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date: 03 December 2022

Health Security Intelligence: Intelligence, Biosecurity, and the Bioeconomyfree

Health Security Intelligence: Intelligence, Biosecurity, and the Bioeconomyfree

  • Gaudys L. SanclementeGaudys L. SanclementeDepartment of International Studies, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO)
  •  and Fredy Rivera-VélezFredy Rivera-VélezDepartment of International Stuies, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO)


Technology advancements and instruments present a beneficial influence in the bioeconomy at the intersection of security, intelligence, health, and cybersecurity. The actor–network theory inspires theoretical reflections on the importance of key actors interweaving in the information ecosystem, including human and nonhuman actors. Alliances, instruments, and public representation can raise awareness of research and development in the life sciences. The analysis focuses on the bioeconomy where the economy, biological sciences, and Big Data intersect as a source for understanding how boundary objects influence avenues of potential threats. As an emerging sector, the bioeconomy proposes using biological sciences and resources and transforming them into valuable products to enhance economic activity and drive innovation. However, the growth of the bioeconomy may lead to an expansion of security risks and threats. The increasing amount of information, coupled with data sharing and technology advancements in the biosphere, raises security concerns. The research reflects on two emerging fields, biosecurity and cyberbiosecurity, safeguarding the bioeconomy. This contribution highlights the value of knowledge production, preserving security, and awareness of vulnerabilities and risks regarding nefarious activities while not hindering research, development, and innovation in the bioeconomy. As the sector grows, more strategic protection may be necessary for the betterment of sustainable growth and development. The research contributes to the intelligence, security studies, and science and technology studies disciplines and as a source for military experts, security professionals, researchers, and intelligence analysts.


  • Security Studies


A pandemic rapidly sweeps global nations and civil society, not caring about national boundaries. The life sciences permeate the medical, health, agricultural, industrial, and food industries sprinting to research and develop new drug products due to the pandemic. Disruption in global supply chains concerning raw materials has also resulted in the modern health care system. However, let us not sleep on the idea of cyberbiological activities possibly lurking around the corner as a potential avenue of acknowledgment and exploration for the intelligence communities, military experts, and security professionals. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crosses international waters faster than the speed of light. As of December 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported approximately 268 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5.3 million deaths globally (World Health Organization, 2021b). In Ecuador, from January 2020 to December 2021, the WHO reported approximately 530,000 confirmed cases and 34,000 deaths from COVID-19 (World Health Organization, 2021b). The data may continue to change and do not account for variants of concern, such as the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 variant (B.1.1.529), otherwise known as Omicron (World Health Organization, 2021a). As cyberbiological capabilities may appear out of the darkness and unknown, gathering together and sharing information may assist the process of tackling many global issues.

Improving cyberthreat data sharing between different actors such as members of the bioeconomy and other sectors may help identify and detect the problem by reducing the risk of data manipulation, network disruption, or cyberintrusion. It could benefit multiple actors with a common interest to collaborate in information exchange and depend on each other to respond to global issues such as cyberthreats. However, could sharing information benefit adversarial intelligence agencies? How do the machines, algorithms, and Big Data play significant roles in the actor–network and cybersecurity ecosystem? Also, as the bioeconomy expands, actors may need to consider the context of data insecurities. Other considerations may include the type and role of human and nonhuman actors that contribute to the benefit and vulnerabilities of the bioeconomy. The growth of the bioeconomy may lead to an increase in threats and security risks to “physical propriety materials and informatics” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015, p. 3). The actor–network theory (ANT) inspires reflection on the relation of different actors and collaborative actions. The study also explores other concepts of science and technology studies at the intersection of the economy, biological materials, and Big Data as a source for understanding how boundary objects influence the consequences of potential threats.

Actor–Network Theory

How do actors communicate and connect in the network? As a theoretical reinforcement, the actor–network theory (ANT) (Callon, 1984; Latour, 1993; Law, 1994) provides the limitations of the network and relational ties between nonhuman and human actors. Latour (1993) indicates how ANT interweaves five loops in rendering the network of science—instruments, colleagues, allies, the public, and knots or links (Latour, 1999). First, the instruments could mean various things depending on the discipline, such as equipment, survey, questionnaire, or the tool to gather information (Latour, 1999). Whatever form of mediations an actor places, this loop concerns moving or having the scientist move the objects around (Latour, 1999). The second loop involves how a discipline, profession, or clique turns independent and relevant to “obtain the subtle mixtures that produce biochemists out of biologists and chemists” (Latour, 1999, p. 102).

