This week, the HP vice president indicted for leaking trade secrets from IBM, his former employeer, pleaded guilty. Dude, UR DOIN IT RONG. Atul Malhotra allegedly emailed the goods to a coworker, drawing a big red arrow back to his own forehead. Ready to cash in on your inside info? Follow this six-step plan.
1. Be sure the secret is worth something. You don't want to risk your neck over info the company is already required to file with the SEC.
2. Pick the right potential buyer. Start with senior VPs or members of the executive team -– someone who can and will play ball.
3. Establish an anonymous Internet presence. Only do email from Internet connections that can't be traced back to you. Local Wi-Fi hotspots and unsecured home networks are your friend. Never use the same email address to contact more than one person. Don't just change addresses, hop from Gmail to Hotmail to Yahoo. Skyhook is developing a wonderful hybrid positioning system to pin down your location based on IP address. Keep that in mind.
4. Ditch email for prepaid phones from T-Mobile, available at your local Target, it a mark shows interest. But remember that if a 911 operator can find your location, so can anyone else. Check for security cameras in the area before you dial or take a call.
5. Use an untraceable method to transfer the info. British agents used Bluetooth or IR devices disguised as rocks to pass information. Get creative: A dropped USB stick, a misplaced folder, or a shared Google Doc all can work. The Madrid bombers created email drafts that others could access, so nothing was ever sent through an SMTP server that could be tracked. You needn't be high-tech. Aldrich Ames carried top secret documents out of the CIA in paper bags.
6. Hide the money. Never break omerta, lest you end up like Pink Cadillac Guy in Goodfellas. Living beyond your means always tips people off. It happened to Ames. And keep your mouth shut. James Hall III overshared with a Russian spy who turned out to be FBI. Earl Edwin Pitts' ex-wife and Robert Hannsen's brother-in-law helped turn them in. That's the downside of a successful sale: You sell the company's secret, but saddle yourself with one of your own.