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Case Study: Surveillance

The Issue

The Client was the owner of a successful business. She had received uncorroborated information that one of her ex-employees ('X') was actively trying to obtain commercially sensitive information about her business. 'X' had recently been sacked and had held a key position within the business. He was now apparently working for a competitor, and the allegation was that he was intending to obtain information about the Client's contract activity. He intended to do this by exploiting a previous 'friendship' with an existing employee ('Y') at the Client's business.

The Client valued 'Y' and did not want to lose her, but was understandably concerned about any innocent or careless leak of information that may occur. At the same time, the Client did not want to make any unfounded accusations against 'Y' who had been a valued resource over the years. Furthermore, in the build up to completion of a significant contract, she did not wish to court any embarrassing publicity. The Client asked us to assess whether 'X' and 'Y' were in regular contact, and if so, to gauge the nature of the contact.

The Solution

There were issues of intrusiveness, ethicality and potential criminality to consider. As a result, we decided to adopt a 'light touch' approach and reassess continued actions at the end of each phase of operations. This would consist of physical observations (surveillance) of 'Y' in conjunction with social media monitoring. Over a short period this yielded very little Intelligence and so a decision was taken to switch our attentions to 'X'.

It became quite apparent early on that 'X' did not appear to be attending a place of work, activity being confined to dog walking and shopping during our observations. The dog walking was considered a little strange as 'X' drove a considerable distance each day to a favourite spot, passing numerous other popular locations along the way. Each day, 'X' would drive to a car park, leave the car and walk off, away from the surveillance team (not followed). He would return 30 minutes later and drive home.

On the last scheduled day of observations, we decided to get ahead of 'X' by placing an operative at the site to confirm that this was an innocent dog-walking exercise. The operative observed 'X' walk 50 metres to a very grand house, where he stayed for 30 minutes before returning to his vehicle and driving home. As this did not seem very beneficial to the dog, we researched further and identified the owner of the house ('Z').

Social media monitoring and Social Network Analysis then revealed that 'X' and 'Z' had known each other for some time. Also, 'Z' was a paid advisor to a competitor of our Client. Further research identified that 'Y' had recently 'connected' with 'Z'. The implications were obvious and so we reported our findings to the Client. We recommended that she either speak to 'Y' about her relationship with 'X', or commission a further phase of observations on 'Y' as the intelligence picture had now changed.

The Outcome

The Client decided to speak to 'Y' and ask her about her relationship with 'X', on the basis of the information received. 'Y' admitted that 'X' had maintained contact after leaving the Client’s business, and appreciated that he had increased his attentions towards her since that happened. 'Y' also revealed that 'Z' had recently introduced himself to her via social media, claiming to be a 'headhunter' for a specialist recruitment company, and asking to meet. 'Y' also said that 'X' had encouraged her to enroll with this particular social media platform, which she had not previously considered. 'Y' was not aware that 'Z' worked for a competitor, or that he was friendly with 'X'.

While no offences had been committed by any party involved, 'Y' realized the implications of the approach by 'Z', and potentially 'X's role in it. 'Y' declared her continued loyalty to the Client, offered to have no further contact with 'Z' and would proceed with caution with 'X'. The Client introduced a more considered Social Media policy and commissioned a programme of staff training to highlight security awareness.


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