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Amongst the people Secret services tend to recruit are those with access to confidential information and/or access to people in high places - which would make interpreters a fairly obvious target. Have any interpreters ever been found to be using their professional position to pass on information to security agencies?

asked 21 Oct '13, 08:48

Andy's gravatar image

Andy
6.8k212839


Larry Wu-Tai Chin worked in the U.S. intelligence community for close to 35 years, all the while providing the PRC with sensitive classified information. Chin was recruited as a spy by a Chinese Communist Official in 1948, while he was employed as an interpreter at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai

Wikipedia: Chinese intelligence operations in the US

Wikipedia: Larry Wu-Tai Chin

Army interpreter Daniel James, who worked for Britain's top general in Afghanistan, has been found guilty [Nov 2008] of spying for Iran.

BBC: Army interpreter guilty of spying

Russia reported Wednesday [Oct 2011] the detention of a Chinese national suspected of trying to procure secret documents on missile technology while posing as an official interpreter in Moscow. The man was arrested almost one year ago.

France24: Russia claims to have detained Chinese spy

One addition from Karolin

Die Angeklagte soll über fünf Jahre in einer Firma in Balingen, in der sie als Übersetzerin arbeitete, Provisionszahlungen von den chinesischen Lieferanten ihres Arbeitgebers erhalten haben. Dafür habe sie den chinesischen Lieferanten versprochen, sie bei weiteren Aufträgen zu berücksichtigen.

Bestechlichkeit: Haftbefehl gegen Chinesisch-Übersetzerin

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answered 24 Oct '13, 13:24

G%C3%A1sp%C3%A1r's gravatar image

Gáspár ♦
6.7k141829

edited 25 Oct '13, 08:52

Good documentation wotk, Gaspar ! The key to good interpretation and translation... Congrats !

(24 Oct '13, 16:05) Gregor_Seither

As Angela pointed out in her comment, professional interpreters are bound by the strictest professional secrecy and take this very seriously indeed. So much so that we actually sometimes worry more about inadvertent disclosure than some of our clients.

For this reason we have now, for example, asked an expert to speak to us about "Cryptography for Interpreters" during our next "Interpreters-for-Interpreters" Workshop on November 8th in Frankfurt.

The programme and further details may be found here:

http://aiic.net/page/6615

There are a couple of things we can easily do to make sure no unauthorised person may access confidential information through us:

  • use passwords on all our computers
  • change the password regularly
  • use reliable virus protection and anti hacker software
  • not look at confidential information on the laptop or on paper when on a train or plane
  • use screen privacy filter which makes sure a person sitting next us us cannot read from our screen
  • not let any memory stick with confidential information lie around
  • take our laptops with us during conference breaks (highly recommendable also because there are more and more cases of theft reported to have taken place during conference breaks)
  • take printed copies of secret documents with us when we leave the conference room
  • not leave any confidential papers in the car or hotel room
  • hand confidential material and all copies back to the client's representative
  • shredder any paper documents with confidential information
  • properly destroy any CD-ROMs or other storqage media once we no longer use them
  • delete all confidential files from all our computers once the conference is over
  • make sure we do not share confidential information in open e-mails or telephone conversations
  • use registered mail or courier services whenever confidential information is to be sent from A to B
  • learn about encryption of files
  • make no notes of confidential information we interpreted
  • destroy notes from consecutive interpretation
  • make sure the hard disk of our computer / laptop contains no more confidential files when we sell or scrap it
  • make sure we do not lose our badge or accreditation to conferences with access control

I am sure the list is incomplete - so please feel free to add whatever you can think of.

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answered 25 Oct '13, 19:49

AlmuteL's gravatar image

AlmuteL
3.8k101520

edited 25 Oct '13, 20:01

The possibilities are enormous for interpreters to do economic spying... we have access to a lot of documents beforehand, we get to work on site and are usually considered "part of the general staff" so we can roam around.. And the Non-Disclosure Agreements we sign are usually of the cookie-cutter type, I doubt if they would stand up in court...

