Industrial Espionage at Eurocopter
As Ferrari racing fans are very aware these days, industrial espionage that goes far beyond the bounds of ethical competitive intelligence is alive and kicking. This is even more true in the aerospace industry, whose national security implications often feature national intelligence organizations undertaking industrial espionage – in some cases, even against allied countries. China is most frequently mentioned in this context, with good reason, but Russia and France have also built reputations in this area.
A recent case in Europe shines a brief light on some of these goings on – and on some classic techniques used in the field. Deutsche Welle reports that former Eurocopter executive “Werner G.” allegedly met with a Russian SVR intelligence agent several times between 2004 and 2006 in Germany, Austria and Croatia, handing over unclassified technical manuals, files and CD-ROMs in exchange for EUR 13,000 (about $20,500). In a modern twist, classic techniques like dead drops and visual signals were bypassed in favor of anonymous webmail accounts to arrange meetings.
Remember this acronym: MICE. Money. Ideology. Compromise. Ego. Werner G. was reportedly in debt, and hoped his contact would help him gain business for his engineering consultancy. He clearly falls into the “money” category, as opposed to the Ferrari scandal which was primarily an “ego” example. His activities may also seem to come very cheap, but this too is normal when dealing with intelligence professionals. As is the fact that none of the requested documents were classified. This is often how it starts, with deliberately low-grade requests and pay. This achieves 2 things: (1) It fails to relieve the need for money, ensuring that the fish remains hooked; and (2) it establishes a firm hold, since later requests for secret documents can be backed up by the threat of exposure for clearly illegal activities that have already been committed.