Similarly, organizations, resources, statutes, and regulations keep colleagues linked together (Latour, 1999). Regarding the third loop, large groups with a common interest must be mobilized for scientific work to develop on a grander scale (Latour, 1999). Thus, alliances enhance the projects, further enabling them to endure. Latour terms the fourth loop public representation and denotes the relationship between actors such as scientists, “reporters, pundits, and the man and woman in the street” (Latour, 1999, p. 105). Such public representation can also bring other people or properties with different qualities into the fabric of facts and reality. Lastly, the word network indicates that resources may concentrate in a few places, such as the knots interconnected in a mesh. Thus, connections transform the resources into a net that extends everywhere (Latour, 1987). The five loops present a relationship paradigm through vessels and the importance of human and nonhuman actors to the collective.

Likewise, ANT helps find the relationships between different actors and the importance of such actors in the network. For instance, technology and the massive information exchange may represent instruments passed between colleagues and allies. Similarly, the potential interception of allies creates knots that could block the exchange of data. The crisscross in the loops and ties between actors allows insights into the importance of the object and instrument. However, boundary objects do not derive from ANT but rather a separate concept of science and technology studies, which complements the ANT approach. Stemming from diverse forms, the boundary objects (Bowker, 2006; Callon et al., 1986) may influence the international system. How much boundary do we place on human and nonhuman actors when the actor knows no limits? The “imbroglios of science, politics, economy, law, religion, technology, [and] fiction” (Latour, 1993, p. 2) mixes into a spiral compartment. The complexities weave together to form a perplexing phenomenon. The coronavirus exists, but does a virus spiral into other realms? Everything appears to enhance the network of objects, from the coronavirus to infectious diseases to a computer virus. The media then focus on the politics of things, the internet of things, and the economy of matters. Things continue to evolve from the economy to the bioeconomy. Themes continue to progress from social relations to international relations. The pandemic shows us the importance of other industry sectors such as academic, military, and intelligence from one focused scientific industry. These imbroglios conduct the mixture in the pot and weave our worlds together (Latour, 1993). Therefore, ANT encourages reflection on the interconnection of people, places, and things.

ANT assists in understanding the communication between different actors, the interconnection of places and things, and the combination of players as they interact in the ecological spectrum. As a heterogeneous network, ANT acts as an assemblage of different elements, human and nonhumans, which suggests that “society, organizations, agents, and machines are all effects generated in patterned networks of diverse (not simply human) materials” (Law, 1992, p. 380). Therefore, ANT allows the expansion of the mind beyond a single actor and reflects on the influence of technology advancements—either benefiting or hindering the network.

Moreover, ANT helps to expand lineal thoughts rather than maintain structured thinking. An expansion of the mind presents thought processing, development, and innovative thinking. However, too much elaboration, actors, and generals on the battlefield can lead to spiraling and helical results. Opening the door to security measures and how actors consider data-sharing collaboration may benefit adversaries. However, “how much can we share without sharing too much?” indicates one frenemy to another. While creating and sharing information within the bioeconomy stirs innovation at a national and global level that influences different sectors and avenues of the economy, data exchange also makes the bioeconomy vulnerable to illicit means and bad actors.

