Federal agents are warning higher education leaders to be on the lookout for foreign spies or potential terrorists trying to steal their research, the head of the FBI’s Boston office told the Boston Globe. Agents are offering briefings on “espionage indicators” to faculty, students, or security staff as part of a national outreach to college campuses. “What we’re most concerned about are those things that are not classified being developed by  universities,” said the FBI’s Warren Bamford. He said colleges are vulnerable to those looking to use that information against the U.S.
The FBI says universities should consider the possibility of foreign spies posing as international students or visitors and terrorists studying advanced technologies and scientific breakthroughs on campus, as well as violent extremists and computer hackers. Dennis Berkey, president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, met with Bamford and welcomed the advice about protecting their unpublished research. For example, researchers shouldn’t leave laptops unprotected in a hotel room in a foreign country, where they could be stolen. Erik Dahl, a counterintelligence specialist at Harvard, voiced doubts about how successful it would be in uncovering plots. “It just doesn’t seem likely that a foreign terrorist or a homegrown terrorist would be getting tips for his next plot on a university campus.”