View Full Version : Corporate Espionage

03-25-2013, 12:39 AM
I solemnly swear this is all for the sake of fiction and I, in no way, plan to execute corporate espionage in the foreseeable future. :)

Here's the skinny:

My protagonist needs to tail a character that is being secretly paid by a corporation to sabotage its opponent.

The problem is that my current understanding of corporate espionage is that, when it happens in real life, it's a much more long-term endeavour that probably involves discrepancies in paperwork and federal law, which doesn't make for thrilling fiction to teenagers (though I'm sure it could be accessed in a criminal drama).

I want the protagonist to discover this character while they're performing a single, illicit task. The character's guilt needs to be immediate and unambiguous without straying into implausible territory. I can think of a few long term strategies to topple a corporation, but I need a single incident that would justify ongoing surveillance.

So the question I need to answer is, "what sort of visibly illegal (or at least potentially immoral) single tasks are required to pull off corporate espionage?"

There are a few obvious routes, like murdering the CEO--but I want to see if anyone's heard of other cases in the news that might contain or refer to a single incident which would make a private eye go "gee, I better skip sleep tonight and keep following this guy."

03-25-2013, 01:03 AM
Making/sending copies of confidential internal documents is a big one. Esp. if doing it requires use of a password/dongle/secured workstation that the character isn't supposed to have access to.

03-25-2013, 01:48 AM
Depends on the nature of your corporation, of course, but I'd say a guy going into any kind of a food-processing plant with a cage of rodents would bear watching.
As for documents, wouldn't even have to be e-documents (hard to spot unless you're inside). Could be sneaking out boxes of documents at midnight. For that matter, sneaking boxes in at midnight would be suspicious.

03-25-2013, 02:10 AM
Most corporate espionage these days seems to be about unauthorised access to computers, allowing the spy to download sensitive information. Let's say the information is the blueprint for a new computer chip or perhaps some novel chemical or pharmaceutical process which hasn't yet been patented.

Wikipedia suggests one method people use is the 'bag-op': someone sneaks into your hotel room or your checked luggage while you're somewhere else and plunders your laptop. So you might tail your spy to a hotel where he meets with an employee and gets a keycard to a particular room that isn't his own.

03-25-2013, 06:45 AM
Just a note. Industrial or corporate espionage generally doesn't include overtly violent acts. It mainly involves theft of sensitive material.

03-25-2013, 07:58 AM
Another part of the equation that you might want to consider is someone going rogue and selling faulty or incomplete information to a competitor. This was what caused the Capacitor Plague (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague) a decade ago. In this case, you have a tailer looking to see if he meets anyone in a conspicuous manner and report his findings. In this case, if he rifles in the tailee's laptop or phone, he is looking for contact information and any logs of communications.