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Spooked: Espionage In Corporate America Paperback – December, 2001

2.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Paranoia levels will shoot through the ceiling among those who read this riveting report on the growing number of companies that spy on their competition in the U.S. Penenberg, an investigative journalist for Forbes, and Barry, founder of a corporate intelligence agency, argue that, in an environment of blistering competition, the edge belongs to the company with the best information on its rivals. In-house spy units, Penenberg and Barry claim, are cloaked behind doors with division titles like external development, market research and strategic marketing and, therefore, can't be accurately counted. Nevertheless, they contend, a clear indicator of growth in the new corporate-spy industry is the emergence of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, which sets ethical guidelines and standards of conduct for the industry and reportedly has 7,000 members. In the tradition of John le Carr , the industry has already developed its own colorful lingo for its various types of snoops, ranging from "the librarian"Dwho only searches publicly available sources of informationDto the "trade-show cowboy," who assumes a false identity to skulk around conventions. Penenberg and Barry report hair-raising tales of corporate skulduggery in loving detail, including how companies like Motorola and Avery Dennison have reaped huge benefits from their corporate-intelligence investments. Agent, Lisa Swain. (Dec. 18) Forecast: With publication coming on the heels of the recent break-in at Microsoft, and a New York Times Magazine excerpt scheduled for December 3, Penenberg and Barry's deeply intriguing book is bound to get a lot of play and should wind up as one of the season's must-have reads. Marketing to both the business set and fans of cloak-and-dagger will enhance sales.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Penenberg is a writer for Forbes magazine, and Barry is a founder of a New York corporate intelligence agency. Their book centers on the first case ever brought to trial under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, involving glue and label makers Avery Dennison, based in California, and Four Pillars Enterprises of Taiwan. An Avery scientist was caught viewing a restricted document, resulting in a joint Avery Dennison-FBI sting operation. This escalated into a number of espionage charges, with allegations of perjury and prevarication, entrapment, evidence and jury tampering, kidnapping, and misuse of the federal penal code. Liz Lightfoot, a research analyst at Teltech, an information resource company in Minneapolis, tells how she was able to obtain a wealth of data with just a phone, a computer, and a modem. Hacker Marc Maiffret explains how he was once paid $1,000 to steal U.S. military software by a Kashmiri terrorist. Maiffret specializes in tearing apart Microsoft software for security holes. Corporate spies are everywhere, the authors warn us, and corporate espionage is one of America's fastest growing industries. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738205931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738205939
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,065,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't know why this short text is in hardcover, and as mentioned in the other reviews, it is more than a bit disjointed, and suffers from some flaws in research.
On the positive side, Chapters 4 & 5 are a useful description of social engineering, that can help the reader better understand how vulnerable an organization is to simple information gathering techniques. It is difficult to find material on the subject of 'Information Brokers', so this book provides a useful source on that subject, although no specific topic is covered in depth.
I found Fialka's book, "War By Other Means," a more informative and interesting read. Fialka's book doesn't discuss the Avery case which comprises the greater part of "Spooked," so the books are somewhat complementary if you are looking for additional examples of industrial espionage.
"Spooked" is a quick read, and outside of some structural weaknesses in its organization, it is an enjoyable enough text. It is more of a 'popular' approach to this subject, aimed at the casual reader who is more interested in titillation than in substance.
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Format: Hardcover
Since I have been working in the world of competitive intelligence and industrial espionage for the past two decades, I looked forward to reading this Christmas gift from my son .... I have finally finished it, but only because it was gift. If I'd gone out to buy it, and had been able to see just how bad it was, I would have asked him to buy me something else.
This book promises far more than it provides.
One promise might be that it would tell people about competitive intelligence: how it's done and by whom. This book doesn't even come close, and for one of the authors to claim that he does this for a living is ludicrous at best. Not only does he violate the kind of client confidentiality that people who do this for real normally work under, he has no idea of what he's talking about. If you really want to see what this world is all about, go to one of the several excellent books on the topic, written by those who know what they're talking about because they really walk the walk, e.g., Nolan's book CONFIDENTIAL: Uncover Your Competitor's Top Business Secrets Legally and Quickly - and Protect Your Own (HarperBusiness, 1999).
Another promise is that it could be a journalistic inquiry into what is arguably an area of great interest for business professionals who have to learn what's going on in the world. Pennenberg, as a purported journalist, fails to meet muster by a wide margin. If you want to learn from somebody who is both a quality journalist as well as someone who knows about the topics that he's writing about, I've found Kahaner's book "Competitive Intelligence: From Black Ops to Boardrooms - How Businesses Gather, Analyze and Use Information to Succeed in The Global Marketplace" (Simon & Schuster, 1996) to be as good as it gets. ....
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Format: Hardcover
One of the poorest reference works on intelligence I have read. As a competitive intelligence professional I found Penenberg and Barry's insight irregular at best. There is little revealed here not already in the public domain. The text outside the Avery Dennison case skips around randomly from topic to topic with poor transition points. Leaping casually from intelligence to espionage and back again, with no concern for their clear separation, the book appears as a random collection of thoughts, memories, and speculations. For whatever reason, the authors go out of their way to malign several people, accusing them of any number of wrong doings. Apparently Mr. Barry can see beyond the splinter in his own eye, boasting of several ill-advised collection methods that clearly violate any reasonable business ethics, a pot taunting the kettles.
I previously worked in the research laboratory of one of the world's largest chemical companies and was conducting research on polymer-based adhesives for (our customer) Avery Dennison when the espionage occurred. I have followed the case in the press, pleased that a company of their size was not willing to simply roll over and sweep the incident under the rug. Along with some of my former colleagues I had championed their case within my firm, and upon learning of the book's pending release, had anticipated learning more about it. But the author's overstatements far exceed their output.
The book is short, less than 200 hundred pages, with no follow on references for further study. The Avery Dennison case is worthy of careful analysis, as it could have far reaching application in global business practices. But this book fails to even approach such a level. The result is some light-weight dinner conversation, an article that grew too big, by a couple of authors who perhaps are not as qualified to speak on the subject as they would like to be.
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Format: Hardcover
If you ran into two guys in a bar and you all had had a few alcoholic beverages, you might hear war stories about how they had turned up people doing unseemly things. It would be fun.
Take the same two guys, and have them write down a few strung-together stories in a book with little substance and style. When you read the results in the sober light of day, it's not very good. That's the feeling I got here.
Mr. Penenberg is a business investigative journalist. As such, he knows how to dangle a promise. The trouble is, he doesn't seem to have the material to support his promise. The few stories about corporate intelligence gathering in this book are uninspiring in the extreme. Anyone who has worked in a company for a few months could tell better stories than these.
Mr. Barry is an intelligence gathering practitioner, and he provides one interesting, cogent account of finding out about better ways to make frozen pizza crusts. It was the only story in the book that moved smoothly from promise to fulfilling the promise. The rest just seemed to ramble.
The bulk of the book is about the case of a Taiwanese company caught in an FBI sting taking confidential Avery Dennison "trade secrets" from an Avery Dennison employee. You first learn how the employee came to steal from Avery Dennison. Then you find out how his employer caught on. Next, the book describes how the employee was hung out to dry so he could be bait for his illegal employer, the Taiwanese company. Following that you get the videotaped sting. The rest involves legal maneuverings through a criminal and civil law suit, the other suits filed by the Taiwanese company, and how the two companies competed with each other while this was going on.
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