One-stop solution to counter modern threats

March/April 2001 Information Security

The Counterintelligence Group (CI Group), formed in January 2001, consists of a number of small and well-known companies such as TSCM Services, Sceptre Investigations, CBIA, ICA and others that offered exclusive services to the corporate sector. The CI Group now offers a one-stop solution to counter modern threats that go far beyond the traditional security: cameras, gates, alarms, guards and dogs. The Managing Director of the group is Steve Whitehead and the group offers corporate counterintelligence (CI) services, consultations and training in southern and eastern Africa.

CI offers a variety of skilled and specialised services to protect information against industrial and technical espionage. As we embrace the intelligence age business success is dependent on knowing how to cultivate intelligence and how to use it to its advantage. Although intelligence is often referred to as one of the world's oldest professions it only became an acceptable business practice in recent years.

Many companies now boast competitive or business intelligence units, sometimes disguised as marketing intelligence or research. The unacceptable side of it, industrial and economic espionage, is, according to all accounts, also on the increase.

Counterintelligence and security

Businesses in this part of the world are yet to link the collection of information or the attacks against confidential information with information protection or counterintelligence. It must be pointed out that counterintelligence should not be confused with security. Counterintelligence is directed at coping with threats against information and has emerged in the business world as a discipline separate and distinct from traditional security practices.

Moving beyond governments - their traditional quarry - foreign intelligence agencies as well as international organisations are carrying industrial espionage and business intelligence into the business and private sector, which is seldom prepared to face such sophisticated adversaries.

In South Africa the National Intelligence Agency is responsible for counterintelligence regarding the South African Government, installations, personnel and material. In the definition of the function no mention is made of the protection of the secrets of the business sector. The South African Government however acknowledges the existence of industrial espionage. The 1995 White Paper on Intelligence notes that 'There has been a dramatic increase in foreign intelligence activities in South Africa. Apart from classical political and military espionage, other activities of foreign/hostile intelligence services and industrial espionage agents have increased markedly in the economic, technological and scientific fields'.

We do not have any law in South Africa that addresses business or industrial espionage specifically or the theft of trade secrets and intellectual property in a systematic manner. The SAPS no longer investigate most of the crimes associated with industrial espionage such as trespassing, burglaries and theft. Dockets or files are merely opened for the purpose of obtaining a reference number for insurance purposes. It is a pity because most times it is the Police that respond to the complaints and can play an important role in the initial efforts to collect evidence.

In October 1996 the US Economic Espionage Act of 1996 saw the light. The Economic Espionage Act is an attempt by the US Government to assist American businesses against industrial espionage from foreigners. The Act also includes the term 'proprietary economic information' and links the economic well-being of the American companies to national security. The Act empowers the FBI to assist American businesses. The Act basically prohibits the taking, copying, or receiving of trade secrets without authorisation. It also prohibits anyone from doing so for the 'benefit' of any foreign government, foreign instrumentality or foreign agent.

The Act also requires that the owner of the information must have taken reasonable and active measures to protect the information from becoming known to unauthorised individuals. If owners fail to protect their information no one can be accused of misappropriation.

There is a definite need to train and educate security staff regarding industrial espionage. They may help counterintelligence staff to develop cases in this area. Just as the Police, security often discovers incidents via informants, witnesses and criminal investigations.

Education and awareness remains one of the pillars of passive counterintelligence services. Most of the time the corporate world does not consider counterintelligence until after a company has suffered a loss or incident of industrial espionage.

Sometimes companies become victims without knowing it.


The most basic objective of counterintelligence is to protect information from those who are not authorised to receive it, to counter potential threats and to enhance security. CI will spot the danger signals, foil industrial espionage and prevent illegal activities such as electronic eavesdropping, carefully control information that companies publish about itself and protect those areas vulnerable to business intelligence and espionage efforts.

The CI Group offers various passive counterintelligence services such as awareness briefings/seminars, integrity verification, technical surveillance countermeasures, penetration testing and active counterintelligence services such as the investigation of information theft or losses and various competitive intelligence functions.

For further details contact the CI Group on tel: (012) 664 3157, e-mail: [email protected]

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