Corporate Cloak-and-Dagger Operations The great Coke caper of 2006 went like this: Three thieves allegedly try to steal Coca-Cola's secret recipe and sell it to arch-rival Pepsi. Unfortunately for the thieves, Pepsi called the police. How are companies working to keep secret formulas and inventions safe?
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Corporate Cloak-and-Dagger Operations

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Corporate Cloak-and-Dagger Operations

Corporate Cloak-and-Dagger Operations

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. Neal Conan is on vacation.

Yesterday, three people were indicted in Atlanta, Georgia, for stealing and trying to sell Coca-Cola's trade secrets to rival soft drink maker PepsiCo. The trio, arrested last week, failed to anticipate that the Pepsi might tell Coke about the plot.

It's an unusual story for the Coca-Cola Company, which guards the recipe for its original soft drink, Coca-Cola Classic, with notorious secrecy. But corporate espionage is not an unusual story, and it's not just employees trying to make a buck selling secrets. More often it's about marketing strategy, pricing information or client lists. It's also a big business, with companies spying on each other, hiring people to gather business intelligence about the competition, and even other countries trying to steal information about American businesses.

Later in this hour, what to do - what do yesterday's train bombings in Mumbai mean for continued Indian-Pakistani diplomacy? But first, corporate cloak and dagger.

Do you work in a place where secret information got out? How did it happen, and what was the aftermath? Our number here in Washington: 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. And our e-mail address is

Our first guest is Mark Pendergrast. He is author of For God, Country & Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It, and he joins us from the studios of Vermont Public Radio. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. MARK PENDERGRAST (Author, For God, Country & Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It): Hi, good to be here.

NEARY: So tell us, exactly how does Coca-Cola guard this precious recipe for Coca-Cola Classic?

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Well, believe it or not, it really is in a bank vault in Atlanta, at SunTrust, and there's supposedly a guard there all the time making sure you don't break in and steal their sacred formula. Not only that, there's two people in the company at any given time who know the formula, and they never are on the same airplane at the same time because if it crashed that would terrible.

NEARY: That's amazing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PENDERGRAST: It really - it's true. On the other hand...

NEARY: But wait. Don't the people who make it know the formula, I mean, the people who have to make it know the formula?

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Well, they have two huge concentrate plants. One of them is in Puerto Rico, and one of them is in Ireland, and they have a few others around the world. And supposedly, these two guys run around adding the little 7X secret formula to the rest of it. And, I mean, it's hard to believe that they could do that with all the Coke in the world, but that's the story that I heard when I was researching my book and I think it's true.

The funny thing is, though, let me just point out, Lynn, that it doesn't really matter. What you heard from John Sicher is true. In my book I have the original formula, or a version of it in the book, along with exactly how to make it nowadays. And, you know, it doesn't really matter to them. I think what they like is the mystique around it.

NEARY: Yeah, right. Wait, where did you get that original formula if you said you published it in your book? How did you find it?

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Well, I - believe it or not, I found it inside the company archives in a notebook kept by John Pemberton, who was the sort of root doctor/scientist who invented Coca-Cola in 1886. It didn't say Coca-Cola on it. It had - it just had a big X, but it clearly is a Coke formula, and it - you know, if you make it, you'll drink Coca-Cola except it'll have a little bit of cocaine in it.

NEARY: Wait. You didn't - but didn't they deny that this was the real formula?

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Oh, yeah, of course, they denied it. But how - you know, you can't prove anything unless you look at what they've got in their vault.

NEARY: So, but it taste like Coke, you're saying.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Yeah, yeah. It's a - it's the Coke formula. I mean, maybe Pemberton futzed around with it a little bit but, you know, it's got the little 7X formula with essential oils that are orange, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, neroli and vanilla, and it's got some lime juice in it. They make it citric acid back in those days. Now they make it with phosphoric acid. You know, but basically it's the same formula. And nowadays they take out the cocaine, as I said, from the fluid extract of coca leaf before they serve it to you.

NEARY: Now, this story seemed to just seize the public's imagination, or the media's imagination, at any rate. But, you know, Coca-Cola's been around for a long time, since 1886. Is this the first time that an employee tried to leak the formula to a competitor?

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Well, number one, let me make it clear. They're not trying to leak the original Coca-Cola formula. This employee had no access to that. What they were leaking was apparently a formula for a new drink that Coca-Cola's about to come out with. And, yes, it is the first time that any Coca-Cola employee has tried to give any kind of formula to Pepsi, to my knowledge, and it's very shocking and very unusual.