The Evolving Bioeconomy

The ongoing pandemic reaches new heights in the digital sphere that can influence the economic spectrum. In addition, the world economy changes as different sectors, such as the biotech, pharmaceutical, agribusiness, and chemical sectors, invest in molecular technologies (Enríquez, 1998). For instance, a combination of societal needs for energy and food during a pandemic and discoveries in biology harnesses a potential increase in the bioeconomy. While the meaning of bioeconomy continues to evolve, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy defines the bioeconomy as the “use of research and innovation in the biological sciences to create economic activity and public benefit” (White House Office, 2012, p. 7). Some scholars define bioeconomy to include “all industrial and economic sectors that produce, manage and otherwise exploit biological resources and related services” (Sasson & Malpica, 2017, p. 1). Others add that the bioeconomy comprises all economic activities related to the use of renewable resources for the primary production of resources and their subsequent conversion into high-value goods through market commercialization and processing (Riera, 2021). The committee on safeguarding the bioeconomy defines the U.S. bioeconomy as an “economic activity . . . driven by research and innovation in the life sciences and biotechnology . . . enabled by technological advances in engineering and in computing and information sciences” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2020, p. 30). Examples of how a bioeconomy exists around us include diagnostics to improve human health, creating novel drugs, food crops with a high yield, biobased chemical intermediaries, and emerging biofuels (U.S. White House Office, 2012). Other examples of the bioeconomy include biomass in producing biofuels or microbial enzymes in food (Sasson & Malpica, 2017). Nevertheless, the massive flow of genomics data threatens to overwhelm research and development budgets and knowledge bases (Enríquez, 1998).

Economic growth stems from an environment that develops innovation for different states. For the United States, four drivers of the U.S. bioeconomy include life sciences, biotechnology, engineering, and the computing and information sciences (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2020). In 2016, the bioeconomy accounted for approximately 5.1% or USD 959.2 billion of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2020). In 2018, for Latin America, the bioeconomy represented approximately 10% of the industrial GDP in Ecuador (Zambrano, 2018). Likewise, in 2012, the Argentine bioeconomy represented 15.4% of GDP, with 8.9% in the primary sector and 6.5% in the manufacturing industry (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018). A significant part of the developmental process derives from contributions by the science and engineering fields. A collaboration of diverse actors intersects in the push for economic growth.

Furthermore, at the crossroad of economic growth and biological science contributions lies the bioeconomy. Different industry actors, such as health care and defense, may be interested in developing strategies for the bioeconomy. The employment of technology and information and biological material creates the bioeconomy. Therefore, the intersection of the economy, data, and biological materials provides the space for a bioeconomy. Thus, strategic security measures may also come to the forefront as the bioeconomic sector grows.

Latin America contains valuable biological resources that shape its economy. For instance, Ecuador promotes the bioeconomy as a strategy for sustainable development. In October 2020, the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition (Ministry), state authorities, and representatives of the International Cooperation signed the Pacto Nacional por la Bioeconomía Sostenible (National Pact for Sustainable Bioeconomy) (Ecuador Ministry of the Environment, 2020b), which promotes the consolidation of a social and economic development model to use the country’s natural resources. The Ecuadorian bioeconomy focuses on knowledge production and sustainable use of natural resources through principles. Under Principle 2, the Ministry notes strengthening collaboration and open governance in the effective management of the sustainable bioeconomy derived from the principles of inclusion and decentralization, which recognize diversity at every level and seek equitable representation at all management stages (Ecuador Ministry of the Environment, 2020b). Likewise, under Principle 9, the Ministry denotes the importance of data exchange. It generates tools and indicators that gather reliable information crucial for decision-making to raise awareness of the contribution and extent of the bioeconomy to sustainable development at the local, national, and regional levels (Ecuador Ministry of the Environment, 2020b). The pact cements the commitment of all actors to generate proposals and construct strategies to implement productive activities regarding agro-biodiversity and bioproduction as an alternative economic and competitive development strategy.

Life sciences increase its digitized means, and cyberintrusion escalates, influencing international trade, diplomacy, science, and economy. As Big Data exponentially increase, they open the door to access a vast amount of information, creating difficulty in handling Big Data for organizations such as the intelligence community (IC). Security concerns include data-sharing issues, how much and when to share, and with whom to share. On one end, information exchange may address cyberthreats, but on the other end, data sharing can increase the risk of helping the adversary. For some authors, Big Data means creating massive amounts of diverse data sets that travel and that humans and machines analyze in the information ecosystem (Murch et al., 2018). The growth of Big Data requires subject expertise to interpret and process such large-scale information (Feng & Kirkley, 2020). Industry standards often define Big Data by the “four Vs”—variety, velocity, veracity, and volume (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014; Kitchin, 2014; Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier, 2013; Zikopoulos et al., 2012). The heterogeneous data often contain mistakes or lack information and derive from different sources, such as publicly available information or private origin. For the life sciences, “datasets include raw data, combined data, or published data from the health-care system, pharmaceutical industry, [and] genomics” (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014, p. 8).

