Skip to main content

Valuable intelligence isn’t confined to your sector; crucial risk signals might be hiding in apparently unrelated reports from outside your industry. Broadening your perspective can significantly enhance the protection of your people, assets and reputation — but how far should you look?

In every economic climate, there’s one timeless piece of advice that always does the rounds: leaders should look to other industries for ideas and inspiration.

The classic example is Henry Ford’s “invention” of the car assembly line, an idea he stole from the meat packing industry. Ford stood in a slaughterhouse watching a “dis-assembly” line where the carcass moved from station to station and each worker performed a distinct task to take apart the cow. Ford flipped the concept and voilà — the car assembly line was born.

While peeking over the industry fence is standard behaviour for marketers and innovators, it’s not something security teams tend to do frequently enough. You’re already making tough decisions about where to focus your time, effort and resources. Adding outside-industry research into the mix can sound like a lot of extra hassle for very little reward.

Yet the same logic applies. There might be valuable intelligence hiding in plain sight outside your sector, and breaking out of industry silos could be the key to uncovering business-critical risk signals that remain hidden when you only focus on what you know.

Three lessons from beyond your backyard

To get a sense of the value of accessing intelligence from seemingly unrelated sectors, consider the following examples.

#1: Aviation intelligence reveals traveller safety risks

Aviation is a complex industry with a distinctive threat landscape. The main scenarios involve overflight risks and the multiple technical vulnerabilities that surround takeoff and landing. The data can seem specific to airline operators — but its implications are far-reaching.

For example, we recently forecast flight disruptions due to shortfalls in licensed pilots and aircrew at an Indian airline. Manpower shortages have a significant domino effect, resulting in more delays, more cancellations and compromised safety measures as pressures are put on the remaining staff. Here, the safety concerns were so significant they prompted one of our clients to stop flying with this airline.

When developing travel policies for high-risk locations, your primary focus will doubtless be on in-country safety. But the choice of carrier is equally critical. Aviation intelligence can paint a picture of how each airline is operating and what the impact on your business might be.

#2: NGOs as early warning systems for corporate risks

Few corporations read intelligence from the not-for-profit sector. Yet NGOs and charities are often the canary in the coalmine for emerging political risks.

Take Hong Kong as an example. The local authorities have increased efforts to stifle any form of perceived political dissent, resulting in arrest threats, foreign-worker deportations and the seizing of mobile phones from NGO staff.

At first glance, a bank or consulting company may not put itself in the same risk bucket as an NGO. What’s the risk if your only involvement with the country is conducting research on consumer interests or other benign topics? But if that research accidentally brushes against subjects the government is sensitive about, like strike activity or price hikes, suddenly those activities may draw unwanted attention.

NGOs are a pulse on the ground. A close watch on their activities and the local risks they face can offer valuable foresight into the shifting risk environment in an area.

#3: The ever-shrinking proximity of environmental activism

In an increasingly interconnected world, the ripple effects of environmental activism are touching industries far removed from their traditional targets. It’s not only fossil fuel extractors or pipeline construction companies that find themselves under scrutiny. Banks providing funding, consultancies offering advice, advertising agencies engaged in promotion, and even sporting events receiving sponsorship can all come to the attention of activists, even if they quit their relationship with the perceived polluter many years ago.

What’s new is that activists are cooperating — sharing tactics and transferring protests from one sector to another. These developments mean that red flags could emerge from unexpected sources. Activists are publicity-hungry and well-organised: you have to assume that successful disruption in one sector will soon be replicated in another even if there are many degrees of separation between the two.

Where do you draw the line?

Looking to other industries for risk indicators and breakthroughs is a neat idea, but admittedly, it can be difficult.

First of all, it’s human nature to parse intelligence through our own industry lens. The greater the distance between your situation and the other industry sectors you’re researching, the harder it will be to pick up on relevant exposure risks and create actionable plans based on them. When the sector is unfamiliar, it’s going to be doubly hard to separate the signal from the noise.

The second, bigger issue is knowing when to stop. Intelligence is limitless; there’s no end to this type of work. How do you decide which non-obvious reports you should be reading without being pulled in every direction? How do you know which reports will yield results versus those that will simply chew your time?

With so much to gain from looking outside your industry, it’s a shame to let quality intelligence slip by because of obstacles like these. While you’re never going to be able to draw clear lines around what’s relevant, there are steps you can take to hone in on the risks that matter most to your organisation.

  • Start with yourself before moving outwards.

When deciding what information to pursue and which to leave aside, look first at your company’s internal values. Your goals, values and risk tolerance will help you prioritise what matters.

For example, an energy company may be the target of environmental activism. So looking at trends around the targeting by activists both within and beyond the energy sector – such as against governments or banks – will hold value for them.

  • Look at your peripheries.

Who are your neighbours? Suppliers, partners and those with geographic proximity to your operations are good places to start when broadening the intelligence horizon. If you’re located in the City of London, for example, then activism against the financial sector will potentially clog local tube stations and disrupt travel routes. It may make sense to monitor the banking industry with closer detail than, say, telecommunications.

The definition of peripheries is up to you. It can stay tight or spiral outward based on your organisation’s resources and risk profile.

  • Forecast, don’t dwell.

The point of casting a wider net is to understand how events that are happening in other industries today may impact your industry tomorrow. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of this or that incident — don’t. Instead, use outside-industry intelligence to spot patterns and get a sense of how they might unfold if left unchallenged.

Some trends will have a trajectory that points straight into your threat landscape, necessitating close monitoring and sometimes immediate action. Others will appear so remote or inconsequential that you may choose not to pursue them, keeping them only on the periphery of your radar but not letting them consume your resources.

  • Subscribe to SIAS for “done for you” insights

Information-gathering, data-processing, fact-checking and converting a huge amount of data into actionable insights and intelligence is an arduous process in your own industry, never mind trying to understand a completely different sector. When you subscribe to Dragonfly’s Security Intelligence & Analysis Service, the scoping work is done for you.

Each month, SIAS delivers around 80 concise, forward-looking, prioritised intelligence reports across a range of countries and industries. We do the hard work of stripping away the irrelevance, focusing on high-impact risks, what is likely to happen and the implications for your business. This reduces your workload by narrowing down the ever-expanding universe of risk factors to business-critical risks and ensures that unfamiliar scenarios from outside your industry will be tangible for decision-makers.

If you’re really in a time crunch? Each intelligence report comes with three bullet points summarising the most important takeaways, so you can quickly see its relevance to you and decide whether to delve further – and provide a neat summary to other stakeholders.

In addition, our highly visual dashboards give you risk ratings for countries across the globe, covering 24 different risks from civil conflict to cyber exposure, LGBTQ+ discrimination, overland travel, state agencies and more. These snapshots allow you to review countries and risks that are directly relevant to you, and then see at a glance what other risk ratings may be relevant or of interest – even if they are out of your official remit. It’s another great way to broaden your intelligence horizons while staying focused on the most relevant risks.

Fundamentally, the best insights in the world are of no use if they are overlooked. Security intelligence from outside your industry can help you see around corners and prepare your business for what is coming. Approach it in a deliberate, structured way, and it could be the missing piece in a complex security puzzle.

To find out more about the Security Intelligence and Analysis Service (SIAS) and how it can help you protect your people, assets and reputation – including by providing relevant insights from other industries – get in touch with our specialists today.