Intelligence has always played a very important role for the security of a state as a tool for collecting, analyzing and disseminating that information aimed at protecting institutions, businesses and citizens.
The same meaning of the term, as suggested by the DIS training school, has a dual function: “the one, subjective, which refers to the complex of structures and activities aimed at collecting useful information for the protection of national security; the other, objective, which refers to the product of this activity “.
Born in Italy for information needs since the earliest times, in the years to come, it has become increasingly compliant with the constitution and specifically with the Republic. That is, to its protection, integrity and sovereignty; safeguarding, in the same way, its own democratic institutions, the international personality, the fundamental freedoms of citizens and the political, economic, military, scientific and industrial interests of the nation.
The recent approval of Law 124/2007, which introduced a series of innovations compared to the previous one of 1977, was the conclusion of this long process of reflection, bringing, among the countless innovations, a not indifferent approach towards civil society. This is because the culture of intelligence is now an essential element of the state that cannot fail to take into consideration its citizens. Today more than ever, it needs to be spread in all layers of civil society through various promotional activities aimed at defining, in the collective imagination, what it really means to be able to count on an information sector such as ours: “a new dimension which necessarily passes through a correct definition of what it is, or a microcosm of men and women who, within a framework governed by the law, work to guarantee the safety of the national community “. Another important element is hiding this important step towards the citizen, very important for the survival of the State itself, that is the close link with the companies. Under the banner of the “Golden Power”, the “Cyber-security act” and all those essential measures aimed at safeguarding the company’s know-how, there is an even deeper paradigm at its root, capable of awakening new operating models, such as to expand a real culture of intelligence towards all those economic activities and more, which need to support and implement their decision-making and strategic processes.
In fact, with a view to developing a more adequate management of uncertainty, it is not only a question of intervening in sectors strictly connected to state interests but also of moving in an increasingly more precise direction: the application of intelligence tools within the different corporate fabrics. In fact, in common growth with the awareness of the important operational tool of the State in the presence of government authority, there is a need, also for small and medium-sized enterprises, to make use of a more proactive approach to threats capable of using a cycle of intelligence useful to meet your needs. Having said that, before explaining how important it can be for each company to understand and apply this aspect, it is necessary to delineate the basic concepts from which to draw subsequent food for thought: what is intelligence and its information cycle and what is the difference between “public intelligence” and private intelligence.
Starting from the beginning, intelligence can be briefly defined as that important operational tool of the State useful for researching and analyzing data (which will subsequently become information), otherwise unavailable, on behalf of the governmental authority in order to protect the state interests. To fulfill this important task it uses a set of methodological phases, which make it a scientific discipline, grouped within the so-called “intelligence cycle”:
“Term that describes the complex of the phases in which the security information activity is divided, from the indications of the government authorities to the dissemination of intelligence products to institutional users, passing through information planning, information research and processing. Generally not included in the graphical representations of the intelligence cycle, but of great importance, the feedback phase in which it is assessed to what extent the intelligence products have met the cognitive needs of the government authorities and other institutional interlocutors in the field of national security and determines whether further research and processing activities are necessary on a specific situation or phenomenon. The need to fill any knowledge gaps by restarting the research phase disclosure can also be reported by analysts, and therefore before the intelligence cycle, in its abstract form, has been completed “.
The latter, as seen, breaks down into numerous procedures that do not always take place in succession and, at the same time, involve different actors and procedures that go hand in hand with the information requirement required. It thus defines that information capable of facilitating the work of the governmental authority which, on the basis of what has been disseminated, will take the necessary decisions in order to fulfill its institutional tasks of safeguarding the interests of the state: those functions of high general direction and responsibility of information policy for security, in the interest and defense of the republican state, and its democratic axes.