The bioeconomy presents avenues for economic growth and production. The changes that the bioeconomy offers include addressing the market from a commercialized angle, creating new business models, introducing a greater quality of life, and promoting global environmental collaborative projects (Riera, 2021). Although the bioeconomy potentially generates an increase in technology and economic advancements, the faster data travel through cyberspace and increase, the more attention revolves around the security of the “cyberinfrastructure and data repositories, and the privacy and confidentiality of individuals” (Murch et al., 2018, p. 3). An increase of potential complex vulnerabilities and new threats may escalate. Vulnerabilities in the cyber and data infrastructure lead to inappropriate access to information. Vulnerabilities exist in all informatic components of human activities, such as the 2013 Snowden disclosures, the 2014 U.S. Office of Personnel Management data breach, and the 2015 Anthem cyberattack IT system data breach (Mazzetti & Schmidt, 2013; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2020; U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 2021). These types of activities could threaten economic activities.

Furthermore, vulnerabilities can exist across entire systems through passive and active means, which depend on the adversaries’ intentions and require direct access to the technology components or facilities (Murch et al., 2018). The process of integrating new data may lead to the introduction of harmful biological agents. An increase in the bioeconomy leads to higher security risks, such as “proprietary materials and informatics, industrial espionage and data hacks” (Murch et al., 2018, p. 3). Traditional security measures may no longer work when potential emerging threats include theft of intellectual property rights, cyberattacks on critical information technology components and interfaces, data corruption, and the manipulation of the bioprocess (Murch et al., 2018). Instead, diverse groups of actors may need to come together to identify and respond to the heightened security risks. Protecting the bioeconomy depends on protecting the infrastructure and information system. Therefore, both human and nonhuman actors interdepend on each other in the actor–network hemisphere to tackle the security risks.

Biomanufacturing, which uses biological systems to produce biomaterials, also may present vulnerabilities toward illicit activities that prevent the production and development of materials used for medicine and industrial applications. While adversaries may be able to counterattack with sophisticated designs, the collaboration of local and international experts may assist the IC as the best resource to reduce security risks. Adversaries do not limit the actor–network but rather enhance the spectrum of thought. Actor adversaries lead to an understanding of where sophisticated attacks occur, where a likelihood of vulnerabilities requires attention, and the potential to anticipate the a priori assumption of human and nonhuman actors in the network and the importance of adversarial and nonadversarial operations. It would be advantageous for diverse industry actors from military, security, science, health care, intelligence, and academia to work together and collaborate to better, grow, and develop the bioeconomy. Likewise, the interconnection of actors in the international system benefits from the information exchange in the cyberbiosphere. Humanizing the actor–network may foster successful avenues of sustainability, expansion, and growth in the bioeconomy. In turn, the development of the economy may lead to broadening global relations. Therefore, reducing the potentially damaging outcomes may positively influence the bioeconomy.

Technologies may play a prominent role in the network. Reflecting beyond the box of actor normality lies both human and nonhuman actors (Johnson, 1988). Emphasizing the connection between human and nonhuman actors facilitates new avenues of collaboration toward a collective interest. Sharing information and resources transforms the bioeconomy through partnerships for innovation that respond to changing technological and economic conditions (U.S. White House Office, 2012). Exploring nonhuman actor contributions may shape collaborative efforts and defend models of change. Analyzing Big Data entails relying on advanced technologies, such as “data integration, data mining, data fusion, image and speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning, social media analysis, and Bayesian analysis” (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014, p. 8). Thus, there would be no surveillance system to detect threats without analytic technologies.

