Cyber Criminals or Proud Parents? Defending Your Competitively Sensitive Information

July 2, 2012

The June 30 issue of The Economist wrote about the growing cost of cyber-crime.  At the end, the reporters warned that the “bad guys” were increasingly using social media to find a way in to companies’ computer systems.  If you are considering how your company is revealing information to your competitors, a good place to start might be to look at the Facebook pages of some of your employees.

Our employees are not revealing confidential information, you are undoubtedly thinking.  But employees do not always understand what is competitively sensitive, much less what is confidential or otherwise protected.

Let me give you an example. We had a client that was interested in a competitor’s ability to expand its offerings.  After some digging, we were fairly comfortable with the conclusion that the competitor, in fact, had acquired the necessary talent, employees, in this area.  But one question was left: what was its intention?

And there, we found the answer on Facebook: a family announcement about a wedding.  The congratulations message included the fact that that Bobbie, the happy newly-wed, would soon be returning to a better job with the competitor in a brand-new division.  Happily, the proud mother also gave us the name of the division.  That name was not as important as the fact this is established that the competitor now had both the capability act and had created that organizational structure.  The only question left was how soon would it move.

The lesson?  If you are concerned that your competitors seem to be getting a jump on you, don’t assume that they have hired sophisticated cyber criminals from some vowel challenged country to hack into your computers.  More likely, there is a more prosaic explanation – what your employees (or their families) are saying.


2 Comments on “Cyber Criminals or Proud Parents? Defending Your Competitively Sensitive Information”

  1. […] July 2, 2012 The June 30 issue of The Economist wrote about the growing cost of cyber-crime.  At the end, the reporters warned that the “bad guys” were increasingly using social media t…  […]

  2. […] The June 30 issue of The Economist wrote about the growing cost of cyber-crime. At the end, the reporters warned that the “bad guys” were increasingly using social media to find a way in to companies’ computer systems. If you are considering how your company is revealing information to your competitors, a good place to start might be to look at the Facebook pages of some of your employees.  […]


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