The four phases that characterize the intelligence cycle are briefly analyzed:
Management: “the identification of the activities and resources necessary for the pursuit of the information objectives” . For this purpose, it will be fundamental to focus those information needs which, being the questions formulated at the beginning of each operation, important for the decision-making process, will lead to the drafting of a research plan. That is, to that plan which, said in other words, before being constructed with all its characterizing elements, it must have established what the objectives will be to pursue, the appropriate sources to use and the times through which to obtain the due news.
Research and collection: that series of operations aimed at identifying, searching, collecting and transmitting news to the analysis sector.
“The research activity, which in this specific case corresponds to the acquisition of information not otherwise accessible, can also make use of technical tools capable of automatically raking the data contained in the ether and on the earth’s surface ”.
This is a very delicate phase, evident or clandestine, also sometimes covered by the necessary functional guarantees, which requires a great deal of data acquisition by the various sources.
Processing: that set of procedures aimed at transforming the raw data, collected in the previous section, into information capable of producing new knowledge.
In this case, as can be understood, this final result requires specific methodological procedures to be obtained in the best possible way; avoiding or at least limiting those errors, determined by human or technological bias, which could hinder their information functionality.
Dissemination: that accurate and timely sending of the intelligence product, developed in the previous stages, to the governmental authority. That is, that information product capable of providing timely responses to the information needs requested by it, consequently generating new phases to be developed.
As you can guess from the previous lines, that of the intelligence cycle is a truly complex system of phases, which do not always follow the given order, for which it is possible to satisfy the information needs of the governmental authority. Having outlined this picture, it is now possible to establish the difference between the aforementioned intelligence and the private one. Basically as far as there may be discrepancies in terms of data collection and processing (such as functional guarantees, state secrecy and etc.) the largest dividing line between the two parties can be identified in the objective to be achieved: private intelligence, although it can also be understood as an operational tool for collecting and analyzing data, being in contrast to the institutional one belonging to companies, pursues its interests by responding to the needs of its decision makers. In other words, bringing the intelligence cycle back within the company limits, what sets it apart is its modeling to purely corporate interests. In this sense, each economic entity can, based on its objectives, resources and structures, determine the most suitable structure to meet its information needs. On the other hand, what happens is a mere conceptual shift of the phases of the information cycle, an absorption of its scientific approach, from what are national interests to private sectors. As can be understood, especially in the case of large Italian multinationals, the two sides of the coin collaborate through information exchanges useful for obtaining their respective interests. In addition, no less important is the distinction of sources, from which to search and collect the related news, available to the two realities examined: if national intelligence can make use of a wide range of information sources (Osint, Imint, Humint, Sigint, Techint, Masint and etc …) aimed at the safety of institutions, citizens and businesses; intelligence deprivesta would make use of data strictly related to its function (in compliance with the GDPR) and Open source intelligence (information collection activities by consulting public or publicly available sources).
According to the former member of the Sisde, Alfredo Mantici, private intelligence is proactive, that is, it proposes solutions based on risk analysis, not only of an economic and financial nature but above all in terms of prevention of those threats directly related to investments that they want to accomplish in foreign countries: their geopolitical, terrorist situation and etc.
It must not be mistaken for espionage, in Italy this is not allowed: it must move within the limits established by the current provisions.
As mentioned above, after keeping in mind what are the necessary notions, it is currently possible to say that the private intelligence section, in its various functions, is a reality that today in Italy is present in many of its large companies. ; the remainder is still tied to operational models that are not entirely suitable for countering the evolution of the threat. Whether it’s fear of change, limited economic resources or little importance given to the theme, the basic concept remains the same: exposure to the danger of the company, as a physical and logical component, would still remain particularly high compared to what are recent and future threats. It is not for nothing that today everyone is trying to raise awareness on this important issue.
In addition, from a government point of view, great strides are being made in terms of recognition of the figure of the Security manager or the one who will be able to maintain, update, establish a safety management system (safety and security) through the necessary skills, paradigms and human resources.