Connecting Biosecurity to the Bioeconomy

Traditionally, security in the life sciences falls into the realm of biosafety and biosecurity. On the one hand, biosafety entails preventing the inadvertent distribution of biological agents from laboratories into surrounding areas or the unintentional exposure to pathogens (Peccoud et al., 2017). Safety measures to potentially prevent unintentional exposure include sterilization procedures, respiratory protection, and protective clothing (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2009). On the other hand, biosecurity focuses on decreasing the risk of using science to the detriment of humans, plants, animals, and the environment through the deliberate release of infectious disease agents (Murch et al., 2018). Likewise, some scholars generally associate biosecurity with supply chains, defense, terrorist activities, and travel (Peccoud et al., 2017).

Biosecurity breaches include intentional actions such as bioterrorism or accidental actions such as passengers traveling with contaminated material from abroad (Peccoud et al., 2017). Areas of biosecurity that could raise concerns would be the possible misuse of a pathogen by bad actors who could illegally use it to manipulate the market or cause harm. For example, as synthetic biology increases, redesigning and engineering organisms may cause concern for an intelligence analyst where bad actors can access the essential instrumentation to synthesize the pathogen. In addition, actors may use gene synthesis technologies to advance biological weapons drawn from genomic sequences of regulated pathogens (Peccoud et al., 2017).

Most individuals, institutions, and corporations have cybersecurity ideas along the same avenues, including password safety, firewalls, and two-factor authentication. Cybersecurity focuses on the “security of information technology-based systems, from personal computers and communications devices to large infrastructures and networks” (Murch et al., 2018, p. 2). These security realms may create effective results when working collaboratively rather than independently. Regarding security dimensions, the process includes the “fragmentation of data, images, or speeches on electronic networks which generates a level of security which citizens perceive” (García Lirios, 2021, p. 143). Thus, the interrelationship between cybersecurity, biosafety, and biosecurity pushes for the development of cyberbiosecurity.

In addition, perception of risk may reveal a structure of decisions and actions by actors based on the demands of the environment. For example, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has driven researchers and scientists to scramble and obtain solutions to create and develop new drug products. However, the expedited manner conducted by actors to tackle an issue may leave room for mistakes and vulnerabilities—an opportunity for nefarious actors to target.

Similarly, the massive introduction of data increases risk perceptions and reveals actions based on the resources presented by sectors (García Lirios, 2021). Security concerns differ among authorities who have different perceptions of security. Defining bioeconomy varies by a nation-state. For example, the bioeconomy in Ecuador includes promoting sustainable use of its natural resources and the direct use of biodiversity and biotechnology. However, determining the bioeconomy aligns with using natural resources and biological sciences to stimulate the economy.

In conjunction, global public safety events, such as a pandemic, pose a threat to personal safety, property, and national defense (García Lirios, 2021). Although subjectivity lies in the perception of our reality, “what we see may not be the reality [and] different sections of the population may have different expectations of security” (García Lirios, 2021, p. 147). From a theoretical perspective, the interconnection between different actors and perceptions of security in the bioeconomy may either enhance or detract from the network. For example, do we secure the biology of science to the extent of not collaborating with others to protect the product? Should we rather understand the value in the instruments while also keeping in mind the potential vulnerabilities and allowing the product to stand? A necessity to safeguard the bioeconomy exists, but in the case of citizen security, there is an imperative push to safeguard common goods that can be environmentally available for future generations (García Lirios, 2021). As such, crimes that threaten digital security in cyberspace endanger the integrity of the holder, such as the scientist, institution, or inventor. When transported to a massive scale, the same common good threatens the integrity and safety of the nation. Thus, a crucial step includes acknowledging the perception of threat and the level of security from different angles and placing value on the viewpoint of other actors.

In the case of cyberbiosecurity, “the discussion lies in the protection and safeguarding of identity and personal data” (García Lirios, 2021, p. 148), while in the case of biosecurity, the goal remains in controlling, containing, and protecting biological toxins and agents. However, cybersecurity knowledge may have given passage to the emergence of biosecurity in the life sciences field. The possibility of understanding the production of certainty may be found in scientific laboratories (Latour, 1987) since objects hold interactions together (Law, 1992).

