How Much Is Your Trash Worth?


Roy Lynn Oakley, a janitor that worked for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), pleaded guilty to stealing equipment and information from his former employer.


Oakley, a janitor that worked at the East Tennessee Technology park (ETTP) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was arrested in a sting operation while trying to sell uranium enrichment fuel rods or tubes and other hardware to the French government that he was suppose to dispose of. In January of 2007. Oakley contacted the French Embassy in an attempt to sell the materials for $200,000 in cash.


The French government contacted the FBI and alerted them about Oakley's offer. An undercover agent posing as a French government representative met with Oakley to transact the deal. After he handed over the materials and received the money, FBI agents moved in to arrest him. Oakley has pleaded guilty and is expected to get 6 years in prison, 3 years release and must pay a fine of $250,000.


There have been many examples of military secret and Intellectual Property (IP) theft over the years. In February 2008, a Chinese national was arrested for stealing secrets relating to the space shuttle, the C-17 military transport for the shuttle and the Delta IV rocket. The information was stolen and given to the Chinese government as far back as 1979.


In April of 2008, Tesla Motors sued Fisker Automotive group for stealing hybrid engine technology. Tesla hired Fisker to perform body and interior work on one of its models due to be released in 2010. Tesla did not know that Fisker was working on its own hybrid car and used Telsa's technology to advance Fisker's design.


In July of 2006, three people were arrested for stealing trade secrets from Coca-Cola and trying to sell them to Pepsi. After being contacted, Pepsi notified Coca-Cola and the FBI about being approached with the information. The stolen information was expected to sell for $1.5 million dollars.


It's very hard to protect yourself when someone on the inside is trying to steal from you. I don't profess to have all of the answers, but the following is a good starting point if you don't have a program in place or to supplement your existing program:


  1. Limit access to your Intellectual Property. Not everyone in the company needs to know the company's secrets.
  2. Let your employees know that you are watching.
  3. Employ logging and auditing on your computers.
  4. Don't throw away documents. Hire a shredding company.
  5. Perform detailed background checks on people handling your IP.
  6. File the proper copyright, trademark and patent protection.
  7. Create a comprehensive backup plan.
  8. Make all employees sign a non-disclosure and non-compete agreement.
  9. Train employees on what IP theft is and how to spot it. Give them an easy way to report it.
  10. Perform regular vulnerability testing to see if your IP can be accessed from the inside or outside of your company.