Sunday, October 23, 2011

FBI: Tech firms face spy risk

Kexue Huang, a scientist and native of China, pleaded guilty last week in a federal court to swiping millions of dollars worth of trade secrets from Dow Chemical Co. and Cargill Inc. for other people doing research in Germany and China.

A federal jury last month ordered South Korea's Kolon Industries to pay DuPont Co. $920 million for stealing trade secrets regarding synthetic fibers used in such products as Kevlar body armor. A former DuPont engineer hired by Kolon, Michael Mitchell of Virginia, was sentenced in March last year to 18 months in prison for theft of trade secrets for passing on key DuPont data to Kolon.

And area technology companies are likely fooling themselves if they think they're not in the cross-hairs of such spy efforts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "If you haven't been a victim yet, it's because you have been and you don't know it, or you will be," Barry W. Couch, a special agent with FBI's Buffalo division, told a conference room full of area optics industry executives last week. "Don't be blindsided."

Chili's Sydor Optics played host as the FBI spent a handful of hours talking about counterintelligence and economic espionage issues, with handouts and a video presentation all revolving around the message that companies are under siege by foreign economic competitors, often with explicit help from foreign governments.

Optics in particular "is a targeted industry," said FBI special agent Chad Kaestle. Other frequently targeted technologies include sensors, aeronautics and marine systems.

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