The Emergence of Cyberbiosecurity

Scholars have proposed an emerging field at the intersection of biosecurity and cybersecurity, which aims to safeguard the bioeconomy known as cyberbiosecurity. Some scholars account for cyberbiosecurity as the converging posture between biosafety procedures and the expression of cybersecurity (García Lirios, 2021). Other scholars define cyberbiosecurity as the vulnerabilities of unwanted surveillance, intrusions, and malicious activities potentially occurring at the interfaces of “comingled life and medical sciences, cyber, cyber-physical, supply chain and infrastructure systems, and developing and instituting measures” to prevent and mitigate threats to security, competitiveness, and resilience (Murch et al., 2018, p. 1).

At the same time, another scholar offers a revised definition of cyberbiosecurity as one that “encompasses those biological, medical and genomic information security vulnerabilities that arise from the interfacing of living and non-living systems, and the integration of living (animate) and non-living (inanimate) information substrates” (Dixon, 2021, p. 688). For the author, the definition intends to include all biologically descriptive data, as well as communication common to living and nonliving systems, such as chemical materials, but is not limited to exotic information storage such as quantum biology and bioelectrochemistry (Dixon, 2021).

Experts consistently conduct research and monitor trends in the biotechnology realm regarding security concerns. For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2014) study delves into security issues connected to Big Data and the bioeconomy. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine conducts a workshop with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate to understand the implications of emerging technologies in areas of science and engineering, including life sciences (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015).

Actors may be able to use publicly available data to synthesize biological threats. Malevolent actors may potentially encode malware into DNA sequences, leading to compromised computer systems. While transparency and a trustful network may create an enhanced global space for growth, research and development, and innovation within the biotechnology community, they also construct vulnerabilities. Since biosecurity handles limited amounts of biological threats such as regulated pathogens, cyberbiosecurity may be better able to “protect against threats resulting from the intricate relationships between computational and experimental workflow” (Peccoud et al., 2017, p. 4). The biotechnology industry relies on nonhuman actors such as computer-controlled instruments, software, and databases to create or develop products. Thus, biological data and the application of biotechnology in the economy generate the bioeconomy.

However, these vulnerable instruments leave room for possible cyberattacks. Removing the nonhuman actors hinders progress in developing new products to increase the economy and contribute to global health. These nonhuman actors are pertinent players in the transgression of growth. The risks in cyberbiosecurity include, for example, the interception of shipments resulting in the injection of nefarious products, which compromises a facility’s operation, and the production of infectious agents due to corruption in a bioinformatics database by altering sequences (Peccoud et al., 2017). While the nefarious activities and the actors behind the malicious actions can limit the actor–network by decreasing progress, reflections suggest that it may enhance the network. Through these malicious actors, we can understand the interconnection of things. Expanding the mind-set by thinking outside of the box, beyond focusing on a single actor, shows how much influence technological advancements present to the world. As technology progresses and scientists or innovators create new products, there will always be illicit activities—that means we are doing something right. Cyberbiosecurity tackles these unknown risks emerging between biology and cyberspace—an area to protect while capturing the growing dichotomy of the bioeconomy.

Capturing the Bioeconomic Dispositif

To break into the material and immaterial objects, actor–network theory (ANT) captures the physical mechanism or dispositif to facilitate the translation process through the network of nonhuman and human actors (Albornoz et al., 2012; Callon et al., 1986; Jasanoff, 2004). Translations influence the composition of a human and nonhuman actor–network, reflect on the organizer of scientific practices, and create “mixtures of new types of beings” (Latour, 1993, p. 10). The technology, Big Data, and biological materials encompass the bioeconomy and constitute boundary objects. Such physical mechanisms strengthen the bioeconomy. Thus, the dispositifs facilitate the translation process.

The link between human actors, the exchange of data and the technology behind their use, and the biological materials in research and development brings diverse groups together. For example, the academic, government, and private sectors play significant roles in research and development projects in the technology and life sciences (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014). However, such cocreation of space also raises cybersecurity issues. Thus, ANT facilitates better comprehension of actor interactions’ different layers and dimensions.

