Corporate espionage case example of growing issue

November 3, 2011 (CHICAGO)

In this Intelligence Report: The court appearance of Ben Pu comes on a day when the government issued a new report revealing just how bad corporate espionage has become.

The director of national intelligence says U.S. business is losing $50 billion to corporate spying.

Some Chicago companies have been stung by employee espionage. The latest case: Ben Pu, whose resume states that at 17 he was a research intern at Harvard and graduated from Cornell two years ago. Now he is facing criminal charges that he tried to steal trading codes from a Chicago-based hedge fund.

Yihao Ben Pu was all smiles when he showed up at federal court Thursday with his mother and his attorneys to post bond. Pu was once a trusted technology employee at Citadel Investments, once of the world's largest hedge fund managers.

Pu is charged with attempting to steal Citadel's secret alpha codes by bypassing the company's intricate security protocols, then transferring files to external devices. He was arrested after an associate of his told the company and federal agents some of the evidence had been dumped into a sanitary canal near Wilmette Harbor. Divers discovered computer equipment in the water that contained Citadel's alphas.

During Thursday's short hearing, Magistrate Maria Valdez accepted Pu's parents' home in Massachusets as a guarantee Pu will show up for court. He declined to talk on the way out of the Dirksen Federal Building.

At about the same time, a report was being released by federal authorities in Washington entitled "Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace." It cites China as the world's most potent threat.

The report details what is described as an "onslaught of computer network intrusions" that "originated in China and Russia," and it breaks down the most often stolen as "business information; military technologies, especially marine systems; and drones and civilian and dual-use technologies, including clean energy and health."

In another Chicago spy case set for federal trial on Monday, a woman is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in trade secrets from Motorola. Hanjuan Jin of Schaumburg was arrested at O'Hare about to leave for Beijing, according to federal law enforcement agents, with Motorola defense-related information they say was to end up in Chinese government hands.

Despite vigorous denials from officials in China, the U.S. intelligence report blames the Chinese government for hacking into American business computers to steal secrets.

In the case of Citadel Investments and researcher Ben Pu, he was fired August 30 after the company says it discovered the thefts.

National Counterintelligence Report on corporate espionage:

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