Counterintelligence Resources

As the lead agency for exposing, preventing, and investigating intelligence activities on U.S. soil, the FBI Counterintelligence Division continues to work to combat these threats using our full suite of investigative and intelligence capabilities. Its blueprint is the Counterintelligence National Strategy, which is regularly updated to focus resources on the most serious current and emerging threats. One important aspect of this counterintelligence strategy involves strategic partnerships. And on that front, the FBI focuses on three specific areas:

  • The sharing of expertise and resources of the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community, other U.S. government agencies, and global partners to combat foreign intelligence activities;
  • Coordination of U.S. intelligence community efforts to combat insider threats among its own ranks; and
  • Partnerships with businesses and colleges and universities to strengthen information sharing and counterintelligence awareness.

Protecting America's commercial and high-tech secrets makes good business sense and is vital to our national security. Raising your security profile to ensure that sensitive and proprietary information does not fall into the wrong hands safeguards your company's competitive edge and helps keep America strong. The following resources are available to help you incorporate counterintelligence strategies and policy.

Insider Threats - FBI

A company can often detect or control when an outsider (non-employee) tries to access company data either physically or electronically, and can mitigate the threat of an outsider stealing company property. However, the thief who is harder to detect and who could cause the most damage is the insider—the employee with legitimate access. That insider may steal solely for personal gain, or that insider may be a "spy"—someone who is stealing company information or products in order to benefit another organization or country. Theft of intellectual property is an increasing threat to organizations and can go unnoticed for months or even years. There are increased incidents of employees taking proprietary information when they believe they will be, or are, searching for a new job. A domestic or foreign business competitor or foreign government intent on illegally acquiring a company's proprietary information and trade secrets may wish to place a spy into a company in order to gain access to non-public information. Alternatively, they may try to recruit an existing employee to do the same thing.

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Elicitation Techniques - FBI

Elicitation is a technique used to discreetly gather information. It is a conversation with a specific purpose: collect information that is not readily available and do so without raising suspicion that specific facts are being sought. It is usually non-threatening, easy to disguise, deniable, and effective. The conversation can be in person, over the phone, or in writing. Conducted by a skilled collector, elicitation will appear to be normal social or professional conversation. A person may never realize she was the target of elicitation or that she provided meaningful information. Many competitive business intelligence collectors and foreign intelligence officers are trained in elicitation tactics. Their job is to obtain non-public information. A business competitor may want information in order to out-compete your company, or a foreign intelligence officer may want insider information or details on U.S. defense technologies.

Intellectual Property Protection - FBI

Domestic and foreign companies may try to illegally acquire your company's information. Foreign nations that seek to improve their economies and militaries target U.S. technology companies. Protect the programs and systems that support what makes your company successful and unique. If your company has a technological edge, expect your technology, and those with access to it, to be targeted. If your company has invested time and resources developing a product or idea—protect it! If you believe your company is a victim of these crimes, contact the FBI or the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. Investigators cannot act if they are not aware of the problem. The FBI will minimize the disruption to your business and safeguard your privacy and your data during its investigation. Where necessary, the FBI will seek protective orders to preserve trade secrets and business confidentiality.

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Internet Social Networking - FBI

A key element of the FBI's Counterintelligence Strategy is the emphasis on detecting and deterring foreign-sponsored cyber intelligence threats to government and private sector information systems. Humans are a weak link in cyber security, and hackers and social manipulators know this. Internet-based social networking sites have created a revolution in social connectivity. However, con artists, criminals, and other dishonest actors are exploiting this capability for nefarious purposes. There are primarily two tactics used to exploit online social networks. In practice, they are often combined; 1) Computer savvy hackers who specialize in writing and manipulating computer code to gain access or install unwanted software on your computer or phone. 2) Social or human hackers who specialize in exploiting personal connections through social networks. Social hackers, sometimes referred to as "social engineers," manipulate people through social interactions (in person, over the phone, or in writing).

Internet Social Networking Risks

Safety and Security for the Business Professional Traveling Abroad - FBI

You or your firm may be a target of a foreign country's efforts to obtain information or technologies in order to increase their market share, build their economies, or modernize their military. Targeting methods include luggage searches, extensive questioning, and unnecessary inspection and downloading of information from laptop computers. Business travelers should take measures to ensure not only the safety and security of themselves but also their business information while traveling outside the United States.

Safety Tips for U.S. Business Travelers Abroad

Advice for U.S. College Students Abroad - FBI

The FBI produced a film on foreign government recruitment of students using a real case (Game of Pawns). The foreign governments recruit large numbers of students in hope that the students will achieve sensitive positions later in life. It is hoped that students made aware of the dangers can be alert to any attempts to recruit them. U.S. government agencies are not the only entities with sensitive information valuable to foreign agents. DSAC recommends businesses explore how to detect this very real insider threat.

Safety and Security for U.S. Students Traveling Abroad