The Different Types of Espionage

In order to outsmart and outmaneuver superior military forces, nations have long relied on espionage. Stories like that of Lydia Champion passing papers to her father’s agent in Washington are part of American history.


Spies are sworn to keep secrets and have inspired novelists and movie makers. But what does the practice actually entail?

International Espionage

A long tradition of espionage exists in international relations, with the first literary work on the subject being Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, which describes the training of an intelligence officer for the Great Game between England and Russia in 19th century Central Asia. While the literature on the subj 서울흥신소 ect is often critically oriented, it also defends the legitimacy of intelligence-gathering operations under international law.

However, due to the secretive nature of espionage, there is considerable uncertainty as to what constitutes espionage under international law. This is exacerbated by the fact that many espionage activities are carried out during wartime, when State authorities are less likely to communicate publicly about their activities.

In peacetime, determining the legal status of espionage becomes even more difficult. Some authors claim that espionage violates the non-interference principle enshrined in the UN Charter, since it involves the deployment of covert agents in the territory of other States to interfere with internal affairs. However, this opinion fails to consider that collecting information per se could hardly be considered interference (see the discussion below on treaty law).

Other authors take the opposite view, claiming that there is a moral permission, and sometimes even a duty, for States to spy on their foreign counterparts in order to prevent anticipated human rights violations. Such an argument, h 서울흥신소 owever, is problematic, given that a States’ right to protect their citizens’ fundamental rights cannot be arbitrarily weighed against the imperatives of pragmatism and realism.

Industrial Espionage

Industrial espionage, also known as corporate espionage, is when one company spies on another in order to steal their information or ideas. This can include stealing manufacturing processes, chemical formulas or recipes, pricing sheets and customer lists. This type of espionage often occurs when businesses compete with each other for government contracts. The winner is awarded the contract, and to make sure that they win, some companies will resort to any means necessary – including illegal activities – to gain an advantage.

In the United States, a number of laws exist to help curb this type of espionage. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 makes transferring commercial secrets to foreign entities a federal crime, with penalties including millions of dollars in fines and years of prison time. This law is important because it clarifies that only a person who is authorized by the company to do so may engage in this type of activity.

However, in addition to government agencies, other sources of industrial espionage include former employees and disgruntled competitors. Employees are a major source of risk because they know so much about the company. This is especially true if the company has recently undergone some type of merger or acquisition. It is also possible that a disgruntled employee will work for a competitor simply to get back at their former employer or because they believe that their knowledge can be lucrative.

Corporate Espionage

As the name implies, corporate espionage involves stealing proprietary information from businesses. This type of spying is often perpetrated by domestic competitors or foreign governments looking for a competitive advantage. Although not as dramatic as industrial espionage, the risks are no less serious for companies.

According to cybersecurity vendor Securonix, any company with sensitive information is a potential target of corporate espionage. Disgruntled employees, or those who are recently hired by a competitor, can inadvertently or intentionally reveal proprietary information and corporate secrets to a rival. Telecommuting has also made the situation worse, as it is easier than ever for an employee to spy on a company from home.

While many of the activities involved in corporate espionage are not illegal under federal law (such as wiretapping or using poor network security practices to listen in on competitor communications), they may still have legal consequences. For example, the Hewlett-Packard “pretexting” case shows that violations can have steep penalties.

Some of the industries most affected by industrial espionage are computer, semiconductor, electronics, automotive, aerospace, biotechnology, energy and pharmaceutical manufacturing, as well as high-tech research and development. In today’s business world where contracts are often awarded on a “winner take all” basis, some companies will go to extraordinary lengths to gain a contract and win a competitive edge. The cost of this behavior to the economy is estimated at $225 billion to $600 billion a year.

Political Espionage

A country’s political espionage involves covert gathering of information about the capabilities and intentions of foreign governments or about areas where the government has a strategic interest. This type of espionage may use wiretapping, bugging, compiling political dossiers, microphotography, theft, use of computers and other means. It can also include blackmail, kidnapping and defection.

Espionage was largely a private enterprise in the eighteenth century; lords, generals and other wealthy men paid for spies to report back to them. This changed with the rise of nation states and national spy agencies that could systematically gather and disseminate intelligence on their rivals.

When a country is at war, political espionage often takes on greater importance. During World War I, for example, Congress passed the Espionage Act to stifle dissent about America’s involvement in the war and limit anti-draft propaganda. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act in its landmark decision in Schenck v. United States (1919).

In modern times, a country’s political and military espionage needs have grown to encompass commercial interests as well. Intelligence services seek information about the global economic competition in fields such as communications technologies, IT, energy, aviation, defense and scientific research, as well as about government-related companies. Depending on the nature of the information, it can be classified as either secret or confidential.