Counterintelligence

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Protecting People and Information Both On and Off Campus

It may seem strange, sitting here in southernmost Illinois, hours from any major city, and surrounded by farmland and National Forest, but universities are a major target for hostile foreign intelligence services. What would spies be after at SIU? Obviously any classified research that faculty are engaged in for the US government would be of interest, but much more is at risk. As noted by the FBI, the open environment of US campuses of higher education may be misused in order to:

  • Steal technical information or products
  • Bypass expensive research and development
  • Recruit individuals for espionage
  • Exploit the student visa program for improper purposes
  • Spread false information for political or other reasons

To accomplish one or more of the above goals, duplicitous or opportunistic actors or organizations may use a variety of methods such as:

  • Conduct computer intrusions
  • Collect sensitive research
  • Utilize students or visiting professors to collect information
  • Spot and recruit students or professors
  • Send unsolicited email or invitations
  • Send spies for language and cultural training, and to establish credentials
  • Fund or establish programs at a university

Most foreign students, researchers, or professors studying or working in the United States are here for legitimate and proper reasons. Only a very small percentage is actively working at the behest of another government or organization. However, some foreign governments also pressure legitimate students to report information to intelligence officials, often using the promise of favors or threats to family members back home.

The information provided in this section of our site is meant to assist University departments, and individual faculty, staff, and students, in protecting themselves, their data, and their colleagues. If you think you may have seen foreign intelligence activity on campus, or if you or someone you know may have been approached by foreign intelligence officers either here or while travelling overseas, please contact the Marion office of the FBI at (618) 997-6847 or the SIU Police at 453-3771.