Corporate espionage is on the rise in the country, with the digital medium offering an extremely fertile ground for its perpetuation. An increasing number of companies are also hiring private detectives to keep tabs on both their employees and business partners. Detective agencies says they are flooded with strange requests from companies to plant spies in rival firms, to fish for confidential data, engineering designs, software codes or to manipulate rate contracts to favour their clients.
“An entire gamut of corporate espionage is happening around us and it is a huge industry by itself,” says cyber law expert and supreme court advocate Pavan Duggal. On an average, detective agencies get 5 to 10 requests a day for such services. The fee could range from Rs 30,000 to a few lakh of rupees, depending on the complexity of the job.
“Such things are rampant and we get a lot of requests, though we do not entertain it as a matter of policy,” says Ravi Kapoor, chairman of ACE Detectives. He says that usually a person is hired for the job who has access to passwords and other information. It could be a dataentry operator, security personnel or even a driver.
“Hiring spies is prevalent in IT firms, especially where big tenders are underway ,” confirms Manpreet Sidhu, head of Top Secret Detective Agency.
Often the needle of suspicion is on new recruits. “We get requests especially from IT and banking clients to keep a watch on their new employees. We cracked a case where an employee was transferring data via his mobile phone. We launched a trail and caught him accepting physical payments three days after the crime,” says Pradeep Kumar, director, Times Detective Agency.
It is a murky world of bid rigging, patent infringement, cheque forgery, secret commissions, false financial statements, duplicate shares and ATM offences. It involves keylogging (tracking, or logging, the keys struck on a keyboard) or introducing spyware /malware on your competitor’s system or paying people to unauthorisedly copy confidential information, data or trade secrets from competitors using computer systems and communication devices.
A survey conducted by KPMG reveals that losses on account of corporate espionage in the consumer products segment is as high as 13%. Some 82% of the worst frauds are committed by the enemy within, acting alone or in collusion with a third party, says an Ernst & Young study.
Unfortunately, due to the inherent nature of corporate espionage, there is virtually no reporting. There is complete absence of case laws in this regard.
“There is virtually complete non-reporting of such corporate espionage instances . Companies invariably do not want to report for fear of negative media because they could be perceived as unsafe companies. Also, Indian cyberlaw does not directly deal with corporate espionage,” says Duggal.
He says the police and law enforcement must create a friendly atmosphere to enable the reporting of such instances . “Also , there is an urgent need for immediately amending the Information Technology Act 2000 to cover instances of corporate espionage and to afford adequate protection to companies ,” adds Duggal.