Industrial espionage is a form of spying that we seldom hear or read much about because corporations 1) engage in it themselves, 2) don’t want to give competitors any ideas, 3) silence is golden.
Akin to industrial espionage is physical attacks on company facilities. Here’s an example from Debby Wu in Bloomberg:
A computer virus halted several Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. factories Friday night, dealing the company one of its most severe disruptions as it ramps up chipmaking for Apple Inc.’s next iPhones.
TSMC makes iPhone’s most powerful chips. Samsung used to make Apple’s most powerful chips. TSMC gets a virus which disrupts manufacturing. Hmmm. Who could be behind such an attack?
It’s unclear who targeted TSMC, the world’s biggest contract manufacturer of chips for companies including Apple and Qualcomm Inc.
TSMC said the virus that shut down production was not introduced by a hacker. OK, if not a hacker, who?
I have a few ideas.
First, a disgruntled employee. This kind of thing happens often. Second, a disgruntled former employee with a friend in the company.
Finally, and this is one seems to have more meat than the others– and could be simple. A bribe. A substantial bribe to a disgruntled employee from a third party; perhaps a competitor willing to pay good money to sew disruption in the industry.
How common are such attacks? TSMC CFO Lora Ho:
TSMC has been attacked by viruses before, but this is the first time a virus attack has affected our production lines
TSMC seems to have overcome the attack and production lines were back to normal within a few days, and with new security measures, too.
Would Samsung stoop to such a measure to harm a couple of competitors (TSMC and Apple)?
After all, Samsung copied some of Apple’s designs at the bit level and pixel level and lost a number of lawsuits brought against it from the iPhone maker. Samsung advertising often promotes lies, misleads potential customers, and insults competitors and customers in public.
That seems to be Samsung’s nature and corporate culture. After all, a growing number Samsung executives have been hauled off to jail for misdeeds, so it would not surprise me at all if the Korean conglomerate were behind such attacks.