Capitalism creates a marketplace where many people can succeed and make millions of dollars. As a result, capitalism also creates a hugely competitive marketplace where businesses are sometimes willing to do anything to gain an advantage. Industrial espionage is defined as obtaining information from a rival company against its will to sabotage its operation. There are many types of industrial espionage.


Computers are used by major corporations to store information, including financial information and product formulas. These computers are protected by passwords and fail-safe programs, but they aren’t perfect. Hacking involves breaking into a computer system and stealing the information on the computer. This can be done by someone on a corporation’s computer or by advanced hackers via the internet. These hackers can also implant viruses that ruin the computer system, robbing lots of time from the rival as it struggles to fix its computer systems. Hacking involves using advanced computer programs to circumvent computer-protection software as well as advanced programming skills. Hackers can be stopped by installing as many fail-safe protections as possible and updating virus databases.

Social Engineering

Computer hacking is powerful, but it can sometimes be detected and prevented. A sneakier way to get this kind of information is called social engineering. This involves gaining access to computers and information networks by fraud, lying and obtaining passwords under false pretenses. Social engineering is a much more personal and hands-on method of industrial espionage. Rival companies may send employees to gain employment at your business to ingratiate themselves with people in high places. They can then gain access to passwords via their personal relationship. They may also send emails as “system administrators” claiming to need your password to protect your computer. A simple conversation with a competitor’s wife can potentially be used against you. The only way to be safe against this kind of espionage is to never share your password and to keep confidential information confidential.

Dumpster Diving

Industrial espionage doesn’t always revolve around technology or personal deceit. Sometimes, it can be dirty and physical, such as with Dumpster diving. Dumpster diving involves looking through the garbage of a rival and looking for any important information that may have been thrown away. This can be done by, literally, jumping into the Dumpsters or by searching through individual garbage bins in the building itself. Dumpster divers look for financial information, password lists, Social Security number lists, memos and research papers. Have your trash picked up daily so it doesn’t gather in your Dumpsters for too long.