Except for TDI and MATRA (where they run background checks on any subcontractor entering their premises, even the Pizza delivery guy), I have never - in France - seen any particular safety measures taken to make sure interpreters don't moonshine as corporate spies.

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answered 22 Oct '13, 03:52

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Gregor_Seither
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2

@gregor_seither:

The possibilities are very limited: Corporate spying is done by experts. Interpreters and translators may have some very superficial information, but with no added value for the competition.

It has happened several times to me that a client didn't ask me to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the sentence: "We know Interpreters are bound to the strictest professional secrecy". The other participants in the room had to sign the text, we didn't.

Please read:

Secrecy

(22 Oct '13, 04:32) Angela ♦

Hi Angela

Freelancers like me get to work in a lot of companies, we do plant visits, meeting of financial directors... and sometimes we work for competing companies in the same industry. Since we have access to insider information in both companies, we could - if we wanted - "share information"... especially since we seldom sign NDAs... it really is an issue of personaly morality :-)

Just last week I did a workshop for a major ice-cream producer, they had a "technical workbook" with a lot of information about processes and formulas - and the seminar organizer stressed numerous times that the workbook copies were "part of the innovation DNA of our company" must not leave the room. Still, his secretary had given us two copies a week in advance 'so you can prepare for the workshop' and never asked for them back... I would have had ample time to photocopy it and pass it on to the competition. And when we handed the workbooks back to her, she said "oh yes, I need those back !" before dumping them (without shredding) into the paper bin of the conference centre :-)

As we know, since Kevin Mitnick, the best way to get confidential information out of company is to go "dumpster diving" :-)

Again, it's not nuclear secrets, still, it's information deemed "confidential" by the company that is "carelessly" handed around to interpreters by the companies, without proper safety measures...

(22 Oct '13, 04:51) Gregor_Seither

"before dumping them (without shredding) into the paper bin of the conference centre"

Hahaha, exactement les comportements que je décris et décrie.

(22 Oct '13, 05:08) Gáspár ♦

Not to mention FTP servers from agencies where interpreters can download the documents (sometimes confidential) provided by the client (like for ex. a Powerpoint with projected figures for the year)

And since nobody cleans up these servers, they end up hoarding documents from past conferences,

Accessible with login/passwords like translator/123456789 - yes that is an actual password :-)

As Jesse James once said : "It's morally wrong not to rob idiots"

(22 Oct '13, 05:32) Gregor_Seither

Gregor, Angela, I don't think anyone who had been recruited to pass on information to security agencies or industrial competitors would be particularly bothered by either a non-disclosure agreement, or a professional secrecy clause. By definition a spy is passing on information they aren't supposed to!

(22 Oct '13, 08:37) Andy
1

Le BDÜ allemand a une publication consacrée à l'espionnage :

Wie Sprachmittler Ziel von Spionage werden können

Sprachmittler können zum einen Ziel von direkten Spio- nageversuchen werden, also von direktem Ausspähen von Ausgangstexten, Übersetzungen und Referenzmaterialien des Kunden auf dem Rechner, im E-Mail-Postfach oder im Büro des Sprachmittlers. Daneben „eignen“ sich Sprachmittler auch für Social Engineering – nicht zuletzt, weil sie durch ihre Arbeit und ggf. auch private Aktivitäten auf elektronischen Plattfor- men eine Reihe von verräterischen Spuren hinterlassen, die Ausgangspunkt für Spionage- oder Social-Enginee- ring-Aktivitäten werden können.

