We are not alone…

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We are not alone…

We hear lots of silly questions, like how come the Japanese smoke so much but don’t have lung cancer? And how come there is no speed limit on the Autobahn but there are no automobile accidents? And why do we have information stolen but other countries don’t?

While we won’t address the first two canards here, an article by Cho Jin-seo in the 19 June 2006 issue of Korea Times entitled Half of Top Tech Firms Suffer Leaks certainly addresses the latter question.

The article notes that the rate has increased in the last few years, which they attribute to changes in technology – it is easier to steal now than it was when you had to photocopy everything and carry it out – and to a changed work ethic related to the disappearance of lifetime careers with a single employer.

About sixty-five percent of the incidents involved former employees, eighteen percent involved current employees, and sixteen percent involved subcontractors. Since all of these are essentially crimes of opportunity, it appears that the Korea Industrial Technology Association, sponsor of the study, did not or could not track the kinds of deliberate theft by competitors and adversaries that we try to prevent through implementation of an OPSEC program.

What can we learn from this? Firstly, we can learn that, just as smoking and fast driving can lead to death, failure to implement measures to prevent crimes of opportunity leads, universally, to loss of intellectual property. Secondly, we can learn that you only find what you look for, and that if you haven’t implemented an OPSEC program you are unlikely to prevent theft of which you will likely never be directly aware.

Of course, you might be aware of these thefts indirectly. You will see them in competitive products; in competitive products beating you to market; in products that can sell at a lower price because they come with no pesky R&D overhead. You might be aware of them in a pattern of lost bids; closed divisions; staff laid off. You might be aware of them when your company closes or you lose your job to a competitor that shouldn’t be competitive.

We believe that a significant portion of these losses are avoidable, and that it makes more sense to recognize that there is a problem and deal with it than to simply pretend that it can’t be happening to us because it isn’t happening to them. It is happening to them, and it is happening to us.

Oh, and you should stop smoking, and slow down on the highway.

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