Among Enemies: Counter-Espionage for the Business Traveler
Print Issue: December 2013
***** Among Enemies: Counter-Espionage for the Business Traveler. By Luke Bencie. Mountain Lake Press; mountainlakepress.com; 152 pages; $25; also available as e-book.
While countries once defined themselves by military might, the fall of the Soviet Union precipitated an emphasis on economic might. Spies, both political and industrial, now delve into private industry to steal trade secrets and spare themselves costly research and development expenses. In Among Enemies, author Luke Bencie warns readers to beware of such efforts.
The relatively short book is packed with advice and information for the international business traveler. It promotes two rules: assume you are being watched by someone who wants your information, and behave like a counterintelligence officer. He warns against three threats: foreign government intelligence officers, corporate operatives, and freelance/private collectors.
The author addresses both personal and electronic threats. He does not sugarcoat the human weaknesses that cause people to compromise themselves in the worst ways possible. He describes elicitation techniques employed by professionals to extract information from unsuspecting targets.
Electronic threats are covered in detail. The author suggests travelers take a sanitized laptop with only an operating system, office software, and information the loss of which would be inconsequential. Sensitive information should be on an IronKey flash drive protected by encryption and never out of the traveler’s control. Disposable phones with no Internet access should be used in lieu of smartphones. These measures however, do not defend against malware such as Shady RAT, peer-to-peer software, and key loggers.
Travelers are vulnerable in taxis, airports, aircraft, Wi-Fi spots, hotel rooms, meeting rooms, and trade shows. Special protection, such as RFID-shielded wallets and cases to protect RFID chips in credit cards, driver’s licenses, and passports, should be employed.
There is no question that many travelers would consider the author’s recommendations not only excessively restrictive but also without basis and reflective of paranoia. The book helps the reader understand that the risks are real but made invisible by their covert nature. Readers who pay attention could thwart foreign collection efforts and protect vital trade secrets. Among Enemies is a must-read for international travelers and those who deliver foreign travel briefings and debriefings. Reviewer: G. Ernest Govea, CPP, is the facility security officer and security director of government security for Parsons. He has been responsible for the protection of classified information for 38 years with the military and the defense contractor community. He is a Vietnam veteran and a member of ASIS International.