Investment accounts

Authorised and regulated by the UK’s FCA to provide investment accounts, we are bound by CASS rules to segregate and protect client assets.

August 2020 investment update webinar

Having entered the second half of an eventful 2020, you could be forgiven for assuming that all of the virus drama is behind us. The real drama in H2 however, is...

Diamonds might be forever

Can technology disrupt the diamond industry, or will carbon crystals formed over millennia still capture consumers’ hearts?

Dolfin’s response to Covid-19

We will safeguard the wellbeing of our team, continue to act as responsible members of the global community, and deliver uninterrupted, high-quality service to our clients and partners.

Licensed to spill

Not all spies look like James Bond. Corporate espionage is a growing concern for many organisations, denting profits and undermining trust. We look at how firms can combat it.

16 June 2020 / EntrepreneurshipTechnology
Author
Dolfin

In late 2012, British vacuum cleaner firm Dyson accused its German competitor Bosch of planting a mole at the heart of its engineering team. The employee, a Chinese national named Yang Pang, was said to have passed secret information about motor technology to the German firm.

According to Dyson, Yang had entered into an agreement with Bosch to pass on secrets about Dyson’s technology. Bosch were said to have paid him €13,000 over 16 months for this work. In a move worthy of a low budget spy film, the money was apparently funnelled through a limited company set up in his wife’s name to keep the relationship at arm’s length. Dyson fired Yang and demanded Bosch return the intellectual property, which it said cost tens of millions of pounds in R&D.

Corporate espionage, where sensitive information, recipes, financial data or manufacturing techniques are stolen by competitors or foreign governments is said to cost businesses billions of pounds each year. In the US, trade secret theft costs 1–3 per cent of GDP, which could equate to as much as $540bn.

“Given the nature of spying, many companies simply don’t know they’ve had their information stolen.”

Getting a true idea of the scale of this problem is difficult. The Dyson case is one of surprisingly few publicly reported stories about corporate espionage. Given the nature of spying, many companies simply don’t know they’ve had their information stolen. And, even when they do, “Most organisations don’t bring it into the public domain,” says Professor Mark Button of Portsmouth University. “In the UK there are hardly any publicly reported examples, despite MI5 and MI6 reporting that companies lose hundreds of millions of pounds to espionage every year.”

The world of corporate spying is generally less exciting than a Bond movie. Button reckons that most corporate espionage is conducted by means of hacking. Since vast amounts of sensitive company information is held on company servers, it’s usually easiest for spies to use cybercrime techniques to get hold of it.

What’s bugging you?

But it’s not all geeks behind keyboards. Crispin Sturrock of White Rock Privacy, a consultancy which helps business protect themselves against espionage, reports that listening devices are getting better. “If you want to put a recorder in a room or use a GSM bug [wireless listening devices that look like everyday objects], it is very easy to buy these devices online today, and the equipment has improved a lot in recent years.”

“It could be a frustrated employee who decides to harm the business and sell secrets. It could be a member of staff who has somehow been compromised and blackmailed to hand over information.”

Corporate espionage can happen in many ways. It could be a frustrated employee who decides to harm the business and sell secrets. It could be a member of staff who has somehow been compromised and blackmailed to hand over information. It might also involve people posing as cleaners who swipe away laptops, folders and USB keys containing vital information. It can even be as low-tech as private investigators looking through a target’s bins.

Button notes that espionage is frequently carried out by dedicated state surveillance teams. Other times though, it’s a rogue team at a company that is under pressure to get results – and so they opt to try and steal ideas from competitors themselves or by outsourcing the legwork. “There are always networks for finding people who would be willing to do this kind of thing,” he warns.

Risky business

While it may be very difficult to completely prevent corporate espionage, there’s plenty that companies can do to minimise the risk. Button says a good place to start is to develop robust cybersecurity measures. It’s also important to vet new hires: “Look for red flags that might raise issues about a person – are they under financial pressure?”

“Effective counterespionage involves engagement from all staff.”

Sturrock is reticent about revealing his firm’s methods, but he says there are simple things businesses can do. “Say you’re having a board meeting. Before it starts, bend over and look under the table to see if a dictaphone has been placed there.” Effective counterespionage involves engagement from all staff. Sturrock says that if employees see someone they don’t know walking around the office, they should feel empowered to ask that person who they are and what they’re doing.

Completely preventing corporate espionage may be Mission Impossible but, by implementing some simple measure, businesses make it that much harder for spies to come in from the cold.

Read More

Privacy in a pandemic

With the UK set to launch its Covid-19 track and trace app in June, we look at how technology has been deployed around the world to monitor the spread of the virus, and the implications for privacy and data security

Dolfin
/ 2 June 2020

Riding the wave together

As the world begins its first tentative steps out of lockdown, Dolfin’s Head of Business Development Georgios Ercan and Head of Investment Management Simon Black reflect on the preoccupations our clients have expressed during the Covid-19 crisis

Dolfin
/ 19 May 2020

Investment accounts

Dolfin’s investment accounts safeguard securities and cash, while ensuring you or your clients can take full advantage of multi-asset, multi-currency, and multi-strategy investments.

Learn more

About us

Founded as a London-based wealth boutique in 2013, today we’re a diversified financial services firm with an international presence and our own bespoke technology platform.

Learn more