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A different kind of holiday safety tip: spotting economic espionage

In September, Associated Industries of Missouri informed its membership of two Chinese citizens who were arrested in Sedalia by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for conspiring to steal intellectual property from AIM member Pittsburgh Corning this summer.

According to the FBI, the two attempted to illegally purchase trade secrets of Pittsburgh Corning’s FOAMGLAS, used to insulate industrial piping systems and liquefied natural gas storage tank bases, to manufacture in China and compete with Pittsburgh Corning.

“Due to the incident this summer at Pittsburgh Corning and several other economic espionage arrests by the FBI this year, Associated Industries of Missouri brought in a federal agent to discuss with our members how they can protect themselves from economic espionage,” said Ray McCarty, president of AIM. “Agent Joseph Papes addressed AIM’s Manufacturing and Mining Committee and provided tips such as not using hotel safes when traveling abroad and the need to not let your computer out of your sight. It was remarkably eye-opening.”

Economic spies, or “foreign collectors,” will remain interested in all aspects of U.S. economic activity and technology, said FBI officials. They are interested in the following areas:

  1. Information and communications technology, which form the backbone of nearly every other technology,

  2. Business information that pertains to supplies of scarce natural resources or that provide global actors an edge in negotiations with U.S. business or the government,

  3. Military technologies, and

  4. Civilian and dual-use technologies in fast-growing sectors like clean energy, health care and agriculture.

The FBI says that individuals who want to steal the secrets display certain behaviors that other employees can spot in order to prevent the information from being taken.  Insiders who are ill-intentioned may do the following:

  1. Work odd hours without authorization,

  2. Without need or authorization, they may take home proprietary or other information,

  3. They unnecessarily copy work material,

  4. They buy things they cannot afford, and

  5. They disregard company policies about installing personal software or hardware, accessing information or restricted websites, or confidential material.

The FBI insists that if you suspect someone in your office of committing economic espionage, report it to your corporate security officer and to your local FBI office. Employees can also submit a tip online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

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