Espionage (colloquially, spying) is the obtaining of secret or confidential information without the permission of the holder of the information. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring (a cooperating group of spies), in the service of a government, company or independent operation, can commit espionage. The practice is clandestine, as it is by definition unwelcome and in many cases illegal and punishable by law. Espionage is a subset of "intelligence" gathering, which includes espionage as well as information gathering from public sources. Espionage is often part of an institutional effort by a government or commercial concern. However, the term tends to associate with state spying on potential or actual enemies for military purposes. Spying involving corporations is known as industrial espionage. One of the most effective ways to gather data and information about the enemy (or potential enemy) is by infiltrating the enemy's ranks. This is the job of the spy (espionage agent).
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