Paranoia strikes deep ... into your life it will creep," were words in the 1967 Buffalo Springfield hit "For What It's Worth."
The song, which told of police handling a disturbance involving young people, came to symbolize the divisions within the turbulent 1960s.
Paranoia did not end then. While most evident today in politics, business can claim its fair share.
U.S. companies, especially those that are innovative or undergoing change, worry night and day. They worry about U.S. competitors, foreign competitors, shareholders and employees who know too much or talk too much. They worry about revolts within the company. They worry about the economy.
Though a judge recently dropped all charges against former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia C. Dunn, accused of fraud in a boardroom-spying scandal, the episode underscored corporate paranoia.
That worry was over leaks by board members to the news media. Using a process called "pretexting," detectives hired by the company obtained Social Security numbers of directors, employees and journalists, then persuaded phone companies to give them their call logs.
Another case just recently unsealed by the government had a different outcome.
A former DuPont senior research chemist pleaded guilty to corporate espionage in U.S. District Court in Delaware late last year. Gary Min, who worked for DuPont for a decade, was accused by the government of downloading 22,000 sensitive documents and viewing 16,706 more in the company's electronic library, some allegedly after accepting a job with a competitor.
Min faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. Perhaps a little more corporate paranoia would have been justified because he was the firm's most active user of the electronic library.
I recently spent some time in the Silicon Valley, where the gossip is about technology. It is impossible to visit anyone or any place without somebody offering rumors about products, companies, executives or trends. Employees of different companies constantly communicate.
Firms regularly conduct job interviews with employees of competitors, which can either be sincere or attempts to extract information. Companies have used such tactics for years.
U.S. companies, experts say, are losing billions of dollars to domestic and international espionage. Expect companies to continue to tighten internal security and put greater emphasis on loyalty oaths. Expect violators to be prosecuted for infractions. Expect ethics to be discussed more frequently.
But also expect paranoia to grow even deeper. The next line in that Buffalo Springfield song is, "It starts when you're always afraid."
These days, many in executive suites and boardrooms are afraid.
Andrew Leckey writes for Tribune Media Services.