Corporate espionage, also known as economic espionage or industrial espionage, isn’t just some James Bond storyline. Protecting your proprietary information and data loss prevention are some of the most serious issues that today’s businesses face.

The concerns are compounded by the fact that even companies as large as Target and Sony Pictures have been hacked in recent years. In Sony’s case, their reputation took a serious hit and compromised industry relations when emails were leaked. The incident resulted in the removal of a number of upper-level execs, including co-chairman Amy Pascal.

For Target, the issue was customer financial information being stolen. The data loss directly affected the company financially when they agreed to pay victims $10 million in a settlement.

Cyber threats are foreign and domestic. The hackers are sophisticated and agile. Every internet-connected facet of the business, right down to instant messaging now requires data security. It’s enough to make any business owner overwhelmed.

Fortunately, steps are being taken at a federal level to thwart corporate espionage and businesses have tools to protect themselves.

Strategies for Protecting Your Business Against Corporate Espionage

Preventing corporate espionage starts with taking proactive steps to protect your information at every level. It’s an investment in time, energy and resources that should be made upfront to provide the most protection and implement plans that can grow along with your company.

Become Familiar With the FBI’s Anti-Espionage Laws & Resources

Last year the Federal Bureau of Investigations took a huge step in helping protect businesses against corporate espionage. The FBI initiated a corporate espionage awareness campaign that provides people with information on the problem and how to identify threats. They are also offering assistance to businesses that have been affected. Steps are now being taken to expand anti-terrorist laws in order to impede and catch corporate spies.

Secure Systems Used by Remote Workers and During Travel

Telecommuting is a growing trend, and corporate spies are taking advantage of it. Companies that incorporate a flexible work schedule and hire offsite workers have to limit the information that is stored on remote systems. Business owners also have to ensure that the employee’s computer is equipped with security software. This also applies any time an employee goes on a business trip. Laptops should be wiped clean of all but essential information.

Create Protocols for Personal Devices

More and more employees are using their own devices to do work in the office and at home. All it takes is one piece of malware from a pop-up to put your company’s information at risk. Companies have to put protocols in place for what is and isn’t acceptable on personal devices. You may want to consider completely banning the use of personal devices.

It’s also a good idea to create protocols for how sensitive information and documents are handled in general and who has access to said information. Password protocols are another necessity since weak passwords are one of the most common ways hackers access protected systems.

Make Sure Employees Don’t Leave With Company Trade Secrets

Some spies are closer to home than you think. They don’t need spying apps or cracked code. They are former employees and business partners that simply walk right out with the information they need. A recent study by law firm O’Melveny & Myers found that 85% of trade secret “misappropriators” are someone that is known to the company.

One of the easiest solutions to prevent this issue is to use confidential information and non-solicit and non-compete agreements. This will dissuade employees and partners from stealing your information and provide legal repercussions if they do. Just make sure these agreements are in accordance with your state’s laws.

Implement an Enterprise Level Data Loss Prevention System

To keep data protection manageable and comprehensive, look for an enterprise level solution. An integrated system that is equipped to keep your data guarded at every entry point can limit the resources needed to prevent data loss and automate the process of identifying threats. This will also keep policies from being fragmented and inefficient.

Corporate espionage costs the U.S. economy $480 billion a year. When companies identify their sensitive information, understand the threats and implement the simple strategies noted above, they’ll avoid becoming a part of a growing problem.