Competitive Intelligence

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Would someone please tell me why a major news organization would link this story to CI?

In the Feb 11, 2011 edition of the NY Times, there is an article in the politics section (strangely enough) on "Hackers reveal offers to spy on corporate rivals" by E. Lipton and C. Savage. You can read the entire piece here at:

The article is about some unsavory activities, as they often are since they probably draw the reader's attention and sell more papers, but I am unclear why this is viewed to be part of the "competitive intelligence" industry. Here's the part of the article making that connection that I am referring to, most specifically:

Jonathan E. Turner, who runs a Tennessee-based business that gathers intelligence for corporate clients, said that companies nationwide relied on investigators to gather potentially damaging information on possible business partners or rivals. “Information is power,” said Mr. Turner, former chairman of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

He estimated that the “competitive intelligence” industry had 9,700 companies offering these services, with an annual market of more than $2 billion, but said there were limits to what tactics should be used.

Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce distanced themselves on Friday from any effort to embarrass or collect disparaging information about their critics. “We have not engaged in, nor do we have any plans to engage in, the practices discussed in this alleged presentation by HBGary,” said Lawrence DiRita, a Bank of America spokesman.

Do we actually have folks in our CI community out there who have the the goal of your intelligence research for your own company or others as being to “discredit, confuse, shame, combat, infiltrate, fracture” (using words found in one of the solicitation e-mails cited in the article) your rival organizations?

And how many of us wonder why competitive intelligence can't get beyond this reputation???

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I can read it two ways, is it the NYT or Mr. Turner’s using “competitive intelligence”?  Did Turner use the term in his interview, or is it the Times using the term as a generalization?

I'm still loving the 9,700 companies offering these services estimate that Mr. Turner came up with. What in the world is he referring to by "these services???"

Craig, I was just wondering whether an intel agency can use a front company and hire guys like these for ESPIONAGE.


See ESPIONAGE IS SO EASY. Industrial Espionage is easier.


The counter intel sections of governments worldwide will keep a track of all guys who use any word called INTELLIGENCE whether independently or before or after any other word such as competitive or business or corporate or market research or market etc.,

Craig, I think this story will get bigger.  Admittedly, it was bozos playing at social engineering and thinking they were smarter than they are.  But there's a major law firm involved and Bank of America and Wikileaks and Anonymous.  This story is just oozing with lulz.  All we need now is a leggy Russian spy. 

As always, the CI community may choose to view this is a teaching moment.  Or not.  I vote we teach.  

Here here. I'm seeing it similarly to you, although the Russian spy angle would add that last bit of salsa that would get this story to the big screen. We may have gotten more sophisticated technologically in this day and age, but plain old stupidity is still far from being an endangered species!
For a much more amusing perspective on this caper read the Wired piece at  The email string between the HBGary "executive" (bozo) and his poor coder (analyst) who was trying to inject some sanity into the analysis process is a classic. 
Oops ... the Wired article link is

RE: Would someone please tell me why a major news organization would link this story to CI?

Sure, let's just say that there has been an interesting ahem, confluence between Competitive Intelligence, Corporate Intelligence (often the folks looking for fraud, conducting internal investigations against employees,etc) and PR to protect and defend corporate reputation or to maintain the image they want to put forth at many large firms or politically powerful, connected entities for quite some time. Naturally, this also entails being able to discredit, silence any critics, adversaries even if they are internal. Sad, but true.

See here for some information on the common tactics employed:

Evidence in the corporate sphere? Oh, they abound. Pick up Bianco's book about HPQ for just one example.


"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"



Intelligence means:


    1. The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.
    2. The faculty of thought and reason.
    3. Superior powers of mind. See synonyms at mind.
  1. An intelligent, incorporeal being, especially an angel.
  2. Information; news. See synonyms at news.
    1. Secret information, especially about an actual or potential enemy.
    2. An agency, staff, or office employed in gathering such information.
    3. Espionage agents, organizations, and activities considered as a group: "Intelligence is nothing if not an institutionalized black market in perishable commodities" (John le Carré).


Story is building in legal community:


It's teaching time. 

There's a great post on this by Kirby Plessas of Pleassas Expert Networks on the HBGary/BofA/Wikileaks fiasco:

Kirby breaks down the spectrum of illegal and unethical activity included in HBGary's proposal to BofA, mostly from a government intelligence context. It's a good high-level analysis and concludes with a set of concluding points about governance that are very relevant in our era of increasing transparency.

Somewhat related to this case but from a broader perspective, I've had an idea for a blog post of my own percolating for a few weeks now. My main thesis is that Wikileaks is only an example of a general trends towards making secrets harder to keep and both individuals and institutions living with greater transparency than that to which we have become accustomed. This has clear implications for information security, intelligence and public relations. I'm interested in what opinions are held by the community here assembled.


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