I don't think this would have happened 10 years ago. The company - in 2000, they fired about 5,000 people, and it was a terrible shock to their corporate culture, and they really haven't been the same since. This is a company with tremendous pride in loyalty and longevity where, you know, people stay there their whole lives, and now it's just a place to work apparently, and so this sort of thing might happen.

Let me also point out, it was only one person. It's one secretary essentially, from what I gather, who was in the marketing department, who had access to this material. And I don't know how she got hold of Ibrahim Dimson or Edmund Duhaney, her colleagues, but they did not work for Coke. This Joya Williams is the secretary.

NEARY: Right. Why would Pepsi have cooperated on this?

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Well, if you think about it, I'm quite sure Coca-Cola would have done the same thing if the situation were reversed. Number one, they'd be idiots not to turn somebody in immediately. If they were actually going to entertain a bribe like that and it, you know, hit the news, a company like Coke or Pepsi would look so awful having done something like that it wouldn't be worth it to them. What if this was a sting operation in the first place? In other words, what if it wasn't really a Coca-Cola representative approaching Pepsi? What if it was the FBI?

NEARY: Yeah.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Which is precisely what happened to the people who were approaching Pepsi. So it does not surprise me that they turned them in. The other thing you have to realize is that although Coke and Pepsi are bitter rivals in many ways, they also both recognize that they need one another, you know, sort of like everybody thinks about Coke and Pepsi. They don't think about these other drinks.

NEARY: Right.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: So, you know.

NEARY: All right, let me ask you about another highly guarded secret that you wrote about - an article about, and that's the recipe for Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now this wasn't a case of corporate espionage, but it does show how seriously these companies take their secrets and protecting them. Tell us about the story of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: I didn't write that article. You're asking the wrong guy.

NEARY: Oh, okay.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: I know that they have a - I know they a secret formula…

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Got the wrong guy there.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: …and I know that Colonel Sanders had it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

I like it.

NEARY: Well, the story that I read was - and I thought that you were the author of it - the story that I read was about a woman who had worked for Colonel Sanders who then - and I think perhaps bought his house, and then found this formula in the attic that she thought was the Colonel Sander's recipe, and went to Kentucky Fried Chicken to say we're going to auction this off, and they tried to take her to court. But, once again, it was a case of they were really concerned that this - was it a case of their being really concerned that this recipe was going to get out, or they had to protect, you know, they had to protect their corporate identity.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: It's interesting. I'm very surprised that they took her to court or threatened in any way, because that would simply call more attention to the thing. For instance, when I published this Coca-Cola formula in the book, you know, it would have amazed me if the company had sued me or something like that, because then it would be like saying, well, he really does have something valuable here.

NEARY: Right.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: So, (unintelligible)...

NEARY: Well, in the end they decided not to take her to court for just that reason.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Mm-hmm. Well, that makes sense to me.

NEARY: Right.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: The other thing that's interesting about this is that, you know, when Coca-Cola changed its formula back in 1985 - do you remember this? Twenty-one years ago?

NEARY: Right.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: ...the whole country sort of had a nervous breakdown. It was amazing to me that people cared that much, but the company got 40,000 letters with people saying that it was like changing the Constitution or burning the flag on their front lawn, and how dare they change the Coca-Cola formula.

So, that's what this company has come to mean to people, and I think that's why you're getting this reaction. And if you stop and think about it, it's all sort of silly. I mean, it's just mostly sugar water.

NEARY: Right.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: That's how people react.

NEARY: Well, thanks for joining us, Mark.

Mr. PENDERGRAST: Thank you.

NEARY: Mark Pendergrast is author of For God, Country & Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It. He joined us from the studios of Vermont Public Radio.

The Coke and Pepsi case caught the public's eye largely because they are two globally famous companies and rivals that actually cooperated to expose a crime, but corporate espionage happens much more frequently on a smaller scale.

Joining us now to talk about this is Ira Winkler. He's the author of Spies Among Us: How to Stop the Spies, Terrorists, Hackers and Criminals You Don't Even Know You Encounter Every Day. He's also president of the Internet Security Advisors Group, and he joins me now in Studio 3A. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. IRA WINKLER (Author, Spies Among Us: How to Stop the Spies, Terrorists, Hackers and Criminals You Don't Even Know You Encounter Every Day; President, Internet Security Advisors Group): Thanks for having me.

