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Biological threat analysis

The Centre for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness’ (CBB) requirements for security measures at companies with controlled biological substances, materials and technologies are based on a professional threat analysis. In addition, CBB's operational preparedness team uses threat and risk analysis as a tool to assess biological incidents. The analysis is based on an overall, ongoing assessment of the situation in relation to biological weapons, and on concrete assessments of specific situations or incidents.

The analysis of a biological threat involves assessment of the intention as well as the risk of a specific biological weapon being used, and the assessment contains many different elements.




A threat can therefore be described as a product of intention and risk. A substance with dual-use capability (i.e. a biological substance, related material or technology that can be used for both peaceful and offensive purposes) does not by itself pose a threat without the intent of misuse.

The intention

The intention to use a given material depends on the usability of the substance, and on obstacles concerning the use, i.e. how difficult it is to obtain and use the substance. A malicious actor will consider a substance useful if it is effective in achieving a certain objective. Obstacles can be practical factors such as financial costs and security issues, but it can also be ethical considerations in relation to the use of a biological weapon. Mostly, even malicious actors will have a need for limiting the effect of an attack. For example, by using a biological substance that cannot be transmitted from person to person.

The risk

The risk of a given material can be described as a combination of the opportunity and consequences of misuse. The opportunity of misuse is inextricably linked to the availability of the substance, i.e. how easy it is to acquire. A significant part of CBB's biosecurity work is about reducing the availability of controlled material. In addition, previous attempts at misuse are also good indications on whether a substance is likely to be used.

CBB prepares threat analysis on a strategic, operational and tactical level.

On the strategic level, technological developments and trends concerning misuse of biology are being monitored. This work supports CBB's priorities and helps CBB keeping international arms control organisations informed.

On the operational level, the threat analysis contribute to the identification of specific misuse potential and helps to set out the guidelines for securing controlled material.

On the tactical level, CBB conducts a threat analysis at the same time as an investigation of a biological incident is being carried out. Here the analysis contributes to answering what the disseminated material is, where it was disseminated and whether the dissemination is still taking place.

In the threat analysis, CBB looks at scientific, biopreparedness and weapons technology methods as well as the overall biological threat picture.

On all levels, CBB's threat analysis is based on evidence and testing, and experiments have been carried out with both dispersal and improvised manufacturing methods, as seen in the picture above. All experiments are performed with harmless simulants.