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Theft of information is a tough problem 06/04/2000

The cold war was political. It's over. World War III is an economic war. It's here.

Information is where the money is. Information theft is easy, safe, and lucrative. Eavesdropping laws are difficult to enforce. Advances in electronics have made communications interception easy and cheap. Competition is now global and there are more competitors than ever before. Business ethics are not what they used to be.

Knowledge is no longer just power, it's money too. BIG money.

Many executives, even corporate security directors, vacillate dangerously when dealing with information leaks. "I'm probably just being paranoid, but maybe we should check for bugs and wiretaps," is frequently as far as it goes. Maybe it's the fear of looking silly while dealing with this invisible monster. It may be unfamiliarity with the mechanics of dealing with espionage.

In either case, the business community is awakening to what governments have known since the dawn of time. If your information has a financial or power value, it's a target. Eventually, someone will try to take it from you.

Paranoia is often used as the excuse to avoid confronting the espionage problem. It's understandable. After all, this is a tough problem and, naturally enough, most executives are ill equipped to deal with it themselves.

Raymond van Staden is an independent security consultant, based in KwaZulu-Natal, who specialises in electronic eavesdropping detection and espionage prevention, and the legal gathering of information

Van Staden & Associates use the latest technology and, coupled with their extensive experience, provide a professional Investigation, Counter-espionage and Counter-measures service.

Van Staden & Associates has access to numerous On-Line Services, providing them with access to businesses, credit, and consumer information, as well as covering every registered property, businessperson and consumer in South Africa, and numerous other countries.

Time and again, their results have proved how important it is to check company credentials before conducting business deals. Pre-employment checks on staff (i.e. criminal, consumer, drivers licence and educational qualifications) are also essential in these times. Van Staden & Associates has notched up numerous successes in both these fields.

Industrial spies steal the information, not the containers. Information is worth more. The computer will still be on the desk and the information will still be on the disk drive. The chances of being caught stealing the information are slim and the information will be sold for what it is really worth. An industrious spy will sell the same information many times over, as every competitor is a potential customer.

According to Raymond, espionage is preventable and the law only protects those who protect themselves.

Information is like any other corporate asset. Management has a responsibility to protect it. Stockholders can claim negligence and hold company executives responsible if this asset is lost through improper protection efforts. Simple LAG (locks, alarms & guards) will not appear to be proper protection.

"You can't just wander into the courtroom crying 'They stole my business secrets' and expect help," Raymond warns. "You have to show the extraordinary steps you have taken (and maintained) to elevate your business information to secret status.

"You may only get one chance to 'do it right'. Remember, fees and expenses are minor compared to the value of what you are protecting."


Contrary to what is advertised, there is no do-it-yourself magic bullet in eavesdropping detection, says Raymond.

"You can't dial a special phone number to see if your phone is tapped. There is not any one instrument which will detect all bugs for you. There is no gadget, which will protect you from all wire-tappers. Electronic eavesdropping detection is labour and equipment and involves intensive hard work.

"When your consultant conducts inspections of sensitive areas, don't be surprised if you meet between one and three additional technicians and see more than R750 000 worth of electronic test equipment. This is how it is really done."

Competitive Intelligence

The famous American capitalist John D Rockefeller once said, "The next best thing to knowing all about your own business is to know all about the other fellow's business".

"Yes, it is possible to legally gather strategic information on one's competitors," says Raymond. "Van Staden & Associates cc believes that adequate information is a prerequisite for professional research, and the key to such research is the rapid assimilation of facts, acquired data-bases, experts, and various other sources.

With Van Staden & Associates cc knowledge of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence measures the following:

  • No longer will your ideas, plans, strategies, hard work, and privacy disappear mysteriously
  • No longer will you stand helpless as the opposition picks your pocket
  • No longer will you live in fear that stockholders will revolt, and magistrates won't take you seriously
  • No longer will you stand by and wonder if your electronic eavesdropping sweeps are being conducted properly.

"With the assistance of Van Staden & Associates cc you will be enlisting the aid of professional counter-espionage counsel," says Raymond. "You will be prepared to go forth and prosper."

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