How to Fight Spies (and Protect Your Business)

Washington DC After moving to the Washington, DC area for the third time in less than a decade, I had to really ask myself: What’s the big attraction? Diversity is my go-to response, and it can apply to everything — people, food, cultural events, weather — you name it, DC has it covered. But, the real reason is that I like living among spies.

I get my fix through gripping novels and the many popular TV shows. I know I’ll never be a real spy but the closest I can get is through corporate espionage. Recently, the article in Inc. magazine, Confessions of a Corporate Spy by George Chidi piqued my interest like none other has in quite a while.

My not-so-secret plan of action is to put Chidi’s techniques into play and share the results with you soon. In the meantime, here are some tips to protect your own company from the competitive-intelligence researchers and consultants who are hiding in the shadows or, more likely, sitting at a laptop.

Indoctrinate Counter-Measures into your Corporate Culture
Your employees can be your best salespeople and the biggest source of valuable information. A disgruntled employee often doesn’t hesitate to become a traitor. Nurture your relationships and include an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) in every employment contract. Even a little education about the techniques researchers use will help employees identify a potential situation and filter the information they convey to a relative stranger.

Beware of Spies (aka Researchers) & Loose Websites
If you don’t know with whom you are conversing, watch what you say. Many researchers may also provide email addresses or general contact information that yields minimal or no results with a Google search. Also, take a good look at all the information on your website and add a robots.txt file at the top of your domain so that will remove the archived versions of the site.

Social Networking Sites Sink Ships
It is simply amazing how much information can be gleaned from LinkedIn profiles, Monster resumes, company Facebook and other social networking sites. Encourage your employees to keep confidential company data out of their profiles. It can be like that naked photo you can never eradicate from cyberspace.

Until next time, be safe out there and watch out for those spies, and spy wannabes, like me.

DC Cherry Blossoms 2013