Gas Week

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Almost 25 per cent of spying related to commercial secrets; spies pose as business people or academics; shared secrets and trade negotiations targeted

Posted by gasweek on 9 October, 2007

A former top Australian spy said there had been no let-up in global espionage despite the cessation of the Cold War, and technological advances and globalisation made the country’s military and business secrets more vulnerable, according to John Kerin reported in The Australian Financial Review (5/10/2007, p. 27). Commercial secrets targeted: Security consultant Ian Dudgeon, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service operative, told a homeland security conference in Canberra that the United States and Russia were as involved in espionage as ever. And, in a warning for business, he said a 2005 US government study showed almost 25 per cent of spying was related to commercial secrets.

Sensitive technology also sought: Dudgeon said the use of spies who posed as business people or academics was sophisticated and widespread. These spies exploited opportunities afforded by the cover of international conferences, joint ventures, joint research and company buy-outs to gain access to sensitive technology.

Australia seen as softer option: Dudgeon said Australia was vulnerable not only because it had its own secrets but because it shared some US and UK strategic and military secrets. Many countries might believe it was easier to get the information covertly from Australia than tackle London or Washington directly.

Military, trade talks both attract interest: Dudgeon also said almost any senior government or business official conducting sensitive negotiations over military technology, or even high-level trade in a third country, was at risk of being spied upon. He knew of some sensitive trade negotiations conducted overseas where the host country had brought the full range of its covert security apparatus into play in an effort to strengthen its bargaining position.

Tactics revealed: Officials were often taken for a night out while security services examined their rooms or the contents of briefcases that had been locked in room safes. Another tactic was to tap the calls negotiators made to their government when talks stalled. “When you get back to the negotiating table they seem to already know your bargaining position and be able to squeeze you that little bit harder,” he said.

The Australian Financial Review, 5/10/2007, p. 27

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