The techniques to commit espionage in the automotive industry have certainly become increasingly sophisticated in the last 20 years. Back in 1996, Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, who had defected from General Motors to Volkswagen 4 years earlier, was indicted for embezzlement and misappropriation of trade secrets. How did he, and 3 associates, steal plans from GM to VW? By takingphysical copies of files with him to VW, allegedly including 10 years of product plans and blueprints. Although the charges against Lopez were later dropped, and the civil suit filed by GM against VW was settled, it was a particularly highprofile case that proved the existence and very real risks of industrial espionage. As GM’s general counsel, Thomas A. Gottschalk said at the time, “If there has ever been a more brazen case of industrial espionage at the highest levels of a company, we are not aware of it,” which highlights just how destructive this entire case was.


Thieves are more likely to steal your AutoCAD files than your physical blueprints


While we’re 20 years on from the Lopez case, the risks of industrial espionage are still present, and in our increasingly interconnected global network online, even more hazardous. Today, thieves are more likely to steal your AutoCAD files than your physical blueprints. If you don’t have your security measures in place, they can potentially steal your business’s work from anywhere, at any time they don’t have to force their way into a physical building.

The unfortunate truth is that there are thieves attempting to steal your intellectual property, especially AutoCAD files, as these hold particularly high value. In 2004, computer forensics found evidence of industrial espionage via AutoCAD files in the UK. Vaguely resembling the Lopez case, a former director of British Midland Tools had joined the suspiciously similar sounding Midland International Tooling Ltd, who were offering near identical services to British Midland Tools. An initial inquiry had found no real evidence, but when Midland International Tooling’s drawings were investigated in more detail, the forensics company saw that there was one of British Midland Tool’s address blocks on the drawings, replaced by the address of the new company, amongst other damning findings. Then in 2012, an industrial espionage virus designed to steal blueprints and send them to China was discovered. Tens of thousands of blueprints were stolen by malware named “ACAD/Medre.A”.


 Billions of pounds and thousands of jobs are lost from the theft of trade secrets.’


To prevent the “ACAD/Medre.A” virus from spreading any further, the Chinese service provider, Tencent, were contacted to stop the files captured by the virus from being delivered. AutoDesk were also given the information gathered from this particular case of industrial espionage. But what can your business to avoid the risks of industrial espionage?

While there will always be an element of danger present with regards to all types of cybercrime, there is no excuse in not doing all you can to preventing the theft of your intellectual property over the Internet.

Read our previous posts to learn more in-depth about long-term data protection solutions for your business. Ideally, every business should set aside time to achieve their security goals. However, if you only have a short amount of time today, here are 3 easy but important things you can do right now:

  1. Install antivirus software and make sure its fully updated. 
  2. Establish/maintain/reinforce a confidentiality policy in your business’s manual/handbook
  3. Limit access to sensitive data to specific users for a specific amount of time, whether that’s between colleagues in the office or external customers and suppliers with MX. Packed with features including: ability to revoke, 1 click reporting exports and a complete, traceable audit history. Be sure to utilise our fast, easy and secure data exchange software to ensure your data is securely exchanged online throughout the world.


Try MX for free at


Back to Blog Home
Contact Us