Spies might seem like a throwback to earlier days of world wars and cold wars, but they are more common than ever—and they are targeting our nation’s most valuable secrets.

The FBI’s Counterintelligence Program

The FBI is the lead agency for exposing, preventing, and investigating intelligence activities in the U.S. Because much of today’s spying is accomplished by data theft from computer networks, espionage is quickly becoming cyber-based.

The goals of the FBI’s counterintelligence work are to:

  • Protect the secrets of the U.S. Intelligence Community
  • Protect the nation’s critical assets, like our advanced technologies and sensitive information in the defense, intelligence, economic, financial, public health, and science and technology sectors
  • Counter the activities of foreign spies
  • Keep weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands

Economic Espionage

Economic espionage costs the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year and puts our national security at risk. These foreign competitors deliberately target economic intelligence in advanced technologies and successful U.S. industries.

Historically, economic espionage has targeted defense-related and high-tech industries. But recent FBI cases have shown that no industry, large or small, is immune to the threat. Any company with a proprietary product, process, or idea can be a target. Any unprotected trade secret can be illegally stolen.

This graphic features the word "counterintelligence" in front of the FBI seal.

Do You Want to Change Your Future? (Video)


In addition to its investigative work, the FBI works to raise public awareness and inform industry of the threats they face, through outreach activities.

In collaboration with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the FBI released a short film to educate anyone with a trade secret about how they can protect it. Based on an actual case, The Company Man: Protecting America’s Secrets illustrates how one U.S. company was targeted by foreign spies and how that company worked with the FBI to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Asset Forfeiture

Asset forfeiture is a powerful tool used by law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, against criminals and criminal organizations to deprive them of their property used illegally and their ill-gotten gains through seizure of these assets. It is also used to compensate victims of crime. Learn more about the FBI’s asset forfeiture program and to see forfeiture in action.

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