistake – keeping intelligence as need to know. It worked in the Cold War era because of that time but it failed after that September morning in 2001 – when intelligence sharing alone would had likely prevented the attacks from happening. This is a “need to share” era that we live in and work in, today. Businesses and organizations within their specific industries are teaming up together to prevent attacks and incidents against their organization. One particular intelligence sharing feature to look into is the sector-specific Information Sharing and Analysis Centers available for multiple types of industries. These centers allow all businesses within a sector join forced in preventing industrial threats, terrorism and assisting Whole Community efforts in national preparedness and security.


Internal Threats are real…

There might be someone working for you that is actually working against you, stealing your company’s secrets and feeding an aggressive form of competition or some kind of opposition. You cannot turn a blind eye to the idea that your own people might be doing your company harm. You need to always be on the lookout for this sort of thing and you need to make sure everyone that works for the company understands that. Knowing that your company is serious about countering threats from internal sources can and will help prevent insider threats from happening in the first place. Make it hard for internal perpetrators to do their damage, make sure you keep giving them that needed paranoia that they might get caught. It will either deter them from doing it or it will make them paranoid enough to be vulnerable to error.


In Conclusion – Never Give Up!

Giving up should never be an option when it comes to the practice of corporate counterintelligence. If we allow a threat to get the upper hand, it will be hard to get back our own upper hand. Allowing our abilities and strengths to slip or weaken will essentially allow those who wish to harm us to gain ground in being able to get what they want. We must always prepare ourselves for the worst-case scenario and strategically plan for the future of continuity. We must always learn new things and adopt new tactics to protect our companies from outsider and insider threats. We must strive to promote preparedness and resilience as a Whole Nation to support the Whole Community efforts of national security. It is the responsibility of companies around the nation to adopt strategies in protecting their own assets because it contributes to the overall protection of our nation, economy and critical infrastructure that make America as great as it is today. Private sector security matters…


Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I talk a lot about rural preparedness and emergency planning more than anything else. However, I do like to throw in other related topics as well like this piece on organizational continuity. If you have enjoyed reading this article, please show your support for me writing it by sharing it with others and especially on social media. Please comment on this article to add more tips and strategies for companies who wish to strengthen their corporate counterintelligence strategies. Remember to subscribe to my monthly newsletter near the bottom of the homepage for article updates and exclusive content and resources.

About the Author

Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn J. GossmanB.S., M.S., M.B.A., SEM, PDS
Shawn J. Gossman is an article and publication contributor of rural and remote-based emergency management, continuity and public health topics. Shawn holds a Master of Science concentrating in Emergency Management and a MBA in Hazardous Environment Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Shawn is dedicated to helping rural communities and organizations be a part of the Whole Community approach of National Preparedness.