Tales of Corporate Espionage from Armored Cloud CEO Michael Howland

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From state sponsored corporate espionage to common laptop theft—how can you keep your mobile workforce one step ahead of cybercriminals?

For many years one of my responsibilities as a national security officer was to brief corporate America on the dangers of commercial espionage. Here is a brief account of a true story but without any names or locations. 

A US business executive is traveling in Europe on a routine trip to attend a meeting where he will be presenting his firm’s response to a major business opportunity. Like most executives, he is traveling with his laptop, as he needs to remain in touch with his fast paced corporate world. 

Unknown to the executive, his identity is well established with a foreign security service whose activities support their country’s commercial interests—a country which is also bidding on the same business opportunity. His travel details in that country are known in advance from various secret databases maintained by the service. What he also does not know is that the service has targeted him in the past, and put one of their agents in touch with him. 

The targeting started two years before this trip when a foreign agent, posing as a commercial businessperson, met him at an industry event in Virginia. Business cards were exchanged and the contact ended. Now, two years later, the executive is in the bar of his hotel having a pre-dinner drink. Down the bar from him sits the businesswoman he had met in Virginia. 

The lady approaches and reintroduces herself, and it is established that she is attending the same event that he has arrived in the city for. The conversation leads to a suggestion that they have dinner together as they both are alone. A signal is passed and the foreign security service now knows that the executive will be out of his room for the next two hours. More than enough time to do what they need. 

A team, using a hotel passkey, enters the executive’s room and breaks into his laptop to copy his hard drive. Within an hour they clone his drive and depart with his data—including his corporate network access files that were the primary target. The business executive finishes dinner and returns to his room with no idea that he—and his corporation—have just become a victim state sponsored commercial espionage.

Your mobile workforce and their laptops are being watched by cybercriminals.

The sad truth is that this type of cybercrime takes place multiple times a day around the world. Most major corporations are aware of this, and have security concerns about computing devices used by their mobile workforce. They are concerned about the proprietary data or VPN connections on hard drives used by traveling employees or contractors being lost, stolen or otherwise compromised as the story above illustrates.

It only takes one device loss or theft to cause substantial damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line. A theft or loss may even compromise proprietary information, negatively impacting your competitive position in the marketplace. Any hard drive is an attack surface for a determined cybercriminal—even encrypted hard drives.  VPNs are not always enough, either. If your remote workforce is connecting through your corporate VPN, there is “something” on that hard drive that can connect thieves to your network and data. 

While the true story described above focused on state sponsored corporate espionage, cybercriminal gangs maintain a vast worldwide network of agents to steal and resell stolen network access. So what can you do about it?

Armored Cloud® USB Eliminates Data Loss Risk from Laptop Theft

The solution is as simple as providing your workforce with Armored Cloud® on a USB device.  The device contains a proprietary browser, which allows the user to connect to any Internet connection and securely access corporate resources. There is no VPN. No trace. No stored passwords. Mobile workers can travel with their laptops without needing to bring along sensitive data on their hard drives. They don’t even need VPN software. With Armored Cloud, physical device security ceases to become a major vulnerability.

What if the USB key is lost or stolen? Not a problem. The only thing on the USB is the proprietary Armored Cloud® browser, which requires user credentials in order to securely access your network—credentials that cannot be saved. The USB device can also be configured to self-destruct if access is attempted without the correct credentials.  

Do not let your networks be compromised by the simple act of a cyber thief. Demos and free trials of the Armored Cloud products and our unique USB key solution are available to qualified businesses. Fill out the form on this website, or call us at (877) 978-1688 to learn more.
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