NEARY: So just how common is corporate espionage?

Mr. WINKLER: Corporate espionage, especially in large companies, is a daily occurrence, whether or not people want to admit it. It goes on in many forms, whether it's people trying to find out about their own promotion potential or finding out about their competitors promotion potential so that they can move on, things to that effect.

It also deals with small businesses as well where one small business is constantly wanting to know what their competitors are offering on a regular basis.

Think about the low price guarantees as an example. You know, the only way they can maintain low price guarantees at the electronics stores and similar is to figure out and find out specifically what the competitors are offering on what sort of electronic products so that they can maintain the lowest prices.

There are actually lawsuits and people are trained in those large electronic stores, for example, to see people who might be surreptitiously going along and recording notes as they go by.

NEARY: Yeah.

Mr. WINKLER: Again, that's another case of espionage, because you're talking about - it's more a case of death by a thousand cuts. People - like, for example, if the Coca-Cola secret formula ever got out, it's not going to kill Coca-Cola in any way, shape or form.

NEARY: Right.

Mr. WINKLER: On the other hand, maybe it'll, like, cut in a little bit into their product, you know - a little bit of profit here and there. The reality is is that it's not going to kill the company. In large companies, again, it's more a case of death by a thousand cuts.

In a small company, though, for example, if you're like - you know, like, let's say you have one high-tech company and they're just on the brink of making it big. If they lose one product, that could kill their whole company if that goes to a competitor that can beat them to market, just as an example.

NEARY: And the whole Coke and Pepsi story that we've been talking about up until this point really isn't corporate espionage. This was just a case of -not even a disgruntled employee, but an employee who thought that she could make a buck, I guess.

Mr. WINKLER: Right. This is more something I would expect - a plot out of Get Smart, as opposed to a plot out of James Bond, frankly.

NEARY: And it doesn't rise to the level of what you would call corporate espionage?

Mr. WINKLER: Well, I mean, by definition, it is corporate espionage. The reality is is that these are a bunch of amateurs. And I should say that a lot of corporate espionage is committed by amateurs, but at the same time, you have to realize that you have professional organizations doing it as well.

NEARY: All right. We're going to get more into the details of that when we come back. We're talking about the length companies will go to protect their corporate secrets. And we're also taking your calls at 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address:

I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. It's no secret that big business is competitive. Some companies will do almost anything to get their hands on rival's secrets.

Today, we're talking about corporate cloak-and-dagger and how companies protect themselves. My guest is Ira Winkler, author of Spies Among Us: How to Stop the Spies, Terrorists, Hackers and Criminals You Don't Even Know You Encounter Every Day.

You're invited to join the discussion. Do you work for a company that goes all-out to protect its secrets? Has your company lost valuable trade secrets? Give us a call at 800-989-TALK, and our e-mail address is

Ira, just before the break you were saying that the Coke conspirators who have been arrested were amateurs, but that there are some very sophisticated players in this world of corporate espionage. Who does the corporate spying? Who are these players?

Mr. WINKLER: Well, sometimes you do have people inside well-established companies who do do this. That's not very - well, again, the large, well-established companies, they don't do it as much. The medium-sized companies probably do it in-house a lot more, even the small companies.

The large companies, though, they don't have competitive intelligence organizations inside the company and they tend to hire third parties like some types of detective agencies who call themselves competitive intelligence firms, and these companies end up doing the illegal things.

I'm not sure how many people remember, but a while ago, people who - I believe it was Oracle was being accused of going through Microsoft's trash. That case occurred back, I believe, about three or four years ago. And what really happened was - again, it could be the other way around - but one of the companies - I believe it was Oracle - hired a third party collection firm to get data on Microsoft, for example. And that third party actually went through the trash and committed the illegal acts.

NEARY: And that was illegal.

Mr. WINKLER: And that was illegal. Well, actually, I should say, it depends where the trash was. It's along - you know, again, it's a very fuzzy line...

NEARY: I mean, if they broke and entered - if there was breaking and entering to get to the trash, you're saying that would make it illegal, but if it was...

Mr. WINKLER: It could even be...

NEARY: ...on the sidewalk they could...

