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Geopolitical Intelligence: Objective Analysis of Global Threats

4 minute read

Global events can heavily influence operations in certain parts of the world and present different challenges and risks to organizations. A threat to an organization in one region may not offer the same risk in another part. In this post, we will define geopolitical intelligence and discuss how politics, regulations, human rights, cyber programs and regulatory burdens contribute to geopolitical risk.

What is Geopolitical Intelligence?        

Geopolitical intelligence is the overall understanding of the risks posed to a business from a particular region in the world. Several factors that can influence risks in a specific region might include:

  • Politics
  • Culture
  • Regulatory burdens
  • Cyber programs 

Politics can significantly increase the risk for any organization. For example, the United States and China have a complex relationship in the political spectrum. COVID-19 has presented a new political risk to relations with China. The United States has an even more strained relationship with China than it did during the last decade. The United States has strengthened ties with Taiwan which inherently has brought a more aggressive military posture from China near Taiwan and the contested South China Sea. China has engaged in aggressive maneuvers in the air and sea, attempting to intimidate surrounding nations.

Culture presents different types of risks for organizations. Expanding operations in another country can present several difficult challenges. Culture can have a significant impact on how successful an organization becomes operating in a specific environment. Understanding local culture and social practices can affect an organization. Simple things such as working hours, employee titles, and organizational hierarchy can present risks and challenges. Examples such as Scandinavian countries that prefer to work in an organization with a flat organizational structure. Some countries are relaxed when it comes to punctuality. Companies operating in Latin American countries should not expect people to be on time as it is culturally accepted.

Regulatory burdens can involve both human rights practices, regional labor laws, and customs, as well as working conditions within the local economy. Human rights practices in host countries can vary significantly from those most individuals would be accustomed to. Labor laws are inherently different in countries around the world. Austria, for instance, requires to offer up to 30 days of paid leave. The Philippines require that each employee receive a bonus equivalent to one month’s salary.

Operating costs present a significant reason why a company would choose to expand operations in a specific world region. Workplace conditions, pay and benefits are common challenges operating in several regions across the globe. Working conditions and pay in poorer countries are well documented. Poor pay and conditions in countries like China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Nigeria have damaged the reputation of several companies over the past several years. Many established brands have faced scrutiny over the years for their working conditions in third-world countries. It is increasingly important to understand how your organization is viewed by the host nations where operations are being conducted. 

Cyber programs are an area of growing risks that knows no boundaries. There are dozens of countries that have comprehensive cyber programs. Cyber has become a force multiplier for countries that do not have superior military capabilities. Highly developed countries such as the United States, China, France, Germany, Australia, and Russia have highly developed cyber programs that are well funded. The cyber realm has also allowed lesser developed countries to become advanced and capable of being skilled adversaries. The nations of India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brazil, and Ukraine have developed cyber programs to not only defend themselves but also to take on the offensive if needed. 

Defining Geopolitical Intelligence
Defining Geopolitical Intelligence

National cyber programs are typically well-funded and staffed. Understanding cyber capabilities within a region of operations are crucial. Being able to understand a nation’s cyber capabilities is critical to protecting your organization and employees. Nations will use their cyber capabilities to enhance surveillance of their people and companies that are operating in their region. They can also control what information is allowed on the Internet. Nation-states view cyber espionage as a tool for limiting internal conflict and acquiring a diplomatic or competitive advantage. 

Nation-state cyber operations will leverage tactics, techniques, and procedures with cutting-edge tools to perform sophisticated attacks and espionage. Adversaries can deploy malware on your endpoints to malware on mobile devices that can be used to steal intellectual property to possibly blackmail and extort your assets. 

Putting Geopolitical Intelligence to the Test

Geopolitical intelligence is vital to provide situational awareness to any organization. Understanding cyber threats, regulations, cultural nuisances, and political influences provides a well-rounded awareness of potential threats to your business. Identifying the potential risks and having accurate intelligence can assist with mitigating risks to your organization. Geopolitical intelligence is a valuable data point that will enable your company to truly perform a continuous evaluation of the risks that are posed to your organization and the ever-changing landscape.     

Combating Global Threats with Geopolitical Intelligence 

The ZeroFox platform provides actionable threat intelligence. ZeroFox publishes advisories as well as key incidents within the intelligence section of the platform. ZeroFox also provides finished intelligence geopolitical reports from our On Demand Investigations team. Our On Demand Investigations team will collect information from a variety of sources that will provide your organization with current situational awareness in the region your business has operations in or has inquired on. ZeroFox combines Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Human Intelligence (HUMINT) to provide world-class strategic finished intelligence. 

Geopolitical intelligence is one element of a broader, full-spectrum threat intelligence solution that includes brand, dark web, third party, vulnerability intelligence and more. A holistic approach requires visibility and insight into each of these areas. Learn more about ZeroFox’s complete External Threat Intelligence solution here.

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