refers to corporations as either the targets or agents of spying. It is theoretically distinct from industrial espionage
, though in practice, the two terms are used interchangeably.
While it can take on many forms, from theft of physical assets to sabotage, corporate espionage most commonly refers to the theft of intellectual property (IP). Most commonly, it involves attempts by one corporation to steal the IP of another corporation, either electronically or via a mole within the target corporation. Occasionally, however, especially within the defense industries, corporate espionage may involve spying on the part of a governmental agency.
There are two primary motivations behind corporate espionage: Firstly, an individual corporation may play this game towards their goal of maximizing shareholder value. Secondly, state-sponsored corporate espionage is an essential ingredient of modern day economic warfare.
In addition to its increasing relevance in the real world as more and more mega-corporations rise to power, it is important to note that corporate espionage is a major theme in Cyberpunk fiction and culture.