Mr. WINKLER: could even be where it was on the sidewalk that mattered, depending - that really matters. Again, it more tarnished the reputation of the organization who was accused of sponsoring it. That was probably a bigger issue than the actual case itself.

Likewise, what you do is, you have a lot of people inside a company, for example, like the Coca-Cola case, and more like the Metaldyne case, where you have people inside the company who go out and volunteer the data to third parties because they are disgruntled.

More frequently - well, I'm not going to say more frequently, but also, you have foreign intelligence agencies who support foreign companies.

NEARY: But corporate espionage is really part and parcel of big - of the world of big business right now, isn't it? I mean, so there are legitimate forms of corporate espionage.

Mr. WINKLER: There are - well, I would say the term espionage implies illegal connotations.

NEARY: Uh-huh.

Mr. WINKLER: Competitive intelligence - the nice way of saying it - that implies that, for example...

NEARY: And are they two different things?

Mr. WINKLER: Yes and no. It depends, again, the steps you would take, in my personal opinion. When I hear espionage, I think of more the surreptitious way of doing things, more illegal ways.

For example, if I call somebody up and mislead them over the telephone to give me information, that could be illegal according to the Economic Espionage Act. It depends on how much they question me and how much I go through with the lie, ironically. Then at the same time, if on the other hand, I do a lot of Internet searches, I search trade magazines, I go ahead - I look for, like - I go to trade booths at - I go to booths at trade conferences and things like that, that would, technically, be all legal. And, frankly, I could get a lot of the same information that way as I could going through their trash or doing illegal things.

The thing is, though, that insiders who have access to the information and want to give it up, these insiders have firsthand knowledge of the information and they want to hurt the company and they know how to hurt the company, so they're really the key people that you have to watch out for.

On the other hand, the companies that might do the illegal things - the third party quote, unquote "competitive intelligence firms," those companies will gladly resort to illegal activities when given the opportunity.

NEARY: And how widespread is that and how well known is it that this illegal corporate espionage goes on?

Mr. WINKLER: This is much more of a niche than a mainstream practice, but frankly, espionage is very much built into mainstream industry. It goes on all the time to a large extent. Again, if you - I mean, for example, you can theoretically go out and interview a common customer and try to get data. You might say, well, gee, maybe I'll pay that customer money. Now, technically, is that legal, illegal? That's a really fine line. But, again, the problem does exist in many ways.

NEARY: All right, let's take a call from Ron in Detroit, Michigan. Hi, Ron.

RON (Caller): Hey, how are you?

NEARY: Good. Go ahead.

RON: I work as a corporate chef for a large Italian restaurant chain...

NEARY: Yeah.

Mr. WINKLER: Mm-hmm.

RON: ...and we, you know, when we hire in, it doesn't matter who you are, when you hire in, you sign a disclosure agreement - even if you're just a busser or a dishwasher - about our recipes.

And we guard our recipes so much that we actually had (unintelligible) this one restaurant had lost some of their recipes, called the second restaurant, owned by, you know, the same company, and had them fax some copies of the recipes. And both parties involved in the faxing were both fired because there was no way to prove that only the second party got the faxes or that that was actually where they were doing it to. But, I mean, right down to the littlest thing, we guard everything.

Mr. WINKLER: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I would say that that's a very good company policy to have, because, again, it is a very slippery slope as the old saying goes...

RON: Right.

Mr. WINKLER: ...because if you start saying that, we'll give away a little bit of information, it's okay to fax a copy - I mean, I'd be more concerned that those people reported accurately to the appropriate higher-ups that they lost the information and an investigation was done.

RON: Right.

Mr. WINKLER: Again, it's not a case where your restaurant chain would go out of business if those recipes were compromised, but again, it does give a little bit of insight into the company, and it does make that restaurant chain unique. So I can see why they would do that.

But, you know, I got to admit, I agree with the company, because any time you start a slippery slope without having a process of going ahead and recovering the data the right way, reporting the data the right way, trying to recover it, you really got to make - you know, I can really see why they would do that.

NEARY: All right, thanks for your call, Ron.

RON: All right, thank you.

NEARY: All right, let's go to Buzz, who is in Raleigh, North Carolina. Hi, Buzz.

BUZZ (Caller): Hey, how's it going?

NEARY: Good. Go ahead.

