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Data Security & Privacy

Cyber Espionage: 3 Important Facts About High Tech Spying

Feb 16, 2017

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Malicious cybercriminals aren’t the only ones who want access to your company data. There’s another threat lurking right around the corner: competitors and foreign governments.

Recently, the FBI stated there has been a sharp rise in cyber espionage; it’s up 53 percent. And while this form of high tech spying has been a hot topic in the political sector, it has only recently begun crossing over into other industries.

For example, back in 2015, the Houston Astros became the victims of a hacking attack from the St. Louis Cardinals. It all stemmed from a former Cardinals employee who was hired by the Astros. The employee implemented an identical system that the Cardinals knew well  and were able to access.

How can you protect your organization from this emerging threat? Let’s find out.

How is Cyber Espionage Defined?

Basically, cyber espinoge is a high tech form of spying. For example, the Oxford Dictionary defines cyber espionage as, "The use of computer networks to gain illicit access to confidential information, typically that held by a government or other organization."

PC Magazine provides a more detailed definition: “Unauthorized spying by computer. The term generally refers to the deployment of viruses that clandestinely observe or destroy data in the computer systems of government agencies and large enterprises.”

Cyber espinoge can be as simple as an ex-employee who still has access to your data, or in the case of the Astros, a current employee who sets up an identical software system. And in fact, something as simple as a phishing email can grant spies access to your information. At the end of the day, no organization is safe from cyber espionage.

Why Do Spies Want Your Information?

There are many reasons corporate spies want your information. For one, they could try to extort money from you in order to keep your data private. Like ransomware, the hackers could also lock you out of your systems until you meet their demends for money.

Another reason spies want your information is to gather intel on your organization’s proprietary software. Hackers may attempt to gain access to it and then leak the information to the public or a competitor.

For example, if you have an algorithm, like Facebook's news feed, which curates content users are most interested in, a competitor would want that algorithm for their own use. 

How Can You Stop Cyber Espionage?

For one, you can train your employees on cyber security best practices. Cyber security training can let employees know what to look out for and know who to reach out to when identified.

It also helps to ensure there are no "backdoors" that can grant hackers access to your information. On top of this, make sure employees keep their devices clean from viruses and malware. One infected computer is all it takes to give unwanted access to your data. Ensure all employees are using some sort of anti-virus and are keeping it updated.

While these won't make your organization invulnerable to attacks, they definitely make them less likely to occur.


Cyber espionage is a real threat that effects every organization. If you are winning in your industry, chances are someone will want your data. But, even if you are a small player in your market, hackers may attempt to hold your data at ransom.

Training your employees about cyber security is a great first step in keeping your organization safe. At the end of the day, no organization is totally safe. But, there are definitely steps you can take to reduce the risks associated with cyber espionage.

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