Research technologies translate infectious diseases, information, and biological materials to actors, allies, and an indeterminate number of translations (Star & Griesemer, 1989). A technology mechanism, intelligence analyst, or data scientist works as an independent unit that translates the data and biological materials to carry out customer projects. Thus, these units become a center of translation. By attachment, the nonhuman actors, such as the biological agents and Big Data, work as inscription devices that transmit meaning between the economy and natural science. The objects push the boundaries of participation by connecting with other fields such as security, military, intelligence, and academic collaboration. Where the translation fails may include ineffective boundary objects that give way to vulnerabilities in the system or network. The actor–network places weight on a structure capable of change (Callon et al. 1986).

Similarly, a loss in translation may occur with adversaries gaining access to unstable exchanges.

A relevant scholarly perspective adds that “actors have the ability to propose their own theories of action to explain how the effects of agents’ actions are specified” (Albornoz et al., 2012, p. 21). The limitation does not lie in mere human actors but in the collective existence of other actors that translations establish. Furthermore, reassembling the network of actors translates into an understanding of interaction dynamics. Finally, the nefarious agents may become part of the loop of public representation, delineating other individuals with different qualities into the fabric of reality. Thus, ANT emphasizes compositions, limitations, or changes of diverse actors while capturing the dispositif and value of instruments in the bioeconomy.

Health Security Intelligence: Balancing Security Preservation While Harnessing Innovation

Scholars interpret health security from divergent perceptions. One scholar notes that health security occurs at the intersection of several disciplines and fields that do not share a common methodology (Aldis, 2008). Different players coexist in health security, which includes the areas of international relations, foreign policy, security studies, the practice of United Nations agencies in health development, and development theory (Aldis, 2008). Another author focuses on the link between security and public health by indicating that if security and public health incidents such as the COVID-19 global pandemic link together, then “intentional public health (biosecurity incidents involving bio-crimes and bio-terrorism) need to be seen not only as intelligence and security priorities, but also clearly as public health incidents” (Walsh, 2020, p. 2). Therefore, health security captures the dimensions of public health and biosecurity, and analyzing health incidents may assist the intelligence community (IC) in assessing security implications in both sectors.

In conjunction, intelligence contains three distinct attributes: secrecy, surveillance, and the security environment (Smith & Walsh, 2021; Walsh, 2020, 2011). Intelligence also reduces uncertainty in conflict (Clark, 2020) and warns decision-makers about impending threats (Walsh, 2020). Nonetheless, most intelligence practices cannot function without a relative level of secrecy, requiring passive surveillance of threat actors while working within the realm of the security environment that may include cyberthreats, military threats, terrorism, and biothreats (Smith & Walsh, 2021; Walsh, 2020). Therefore, assessing biothreats and risks relies on a strategic combination of various intelligence attributes.

Currently, no clear trajectory for biothreats and risks exists. However, can we find a balance to preserve security while shining the spotlight on innovation and not hold research and development back? The risk lies in boundary objects such as information sharing, materials created, research and development of new medicine, and bioeconomic data as the bioeconomy grows. How can comprehending vulnerabilities regarding “unwanted intrusions and nefarious activities in the life science and cyber” (Murch et al., 2018, p. 2) assist the ICs, stakeholders, or customers of the bioeconomy in anticipating or preventing possible exploitations? While technologies and scientific knowledge apply to economic gain, they increase the likelihood of access by lone or nonstate actors with malicious intent. Thus, “a critical balance should be struck between preserving security, and not hampering innovation” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015, p. 2). Different actors such as institutions, organizations, private companies, academia, and intelligence may need to identify their security stance early in the analysis process. For example, analysts may have to keep in mind the type of security risks in the containment of Big Data since “individuals who are able to design harmful biological agents likely have the expertise to create them in the laboratory” (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014, p. 35). Thus, a heightened awareness of the vulnerabilities and prioritizing the risks may benefit customers.

How can awareness assist the ICs and security experts in assessing cyberbiological capabilities? Early detection of potential threats helps in anticipating future threats. Through understanding comes knowledge of the unexpected. Understanding the possibility of a threat can assist an intelligence or security team to predict a foreseeable risk. For example, with a rapidly increasing complex amount of data, adversaries can steal or exploit sensitive information obtained during the developmental process in the biological sciences. The harm can lead to a disruption in the data applications, which can cause negative economic or health implications. Having a sensibility, such as a concern of stored genomic data, which could be a clear target for bad actors, could assist the ICs as they monitor data rest (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015).

