The Law Gazette 5th September 2002
Law firm call in ex-SAS personnel
Law firms call in ex-SAS personnel to spy on staff and eavesdrop potential clients - By Jeremy Fleming
Some law firms tap staff phones to find out whether they are having affairs with secretaries or moonlighting, and eavesdrop rivals in pubs to gain sensitive information, an Intelligence consultant told the Gazette this week.
Alex Bomberg, managing Director of security company International Intelligence, said he acted for a number of firms-including major city practices-which typically use his services to carry out surveillance on directors of prospective clients.
This sometimes involves staff eavesdropping on rival firms lawyers at bars and in restaurants, where they may discuss business and clients.
He said: “phone tapping itself is illegal, but not if the owner of the phones is monitoring the calls of employees. It is sometimes done internally within law firms to monitor whether partners are having affairs with their secretaries, but mostly to see if staff are working for non-clients on the side”
Mr Bomberg, whose firm is staffed by former SAS and civil and military security services personnel, said, “we sent ex-SAS personnel with a law firm to South Africa on a litigation matter recently to protect the solicitors and barristers on the case”
Security reviews, which cost £4000, take form of an “attack”, carried out by International Intelligence staff. “We agree a two-week period during which we will attack the firm, attempt to steal sensitive documents, hack their computer systems and generally try to discover as much information as possible. Afterwards we pinpoint the weaknesses,” Mr Bomberg said.
He said he had carried out such attacks on 15 firms, and said that many have lax security: “I know for a fact that three major well-known city law firms dump whole files in their bins. And if you ask any solicitor to rummage through his secretaries bins at the end of day, I guarantee that most of them will find copies of (confidential) correspondence.”
Ed Nally, deputy vice-president of the Law Society, said that monitoring internal communications would be ethical so long as proper warnings were in place and it was carried out for proper management purposes.
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