Snatched secrets: Cybercrime and trade secrets modelling a firm's decision to report a theft of trade secrets

Basuchoudhary, Atin and Searle, Nicola. 2019. Snatched secrets: Cybercrime and trade secrets modelling a firm's decision to report a theft of trade secrets. Computers & Security, 87, 101591. ISSN 0167-4048 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Cybercrime and economic espionage are increasing problems for firms. We build on US FBI policy to frame the interaction between a cybercrime victim firm and a government security agency. We bring together several strands in the literature to model the strategies of the firm, which has suffered a cyber breach and theft of trade secrets, and the government security agency, which must investigate and prosecute crimes. We investigate the interactions between these two players, in which the firm has private information about its cybersecurity investment. This investment level is unknown to the security agency, which must nonetheless decide how to prioritize reported crime. We model this asymmetric information problem within a game theoretic signaling framework derived from Becker's work in crime and punishment. We suggest that such a framework can inform policy to encourage security investments by firms and more efficient resource utilization by security agencies. We particularly focus on an illustrative stylized example to highlight how our modelling approach can be helpful. In this example we compare two worlds; one where all security breaches become public knowledge and another where only reported breaches become public knowledge. We then formulate two potentially testable Hypotheses and several implications of these Hypotheses. Case studies and a policy analysis further highlight how our framework plays out in reality.

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Additional Information:

Nicola Searle's participation is supported by the Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) Grant EP/P005039/1, Economic Espionage and Cybercrime: Evidence and Strategy.


Cyber security, Cybercrime, Trade secrets, Economic espionage, Cyber breaches

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


8 August 2019Accepted
8 August 2019Published Online
November 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

13 Aug 2019 13:30

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 18:01

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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