The Company Man: Interview with DuPont Executive
Ed Montooth, chief security officer for DuPont Corporation, discusses the economic espionage threat and the importance of developing a relationship with the FBI to help address the problem.
Ed Montooth, Chief Security Officer, DuPont Corporation:
The FBI has reached out to many businesses and stressed the importance of the economic espionage problem.
And that it’s actually grown over the last, I would say, the last three to five years.
And DuPont really sees economic espionage as a major threat to not only DuPont but to other companies that spend a tremendous amount of money on research and development trying to develop new products, new innovative ways to make old products.
And we can't afford to really operate, we can't afford to be profitable and be a successful business if we lose our research and technology that we spend an enormous amount of money on.
We believe education and awareness on how to handle and maintain and store proprietary information, items that are trade secret, are key to our success.
We train them on various stages, how they should label it, classify it, how they maintain it, and how it should be shared.
They need to be careful when they're interacting with non-DuPont employees, either at trade shows, walking through an airport, sitting next to someone on an airplane.
And if they see something unusual or they see someone that is trying to obtain information that doesn't make sense for their normal course of employment and responsibilities, then we ask that they elevate it to a number of different things.
They can call security and let them know. They can take it to their managers, let them know.
Or they can, we have an internal audit and compliance division of the company, let them know.
And the internal audit, security, and the management of the company, we work closely together to try determining, is this a legitimate threat or is it just an unusual event and there’s no harmful intention intended by anyone?
What we've, unfortunately, over a number of years, we've experienced several cases of theft of our technology, both from an internal side as well as an external side.
Corporate security has an internal investigative unit that investigates claims or activity that we think could be someone acting illegally or not in the best interest of DuPont.
And they are trained in investigations, they're former law enforcement investigators, and they'll conduct just what I would call a typical investigation.
They will conduct interviews, they will review e-mails, they'll interview managers to try determining, is this individual that we have concerns with, are they acting appropriately?
And if it meets our threshold that someone is not acting appropriately, maybe they're downloading an unusual amount of information and they are also preparing to leave our employment and maybe go to another company, then we believe that’s a serious concern, we look into it, and if we think it’s intentional and someone’s looking at it to profit for themselves at the detriment to DuPont, then we will not hesitate to go to law enforcement and usually the FBI and ask for assistance to investigate this further.
Well, we've developed a very good rapport, relationship, with the FBI, not only at the FBI field office, for instance, in Baltimore or the resident agency in Wilmington, Delaware, but also at the San Francisco office, the Richmond Field Office, and at Headquarters in Washington D.C.
We have found them to be very approachable. When we present the facts to them, they've been very quick to react and take steps to work with us, to mitigate that threat, and really determine, is there something more than just an unusual circumstance?
So we've been very pleased with our relationship with the FBI and we want to continue that in years to come.
We've had a number of cases go to trial. And in any one of those cases, we're always fearful that the trade secret we're trying to protect will have to be presented as evidence in court.
And we've worked with the Department of Justice, the attorneys that are prosecuting the case, as well with judges to take whatever steps are possible to legally let the defendant have his fair day in court but also protect DuPont from providing sensitive information to it in a public forum.
The prosecution is important, and we think prosecuting former employees or individuals that try to steal our technology sends a strong message to everyone that we do take it seriously and we will use every aspect of the law, criminally as well as civilly, to protect our information.
We've had cases where we've assisted the FBI in conducting a criminal investigation into theft of our proprietary information.
And then at the conclusion of that prosecution, we've gone civilly against that company to try to recoup some of the financial losses that we believe we incurred when they stole our technology, as well as the financial repercussions we'll feel in the future as that technology is used by either competitors or others in the future that may land upon that technology and then use it inappropriately.
What I think we found very helpful is just a very transparent and open dialogue, not only with the FBI agents that are working the case or with FBI Headquarters, but with the Department of Justice, the prosecutors.
We've had to walk some very difficult lines on approaching things where employees are involved, competitors are involved.
That transparency is really needed so that you don't impact all areas of your company’s businesses. And that’s critical to us.
We want to be successful in all areas, and if we don't have the transparency, we don't have the ability to speak frankly and candidly, I don't think either side, the FBI or DuPont, is going to be successful in the outcome that we want.
We have individuals at all of our facilities that are tied into the security organization of DuPont, and we ask that they not only know the FBI but they know law enforcement officials from other agencies, so that in a time of trouble or a time of need, they have a dialogue where they can immediately go and start speaking to individuals that they've met previously.
We meet on a regular basis with agencies, with the agents from the FBI office based out of Wilmington, for instance, and it’s through those, sometimes just over a cup of coffee, they bring us suggestions on what other companies, you know, they won't say what company has experienced a problem, but they'll say, “XYZ company has experienced a threat from inside and they noticed these traits and you may want to look for the similar traits in your organization because they could be a threat that you're unaware of.”
That’s critical, is that when you walk in the door, they have some understanding that you're in it for the long haul, you're not coming in with a complaint and then the next month or six months from now you'll change your mind and not want to cooperate or participate with law enforcement.
So we try to have a long relationship and trusted partnership.
I think the Bureau is really trying to make companies realize that this is a real present and it’s a bigger problem than probably some people want to let on or realize.
And if we don't do something and try to be proactive, it could be too late. You could lose the key technology that would severely impact your company and could make it impossible for you to overcome.
We've all seen articles in the paper about companies that lost their key technology to developing countries, and that company is now bankrupt or has ceased to exist. And I don't want us to be one of those casualties.
So as a company, we're aggressively pursuing the best way to protect the money and the investments that we put into research and development.
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