Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, which is on guard for foreign spies.
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  • Facebook is on the lookout for foreign spies that might try to infiltrate its workforce.
  • Recent allegations of industrial theft involving Huawei and Chinese employees at Apple have highlighted the potential risk to tech companies of state-sponsored corporate espionage.


On a day-to-day basis, Facebook's security team has its hands full dealing with the hoards of people that turn up at the company's offices to complain about their accounts, attempt to meet Mark Zuckerberg, or just try to look around.

But the California social-networking giant also has to consider the possibility of more serious threats - among them, the risk that foreign spies might try to insinuate themselves into its workforce.

Facebook has never "detected or identified" any foreign spies attempting to infiltrate the company, Nick Lovrien, the tech behemoth's chief global security officer, said in an interview with Business Insider. But Facebook actively prepares for that possibility and has plans in place to try and mitigate the risk it would pose, he said.

"We work to protect intellectual property in many ways, and that's everything from making sure [employees'] computer screens on airplanes are covered so people don't accidentally share information they're not supposed to, to accidentally leaving things on the printers ... to white boards being cleaned at night," Lovrien said, adding that Facebook has additional systems in place "that identify if people are inappropriately accessing information they shouldn't have."

Concerns are growing about state-sponsored industrial espionage

That's not just a theoretical risk. In the last six months, two Chinese Apple employees working on the company's secretive self-driving car project have been charged with stealing the iPhone maker's trade secrets. Meanwhile, the US government has alleged that tech giant Huawei - which has been been accused of having close ties to the Chinese government - offers bonuses to employees for stealing confidential information from other companies. Such reports have sparked global concerns about intellectual-property theft and state-sanctioned spying.

Facebook, then, is by no means unique among big-tech companies in having to prepare for that kind of threat. But Lovrien's remarks highlight how, when it comes to securing Facebook from foreign interference, the company and its security chief need to consider both the safety of its social network and the the security of its physical premises.

"That's something that [all US-based companies] are concerned about - nation-state actors - and that is something that we absolutely are concerned about," Lovrien said, adding that "we implement many measures that work to mitigate those potential risks."

Business Insider has spoken with numerous current and former employees and reviewed internal documents for an in-depth investigation into how Facebook handles its corporate security.

Sources described a hidden world of stalkers, stolen prototypes, state-sponsored espionage concerns, secret armed guards, car-bomb concerns, and more. Today, there are a staggering 6,000 people in Facebook's global security organisation, working to safeguard the company's 80,000-strong workforce of employees and contractors around the world.

For more, go to Business Insider South Africa.

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