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Stolen laptops fuel industrial espionage fears for UK software firm

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A UK-based hi-tech firm that's become the victim of "industrial espionage" is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for stealing its computer hardware.

Thieves who stole a number of laptops from VBi Triscan Systems also lifted hard disks from the fuel management firm's servers sometime between Tuesday, 27 March, and Saturday, 31 March. Executives at the Blackburn, Lancashire, firm fear the thefts were aimed at gathering trade secrets rather than just routine blags.

"As a market leader in the provision of fuel management and retail solutions software we are a prime target for this kind of activity due to the value of the products that it has in the market place and in those currently under development," VBi Triscan Systems managing director Simon Hollingsworth said.

Data on the machines was backed up, but not encrypted. "The laptops were worth thousands, but in terms of intellectual property the potential damage to the business is a hell of a lot more," said marketing manager Barry McLeod. Piecing together useful information from data on the stolen server hard drives would present a huge problem for potential industrial spies.

"It would be difficult for the thieves or recipients of the material to gain any useful advantage or information from them. It's like taking a few pieces of a jigsaw," McLeod explained. "We are not ruling out industrial espionage. We are a niche company and don't have many competitors."

Lancashire police told The Lancashire Telegraph they would look into the possibility of industrial espionage as part of their investigation into the theft of kit from VBi Triscan Systems. Police are appealing for information on the case. Potential witnesses are urged to contact Blackburn Police on 01252 51212 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. ®

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