It seems like a rarefied crime, the theft of information from behind the closed doors of companies.
But the FBI says industrial espionage is costing billions—and the agency is taking its message straight to the public through billboards and bus shelters.
The FBI has partnered with one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the world, Clear Channel Outdoor, to put up the ads in an attempt to protect the country’s trade secrets, Clear Channel said in a statement.
One of the focuses is on small businesses that are in the early stages of research and development.
“The future use of those products are what foreign governments are interested in finding,” said FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson in an e-mail. “We hope businesses will begin to secure those ideas from inception – not once they’re fully functional.”
The FBI says foreign economic espionage is a significant and growing threat to the country’s economy.
In December, a Brookline man was sentenced to six months in prison and six months in home confinement, as well as fined $25,000 for committing economic espionage by seeking to give information from Akamai Technologies Inc. to Israel. It was the first such case in Massachusetts.
The advertisements will be on display in eight other major cities and regions around the country, including New York, Washington D.C., and San Francisco.
Billboards were posted Friday, May 11 and will remain on display for two weeks.
To learn more about the FBI’s warning click here.