How does management identify and monitor these threats in different locations around the world? Many companies subscribe to one or more of the private security intelligence providers that are available. While some of these firms use the term intelligence to describe their products and services, others use terms like risk reporting, assessment & analysis and information services. For purposes of clarity and consistency the term intelligence or security intelligence will be used throughout this article. These firms either solely provide security intelligence or offer it as one of a number of other services such as security consulting, evacuation support, executive protection services, traveler tracking, etc. The quality, depth, level of coverage and other factors vary widely in these intelligence products. Some providers may offer a greater level of detail, more flexibility for customization, better qualified analysts, greater brevity or may be stronger in one geographical area than another. For this reason – and because it is important to get a range of perspectives – it is strongly recommended that the company’s security department utilize several different providers with strengths in different areas.
The following are some examples of the types of providers that might be encountered and their relative strengths and weaknesses:
Provider A: Very good general information and alerts presented in a brief format via email that is easy to read. Most information is taken directly from open source publications and websites with little vetting, perspective or analysis. Foreign media sources are checked as well as US media. Cost is low.
Provider B: Detailed website with security briefs for multiple cities and countries as well as detail email briefs that offer analysis and perspective. Analysts come from a variety of backgrounds and generally have lived or traveled in their respective regions. Good quality information but little room for customization. Cost is high.
Provider C: Detailed website with security briefs for multiple cities and countries (though not as extensive as Provider B), email briefs and alerts that are sometimes taken directly from open sources with little analysis. Analysts are mainly recent college graduates often with limited or no practical experience living or working in their region. There is a high degree of customization in terms of reports, specialized monitoring and consultations. Cost is medium.
Provider D: Provides totally customized intelligence reports and risk assessments. Most analysts have a military intelligence or government intelligence agency background with a sprinkling of academics. Most analysts have extensive experience in their region, a network of local contacts and often language skills. Cost is high.
Looking at these four examples of different types of private intelligence providers it is easy to see how an organization would benefit by using several of these firms rather than just one. When evaluating and choosing providers it is important to determine what the organization’s needs are, what each potential provider’s strong and weak points are, and select several providers based on these factors.