Corporate espionage is a fact of life for business owners. The more valuable the information a business has the greater the effort that competition will devote to learning it. There is a question now if the NSA was using their computer hackers to attack Brazil for US companies.
According to the documents leaked by Edward Snowden; the NSA spied on the Brazilian state owned oil company of Petroleo Brasileiro SA. The agency intercepted calls and emails to the company from the Brazilian President.
The case of the NSA is an extreme one but low level corporate espionage is possible on even the smallest budgets. The most basic is to hire your competitors employees. They bring with them the knowledge of how they do business. Former employees can also identify places of weakness in your competitors business model.
Another easy place to get competitive intelligence is from your competitors trash. Notes and working documents are likely to end up in the trash instead of the shredding bin. Another place to dig for the trash is at the home of the principle employees. They lead engineers will take work home and some of it will end up in their personal trash. Have a bag of trash and then swap them out on trash day. In a few minutes you will have some great information and no one is the wiser.
Another easy way to pick up some good information is eavesdropping at a restaurant. It is likely that there favorite places that are near your competitors office. Always have someone eating around lunch time at that restaurant. It might not be every day but over time you can pick up a great deal of information about their business plans.
The key to protecting your information is to always be vigilant. Always assume that someone is listening in on your conversations. Keep private conversations in your office. Set up a system where no paper leaves your office. It is better to shred junk mail that isn’t sensitive than to get lazy and have something slip through.