BUZZ: Yeah, I've actually had a pretty interesting experience during my career upon working for a prior company on a process that made paper towels. Upon leaving that company and going to a competitor, due to the fact that I had intellectual property on how to make that towel paper, I was subsequently removed from my job at my second company by my first company through an intellectual property lawsuit.

So, on the other side of the spectrum where, you know, corporations do need to guard their competitive secrets, there's certainly, I guess, a limitation to what I would believe that they should be able to do. You know, this was simply just what I would call an innocent job change, but I certainly got swept up into the whole corporate game in terms...


BUZZ: ...of they felt that I was a liability to them being in the industry but not working for them.

Mr. WINKLER: Yep. This is actually a very - this is actually one of the major ways espionage goes on. I was on a Minnesota Public Radio show last week and one person called up and said, when he needs information, he puts a help wanted ad in the paper, you know, soliciting people from his competitors to come in to get information just as an example during the interview process. That's one case.

In other cases, for example, General Motors sued Volkswagen and were ready to take them to court, and Volkswagen actually went ahead and paid General Motors $100 million because an executive who left General Motors took a whole lot of documentation with him about this highly secret new plant design that they were going to implement.

There's also been other cases, I believe with Oracle and Cybase in the software industry. This is a very common practice. What employees like you should do -you really have to see, for example, did your employer make you sign any special agreements? If they did, that agreement is probably only valid for about a year, depending on the region where you live.

And then, after that - you know, cause that's called a post-employment - you know, it's part of your employment contract, or a post-employment responsibilities potentially.

As far as your new company moving you around and stuff like that, that was probably a decision they made unless, of course, your employment contract with your first company barred you from going over, and that was the easiest way to solve the problem.

Again, I have to admit, I see why your company did it. But I really recommend when people go to a new job they look at all the documents they're being asked to sign. Because I'll bet you didn't even read your employment contract when you went to the first place because it was so basic or people thought it was -and look for the restrictive things that prevent you from moving on to common employers.

NEARY: Are you working now, Buzz?

BUZZ: Yes, you're exactly right. You know, the initial disclosure documents that I signed, I certainly pencil-whipped them initially. You know, after the fact, I know every letter of them now.

NEARY: You look pretty carefully now when you sign something, I guess, huh?

BUZZ: Oh, absolutely. But you hit the nail on the head. It was a decision by the second company, due to the documents signed with the first company, that they felt it was better for their interests and mine, to move me out of that position.

NEARY: All right. Well, thank...

BUZZ: I'm actually with my third company at the moment. But ultimately, what I'd like to say, is that certainly there's got to be a limitation, I think, to how far corporations can go to protect their secrets. At some point in time, I consider myself an ethical person, I certainly wouldn't' give up their secrets, you know, just to do so for my gain.

NEARY: All right.

BUZZ: And - go ahead.

NEARY: Thanks so much for giving us a call, Buzz.

BUZZ: Oh, thank you.

NEARY: Appreciate it. I just wanted to move on to our next guest, Harold Copus, because he is part of the private investigative industry, which is devoted to investigating cases of corporate espionage. And he's the president of Investigative Solutions, a security consulting and private investigative company, in Atlanta. He joins us now from Georgia Public Radio in Atlanta.

Explain a little bit about your business to us Harold, because it's new to me, it may be new to a lot of listeners. What exactly do you do?

Mr. HAROLD COPUS (President, Investigative Solutions, Inc.):

Well, most of us in our company are former FBI agents, including myself. Typically, we are hired by companies or their law firms when they thing their trade secrets have been compromised - very similar to the Coca-Cola situation. They ask us to come, do what we have to do to get them ready for a civil suit, and prepare the documentation for the criminal suit.

NEARY: And so what are your typical methods? How do you go about doing this? And what's a typical case and how would you go about solving it.

Mr. COPUS: Well there probably ain't a typical case, quite frankly, and it happens more than - more than I care to tell you. But, there's always that suspicion, and companies know it. They know it because something has happened. I had one company here, last year, that had a division, that overnight, went from about 100 million in sales to 20 million.

They knew that something bad had gone wrong, obviously. And they wanted to know why and how. And our job was to go in there and find out what those folks did to cause that drop. And typically, it's either greed or retaliation, or a combination of both.

NEARY: Well, how do you go about - how do you go about investigating. I mean, how do you go about finding out anything?

