[ Contributed By Michael Eldar, author of the new book Mission to Fail ] – Perhaps not the oldest profession in the world, but surely spying has been around for a long time. Even the Bible mentions several spying missions and the practice has been common in history all around the world.
The Persians managed to get around the Greeks’ defenses in Thermopylae with the help of a Greek spy. Silk worms were stolen from China by monks who hid them in their hollow canes and thus the Byzantine Empire could build a lucrative silk industry.
Nuclear bomb secrets, stolen by KGB (today FSB) spies, enabled the Soviet Union to produce the atomic bomb years earlier then it would have done by itself.
These are just a few of the notable, often glamourized spying exploits, which are the subjects of legends, books, and movies.
While spying was always considered as improper, although often a glamourous occupation, it is also viewed as essential for national security, and many in industry, commerce and crime.
Modern technology greatly expanded the tools for espionage. Cameras, particularly miniature ones, telephone, wireless and computers gave spies capabilities never dreamed of before.
And then came the Internet!
While becoming essential to our way of life, the internet also brought spying to new heights. We tend to think that spying is mostly done by national spy organizations like the NSA, the FSB, the Chinese spying services, and others.
The fact is that all the spy agencies in the world pale in comparison to the everyday spying conducted by perfectly legal organizations.
Every move we make on the Internet, every article we read, every site we look at, and every purchase we make is recorded, stored, analyzed, and used or sold to be used for multiple purposes, commercial, and political.
While many people are aware of this spying, it is usually discounted as the price we have to pay for progress.
What usually concerns us is all the criminal spying intent on stealing our personal information. Our Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and other private and confidential information can be used to steal our money and even our identity.
One of the most attractive features of spying on the Internet is the minimal risk that the criminal is exposed to.
Criminals are usually more interested in large databases maintained by governments and commercial interests.
A criminal can steal only a minimal amount of personal information from most private computers, while a retailer’s database can hold information about millions of customers and as we have seen, many of the commercial databases are not very well protected.
All in all, stealing information from companies is a very lucrative criminal enterprise.
Nationally conducted espionage has always taken the most attention and has often been directed at commercial targets, particularly by totalitarian governments.
Yet industrial and commercial espionage conducted or purchased by business entities is also widespread. Except for hiring competitors’ employees, which is a legal, way of spying, companies usually prefer to use third parties to obtain this information.
Another aspect, which makes the Internet a favorite with criminals and national spying organizations is the ability to not only steal information, but also to inflict damage on targets, often without the targets being aware of the damage.
Many articles have been written about the possibilities of warfare and terrorism on the Internet. However, criminal activities involving damage or blackmail are also common.
Modern spying technologies have exposed us to new risks. Tools have been developed to combat them, but we will have to develop new and better tools and methods to effectively combat the substantial risks.
About the Author:
Michael Eldar brings his knowledge of engineering, finance, and information technology to life in his new book, Mission to Fail. A resident of New York City, and a graduate of New York University, he has first hand experience with history, military affairs and politics. Mission to Fail is available through Amazon.