In this sense, it is important to specify how closely the concept of multidisciplinarity is closely related, in addition to state intelligence, to business intelligence and its specificities. As a strategic element, in fact, as well as embracing all the most vulnerable and potentially dangerous areas, the predictive aspect must be able to anticipate possible dangers coming from one or more less and less identifiable enemies (think of the current situation caused by the coronavirus ). It is not for nothing that today the extensive task of transforming raw data into strategic information is entrusted to analysis, also through a series of increasingly varied qualities and skills compared to the past. Consider for example how useful the human and social sciences such as philosophy, sociology, anthropology, political sciences and etc. can be, according to the much-supported holistic system, alongside more scientific profiles.
The same can be said for the figure of the criminologist who, in his more sociological, psychological or legal training, can aspire to perform tasks related to the field of corporate intelligence through different skills useful for developing predictive analyzes. After all, he is trained not only to detect different indicators but also to put them together according to an elaborate abductive inferential process (typical of investigative analyzes). On the other hand, Mario Caligiuri himself wrote the following words about the relationship between social sciences and intelligence:
“Intelligence is a human science. That is, it is a discipline that allows you to illuminate the other human sciences, but the reverse is also true: intelligence allows you to make critical and analytical contributions to the other sciences “.
As is well known, by virtue of increasingly difficult to predict events, awareness alone is not enough if not accompanied by a well-organized security system that makes use of a holistic approach.
In short, what has been defined as private intelligence, with its functions, is now a must that all realities should know and apply well. In other words, in the face of well-known Italian multinationals and large companies directly connected to state interests, there is also the need for small business realities to invest in prevention plans and more, useful to limit the damage that could be fatal for anyone. In this sense, a big knot must be untied from the beginning: that of understanding that investments in safety, although in most cases do not lead to easily perceivable gains, are never unnecessary costs but, on the contrary, represent essential benefits in terms of maintaining the business itself. A cyber attack or subversive activities followed by other problems such as the difficulty of adapting to the context or in risk management, today can bring any activity to its knees if it does not provide of a right organizational model. This does not mean that he will be immune, unfortunately it is not possible to reduce the risk to zero, but it will be useful, in the worst case, to adopt the best strategies to manage the eventual crisis.
Today the terms “Risk management”, “Crisis management”, “Business continuity and” Disaster Recovery or Real time “should be clear to any reality regardless of the activity that is performed.
Private intelligence, partly visible in recent business intelligence, represents the new challenge of the future. It will be able, if used correctly, to increase the safety, production, customer relationship, performance, growth opportunities and resilience of any business.
Within the legislative limits, it can be advantageous to formulate a risk plan, a profile of the economic counterparts and also suggest the best strategies to be adopted in the event of probable threats.
In conclusion, summarizing what has been exposed above, it is possible to argue that the old logic of mere corporate protection against the threat has been replaced by proactive methods useful for anticipating dangerous events which, due to the scale they could assume, would be able to do also numerous victims. In this sense, especially to small and medium-sized companies, a real culture of current security must be promoted: you must not be afraid to invest in your own security system, to renew the old methods with which you are used to interfacing, to seek professionals other than normal, a systemic security model will only benefit your activities. If this is not possible for several reasons, it is possible to rely on external companies specialized in this sector.
Unfortunately, there are increasingly lesser known threats and associated risks associated with them; any good investment and contrast action, as far as possible, will be useful in defining what is now understood as the value of corporate security.
Department of Security Information (2013), intelligence glossary, The words and language of national security.
Department of Security Information (2014), Training School, Intelligence Lesson.
Edited by De Luca Editori Srl., 2013, Glossary, “The language of information bodies”.
Giulia di Marcantonio, “Private Intelligence: What is it and what are the limits?”, Indro.
Leonida Reitano, 2014, “Exploring the internet”, minerva editions.
Mario Caligiuri, 2016, “Intelligence and human sciences”, Rubbettino.
Paolo Salvatori, 2018, “Spies ?, intelligence in the international security system”, La lepre edizioni.
 Department of Security Information (2014), Training School, Intelligence Lesson.
Source AICIS – Angelo Alabiso Criminologist AICIS