Source : www.bdue-fachverlag.de/download/mdue/1053

Et un memo de la chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Hanovre qui met en garde des éléments extérieurs, citant les interprètes (dans une énumération qui ratisse très large) comme une menace potentielle : http://www.hannover.ihk.de/fileadmin/data/Dokumente/Themen/Sicherheit/081030-Merkblatt-Wirtschaftschutz-neu.pdf

(24 Oct '13, 16:00) Gáspár ♦
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

Je n'ai jamais été approché, et je doute qu'un service étatique procède de manière aussi grossière. En ce qui concerne une transmission d'information d'initiative, on ne peut s'empêcher de penser aux affaires de whistleblowing de ces dernières années, mais le nombre de ces suicides professionnels est statistiquement marginal.

La question me fait aussi penser à un article consacré à la concentration de collaborateurs du renseignement à Bruxelles : Intelligence chief: EU capital is 'spy capital'

De nos jours, l'espionnage au sens large n'est plus nécessairement d'origine Etatique. Les enjeux économiques et commerciaux ont fait émerger l'intelligence (collecte légale) et l'espionnage (illégal) économique et industriel. Ce volet est aujourd'hui encore souvent sous-estimé par les entreprises et leurs collaborateurs. De fait, je pense que le risque est plus important sur le marché privé :

Les grands acteurs, organisation internationales et institutions européennes me semblent sensibles aux possibles fuites. Elles essayent tant bien que mal de les prévenir (documents remis le jour même, collectés à la fin de la réunion, interdiction de çi et de ça,...).

Sur le marché privé en revanche, j'ai plus rarement vu ne serait-ce qu'un début de mécanisme de contrôle de fuites possibles. Et plus souvent, je n'ai pas même décelé une prise de conscience de risque : Les documents confidentiels sont transmis à des inconnus recrutés par des agences, parfois une vingtaine de sous-traitants qui ont accès aux "secrets" d'une multinationale. Imaginons une réunion de abordant la stratégie de fusion à moyen terme.

J'imagine qu'on est néanmoins moins perméables que d'autres aux approches de corruption active : On n'a qu'une réputation professionnelle, et à l'inverse de fuites venant de salariés, un freelance grillé sur son marché ne peut pas frapper à la porte d'une autre société, espérant que l'affaire n'a pas atteint les oreilles de la concurrence. Chez nous, on ne cesse de répéter que tout se sait.

C'est sur le volet d'indiscrétions et d'imprudences que nous sommes je pense les plus vulnérables. Une anecdote racontée autour d'un verre à des gens qu'on pense de confiance ou qu'on veut impressionner / divertir / amuser. L'avantage est que sauf rares exceptions, ces révélations relèvent plus de l'anecdote cocasse que de la transmission d'informations de fond, d'autant plus que généralement, l'information (sic) est déjà périmée lorsqu'elle est révélée. Mais on n'est jamais trop prudent... Bien qu'à mon stade d'avancement dans la carrière d'interprète, la seule personne me posant des questions incessantes et indiscrètes, et qui donc pourrait être un agent du renseignement, n'est autre que ma mère.

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answered 21 Oct '13, 09:50

G%C3%A1sp%C3%A1r's gravatar image

Gáspár ♦
6.7k141829

Le BDÜ allemand a une publication consacrée à l'espionnage et notre profession.

Wie Sprachmittler Ziel von Spionage werden können

Sprachmittler können zum einen Ziel von direkten Spio- nageversuchen werden, also von direktem Ausspähen von Ausgangstexten, Übersetzungen und Referenzmaterialien des Kunden auf dem Rechner, im E-Mail-Postfach oder im Büro des Sprachmittlers. Daneben „eignen“ sich Sprachmittler auch für Social Engineering – nicht zuletzt, weil sie durch ihre Arbeit und ggf. auch private Aktivitäten auf elektronischen Plattfor- men eine Reihe von verräterischen Spuren hinterlassen, die Ausgangspunkt für Spionage- oder Social-Enginee- ring-Aktivitäten werden können.

Source : www.bdue-fachverlag.de/download/mdue/1053

(24 Oct '13, 15:59) Gáspár ♦
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question asked: 21 Oct '13, 08:48

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last updated: 25 Oct '13, 20:01

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