New Initiative Offers Tips
of a hi-tech American firm on a business trip overseas returns from
a jog and finds her electronic key won’t open her hotel room
door. A hotel employee explains it will take an hour to get a replacement
and can’t let her in. The executive thinks nothing of it and
waits in the lobby.
Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? What the
executive may not realize is that someone could be going through her
baggage at that very moment, looking for trade secrets. It’s
called economic espionage, and it’s more common than you think.
In fact, if your company does any military research—or other
classified work for the U.S. government—it’s a safe bet
that foreign countries and business competitors would love to learn
more about your work. And they are willing to go to great lengths to
That’s why the FBI recently launched a new Research and Technology
Protection (RTP) program, part of our long-standing InfraGard
program. Now in its 10th year, InfraGard is
a national partnership between the FBI and the major industries that
make up the critical U.S. infrastructure.
The RTP program gives businesses, academic institutions, and other
entities important information—including intelligence reports—about
the threats they face. They can learn, through the InfraGard website,
how foreign adversaries are using every means at their disposal to
acquire information and technology. And how to prevent it.
“It’s better for us to let them know what the threats
are, so they can be our nation’s first line of defense,” said
Kevin Favreau, Special Agent in Charge of Counterintelligence at the
FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office, who helped spearhead the
development of our RTP program. “It’s about sharing information
with the people who need it the most.”
The program also encourages companies to report when they
have been victims of foreign spies —or even if they
think they’ve been unsuccessfully targeted.
“Sometimes a company may get a strange request for information
about one of their products. It’s just strange enough that they’ll
withhold the information, but they won’t report it to us,” said
Supervisory Special Agent Shelagh Sayers, who is leading the RTP program. “But
that kind of information is valuable. Who is targeting them? How? What
are they after? If they tell us, we can share the information with
other members—or launch an investigation if it’s warranted.”
When it comes to economic espionage, the stakes are high. “If
companies lose a secret or a product and a company in a foreign country
starts producing it, our companies lose money. Sometimes enough to
be ruined financially,” Sayers said. “There’s a lot
of great information out there that we want to share to keep that from
can a company get access to the RTP program? First,
they have to join a local chapter of InfraGard.
Then they can apply for access to the Research and Technology Protection
portion of the site.