The Company Man: Interview with Corporate Attorney at Targeted Company
The corporate attorney at the company targeted in the real-life version of "The Company Man" shares his perspectives on the case.
Corporate Attorney at Targeted Company:
It was a huge surprise to us, and why we were caught unaware that this could happen.
Our manufacturing facility is two hours away from the closest major U.S. city, so you'd think you’re safe there.
And you would think that nothing was going to happen there, especially from people from out of the country. How would they even find us out there? But they did.
So, in our incident, we had people break into our plant floor, and they just walked in. So when we confronted them, we dismissed them out of the plant, and we dismissed it to a trespassing violation. So we were definitely going to follow up with local law enforcement on a trespassing violation.
But we also had a security consultant at the time, he said, “Call the FBI.”
So, internally, we made a very quick decision—it was less than 24 hours—to involve the FBI.
As the FBI investigated, it unfolded more clearly. We had had contact from the same, the same gentleman at our corporate headquarters.
He actually called and said he was interested in investing in the company; he wanted to come and get a tour.
We then found out that they tried to place an employment ad in the local papers looking for somebody who had worked for our company and was willing to come to China as a technology expert.
We also were contacted from a headhunter, or someone who said they were a headhunter, asking the same questions from our corporate headquarters; looking for people who had worked with the technology and who would be willing to go to China and teach them, teach them what they've learned working for us.
It was scary how persistent they were and how they did not care that they could be caught at any time.
I can't get over the fact that those guys came into our plant—not once, but twice—trying to get at the trade secrets just by taking videotape of our working production.
When we involved the FBI, the FBI opened our eyes and broadened the scope that there was more going on than could meet the eye. Maybe this wasn't just a single incident or one company attacking our intellectual property, but in some foreign governments, could actually support and reward the stealing of trade secrets for benefit of the companies in their country. It opened our eyes and told us that we have a bigger problem on our hands.
During the investigation, we were asked if we would have an employee go undercover. And that was probably the part that concerned me the most, because it was dealing directly with the safety of one of our co-workers.
And in this situation, we did have an employee who was willing to do it. And through the work with the FBI, the coaching was there, all of the specifics were put forward to allay those fears.
What we had was a partnership, and the FBI wanted us to be involved with this investigation. We worked with them every step of the way. They guided us, they coached us, they listened to what our concerns were and they addressed those concerns.
I can't stress enough how much we appreciated being part of it, and not just hearing about it ourselves in the paper.
Having gone through the process and achieving the results that we did, you know, sort of vindicated or justified us involving the FBI and us putting so much time and effort into the investigation and allowing a company employee to partake in the investigation. So, it definitely has had a positive effect internally.
We have always had strong policies in place within the company to protect information.We do nondisclosure agreements, we have noncompete agreements; we have all of these procedures in place that, if followed, would be great.
Well, what we found out is that maybe not everybody was trained on everything properly or not everybody was thinking about it.
So we've added some physical security since the incident at our plant locations.
We've done some training on what exactly is our intellectual property and what is the most important trade secrets.
We also have taken advantage of some guidance from the FBI. So, the more careful use of e-mails, the discouraging of file-sharing. We're trying not to share any of the high-level confidentiality, confidential information via the Internet share points or anything like that. And trying to keep our system as locked down as possible, and that's up to our IT department, who is very aware of the risk of the cyber attacks.
Obviously, these people walked into our facility. And, yes, we saw them there and we questioned them and the story had a happy ending, but any other time it could have been missed and could have been too late.
I'm here to tell you that the attack is imminent and it is aggressive and it's relentless.
They had no shame. It was, they were going to come and take this information, and if we got them one place, they were going to come at us from another place.
The sooner you recognize that you're not going to be able to just take care of it yourself, that you have people like the FBI, local law enforcement, you have entities like that in place to protect us. That is critical. And once you determine that it's critical, then it's not that hard to decide to involve the FBI.
I can't say it enough times how important it was to us that they gave the resources and the technology to help us with our situation.
We were involved, actively involved in the investigation, so the information that had to be disclosed at trial didn't bother us as much because we had been working with the FBI through the whole process. So they knew what we did not want to divulge and we knew what we could divulge.
So, somewhere in the middle you got the documents that went through and you got the testimony and everything into trial.
So, it just goes to show you that when you're looking at something in a small vacuum, that an incident might not seem so horrific or so important, but it could be just the beginning of something.
And with the FBI's help, we were able to open our eyes and then recognize in other areas of the country our company was being attacked on a broad scale to steal our intellectual property, our trade secrets, and it was not just a one-off instance of guys breaking into a facility. It was much more than that.
And the culture shift from this experience has been that it's everybody's job to protect the intellectual property. The ramifications will be felt throughout the whole organization whenever these secrets leak out.
So I think that we were really able to hit home that everybody needs to be vigilant about protecting this information.
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