Mr. COPUS: Well, what you wind up doing is very similar to most cases we've worked when we were in the FBI. We'll do a quick background on these people. We'll do an office search, if that's in the books - computer forensics, put them under surveillance. And actually, if it warrants it and if we can do it legally, we'll go through their trash.

We'll interview co-workers, friends, neighbors - criminal, civil searches. And periodically, we've actually planted false data to see if they'll pick it up and transmit it on. And we'll place in two or three different places into different data so that we know that we gave A information on something like X, Y, and Z; and B, you know, some other thing and see which one really gets out.

NEARY: All right. Well now we really are into the world of corporate cloak and dagger, which is what we're discussing here today on TALK OF THE NATION. The number is 800-989-8255 if you'd like to join the discussion. And we do want to remind you that you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Do you ever in your work, Harold Copus, do you ever go over the line? Do you ever do anything illegal to - in these investigations? We were talking earlier that - that perhaps going through the trash, at times, can be deemed illegal. I guess you don't think that's the case or?

Mr. COPUS: Oh no, that is - that can be the case. It depends. There are a lot of - there are probably as many laws written about that, for and against, as you can imagine. So you have to make sure you do it legally. Quite frankly, we're hired by the companies who have been wronged, and the last thing we need to do is do something else to take that situation and make it worse.

So we will never do anything to cross that line. And so, our watchword is that it's - we'll take the highest road and then, if we can't do it, we refuse to participate. So you have to be very careful in this matter. You're trying to go after the bad guys. You don't want to be arrested as one of the bad guys.

NEARY: All right. I want to read an e-mail, and I'd like to ask you, Harold, and also Ira Winkler maybe, to react to this story. This is - the subject heading is: Going Too Far To Protect, from Katherine(ph) in East Lansing, Michigan.

Recently, I was shopping for a picture frame on behalf of my grandmother, who is housebound. I went to a national retailer of home decorating and craft supplies and took a few pictures of the available options with the digital camera in my cell phone. I was shocked when I was nearly thrown out of the store by a pair of managers who were accusing me of corporate espionage. Needless to say, they have lost my business forever.

Ira Winkler, is that corporate espionage?


That very well could be. Like I mentioned before, there are people - when you have the stores with the low-price guarantees, in the electronics industry for example - that's an example where people do gather data. I know, for example, that when I went into a designer store in Italy for - we were just browsing for shoes, for example - one of my friends had feet who were a size 17, and he - they didn't make shoes his size.

So, he wanted to take a picture and bring it back home. And they were highly - and they would not let him take a picture of the shoes. That's actually a very common thing for people to do, to have policies and to have people looking for people taking pictures. Because frankly, even if it isn't for corporate espionage purposes, it could also be for planned thefts, planned terrorist attacks, and a variety of other reasons.

NEARY: Harold Copus, I was thinking, when I was reading that e-mail. This woman had her cell phone - which, of course, are all over the place now - it must get - it must be getting harder and harder I would think to protect businesses from this kind of thing. If - if that kind of situation does rise to the level of corporate espionage.

Mr. COPUS: Well it certainly could rise to that level. And I will tell you that cell phones, that have the ability to take those pictures, digitally, would be a great way to achieve that goal. And that goal is to grab the design, which is intellectual property, and so someone could be wronged.

But you know, what's happening, we're living in an age now where information is out there. Maybe you send someone in to get that information, but probably I could go to a trade show, or go on the net, and get the same data. But quite frankly, it's happening all the time. And this probably was a very innocent situation, but it does show that companies are trying to protect themselves.

NEARY: Well what kind of information, have most of the cases you've worked on, revolved around? What kind of information are we talking about?

Mr. COPUS: Well quite frankly, what happens in that, is that companies would love - they want to protect their client base, their customers, their pricing, their marketing strategies. And other companies are out there, who maybe don't enjoy the same market position, will go to whatever length to get that information.

So it'd be most helpful if you could take your limited, budgeted, dollars that you have, and you say gosh, I found out what company A is doing, on who their customers are, their price points. And that would certainly enable me to go back in and make my sales pitch. And it happens more than I care to tell you.

NEARY: All right. Harold Copus - thanks so much for being with us. Harold Copus is president of Investigative Solutions, Inc. He joined us from the studios of Georgia Public Radio in Atlanta, Georgia. We were also Ira Winkler, author of, Spies Among Us: How to Stop the Spies, Terrorists, Hackers and Criminals You Don't Even Know You Encounter Everyday.

I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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