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What is business/corporate espionage, and how can you fight back?

Modern business can be incredibly cutthroat. Your competitors could do all kinds of things to try to reduce your market share from intentionally sabotaging your business to stealing your idea or mimicking your packaging to dilute your brand. Constant awareness of your competitors and online reviews of your brand are critical.

However, not all forms of business warfare are obvious. Some companies will try to steal your company's proprietary information through the act of corporate spying, also known as business or corporate espionage. Knowing what constitutes corporate espionage or information theft can help you protect your company against this underhanded practice.

Corporate espionage involves illegally accessing your business information

Corporate espionage could involve hacking into your computer systems, stealing information, illegally entering your facilities or buying information from your current or former employees. Other times, it could involve a company sending in a spy in the form of an employee for your company.

Successful businesses often have to hire new staff, often to replace workers who have found new employment or retired. Expansion or company growth can also make hiring new workers necessary. Some companies will use that expansion to their own benefit by trying to get you to hire one of their workers or operatives.

They will pick an individual who may very well be an ideal fit for your business, except that they intend to take as much information about how your company operates as possible to your competitors. From client lists to the formula for chemical compounds used in the manufacture of your most popular products, the information that workers can access could damage your company if competitors get their hands on it.

Protect yourself through the creation of employment contracts

Good data security and business security will deter most kinds of espionage. The most straightforward way to legally protect yourself from hiring-related corporate espionage is to integrate both non-compete and non-disclosure agreements into your employment contract.

Every new hire should execute these forms, as should anyone you promote from a basic or entry-level position to one that has access to more business information. It will also benefit you to specifically list what company information and individual within the contract, which can make it easier to prove that they were the one who leaked something.

Document everything and prepare yourself for court

Unless you catch one of your workers on a lunch meeting with the owner of another company or on the phone with a competitor, you likely won't know someone wants to commit corporate espionage against your business until they have left your company or leaked your secrets. Once you know that someone has shared your company's trade secrets, you can then invoke a non-compete or non-disclosure clause from their employment contract.

Then, you can seek compensation and put an end to the theft of your business' secrets by asking the courts to intervene. They may penalize the individual who stole information from your company, as well as the other businesses that bought the information or paid that person to infiltrate your company.

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