There are several reasons why many countries engage in economic espionage.
There is an analogy between the impact of economic espionage and the impact of more familiar espionage. In this way, economic espionage could be seen to be as important to a country's economic security as more familiar types of espionage are to its more traditional security interests.
Furthermore, a big advantage of economic espionage is its potential cost effectiveness. A few well directed operations could achieve the same effect as a large investment or subsidy for the relatively low cost of an economic espionage operation.
In a world in which economic interdependencies are increasing and international competition is getting rougher, tensions and conflicts between nations are also increasing. Driven by high unemployment and industrial displacement, many countries consider their economic situation as a primary concern. For them, economic espionage is a means by which to be able to compete. This applies to all countries, whether they are rich or poor.
Thus, it is not a surprise that among the information spies are most seeking after are research and development strategies, manufacturing and marketing plans, and even customer lists (see ).