By establishing partnerships with biotechnology public and private companies and research organizations, the IC may harness valuable data on emerging threats. Through the collaborative sharing of data, the IC may be able to analyze intelligence of potential risks in biotechnical uses that may have implications for U.S. national security. The challenge to the IC would be for private and public companies being willing to share insights into biotechnologies. Thus, building trust in the network through alliances can be a solution.

Likewise, knowing that an accidental misuse of a biological organism may present similar scenarios as deliberately mishandling a pathogen when reflecting on the potential effect of the unexpected or intentional actions. For instance, in 2014, approximately 75 employees from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were unintentionally exposed to live Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) after the CDC lab did not adequately follow sampling procedures (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). In 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense accidentally shipped live anthrax spores to nine U.S. state laboratories and a U.S. military base located in South Korea (Reardon, 2015). Understanding the intelligence behind the objects and actor collaboration from diverse fields such as scientific, academic, military, security, and intelligence sectors may raise awareness in preventing potential future threats to genomic data. Security experts and scientists can anticipate risks through information sharing concerning applications, security concerns, and new or advanced technologies. Actionable intelligence may be adopted regarding systems adaptations and how future security could be adopted based on present awareness. As science rushes and data exponentially increase, it may be pertinent for the IC to balance harnessing progress and economic growth with coordinating intelligence processes, preserving security, comprehending threat actors’ intentions, and valuing partnership, alliances, and instruments that develop innovation.


Value arises in bringing together diverse actors from different groups—for example, mathematics, engineering, biological sciences, and physical sciences. Forging new collaborations from the intelligence, security, and military groups also develops innovative solutions to complex problems. Connections between alliances can bring about positive developments. Although no natural connection may exist “between a military man and a chemical molecule, between an industrialist and an electron” (Latour, 1999, p. 104), or would encounter each other through a natural tendency, the alliances can shape change in tackling issues.

In addition, acknowledging the value of nonhuman actors, such as biologically driven products, integrated cyberinfrastructure, and information technology tools, enables complex Big Data interpretation. The ability of these actors to come together and tackle challenging issues influences the future of a growing bioeconomy. One sector may not work without the other, and collectively collaborative efforts could enhance the international information ecosystem. Nonetheless, as technology changes, so too do new security threats arise. Human and nonhuman biological attributes form critical security vulnerabilities. Sophisticated adversaries sit unwavering ready to attack, exploit, and take advantage of the increase in data and biological exposure.

Understanding the value in objects such as software, fabrication tools, and database instruments in the actor–network may raise awareness of the risk presented. The value in instruments also may lead to evaluating the cost involved in new technologies versus managing and including cyberbiosecurity. We can comprehend the importance of using different mechanisms and instruments to create products and increase innovation to better the economy and people. We can also see the importance of the open exchange of ideas with other actors contributing to economic growth and scientific research and development. Nonetheless, a broad range of scenarios should be considered regarding the risk in data exchange and using specific instruments. Both human and nonhuman actors contribute to the broader perspective of processes, production, and change.

A key value in awareness assists actors in managing the risks in a trustful network of diverse actors that exchange information through publicly available data located in the gray area between biology and cyberspace. Increased awareness of threats and vulnerabilities assists in calculating the costs of managing cyberbiosecurity during the development of new technologies, which may incorporate more cyberbiosecurity mechanisms. Open communication between the different industries and sectors and conducting training from the bottom-up to the top-down may significantly reduce threat risk and generate awareness. Keeping in mind the value of nonhuman actors, the instruments of production and creation can also be an avenue for forecasting the type of risk that may be presented. Lastly, cyberattacks in the bioeconomy may not necessarily limit the network of connectivity and information exchange but rather enhance the network by highlighting the value of progress and creation. Cybercriminals attack where there is an opening. A lack of awareness or communication between sectors opens the door for the threat creator to come in and say hello—we have to be four steps ahead of nefarious agents and shut the door.

Further Reading