For more than 130 years, Abbott has created breakthrough products — in diagnostics, medical devices, nutrition, and medicines — that millions of people use in more than 160 countries.

Behind Abbott’s life-changing products and trusted brands is a best-in-class security team that delivers impactful security programs, tools and services.

“Abbott literally helps people live better lives; it saves lives. That mission is at the core of everything we do. It’s important for myself and the Global Security team because our job is to secure — from idea to delivery — life-changing technology, products and services,” says Geoffrey Shank, Divisional Vice President, Global Security at Abbott. Shank has more than 34 years of experience in law enforcement, investigations, intelligence, diplomacy, security, cyber and technical operations.

The Global Security team at Abbott is focused on being a business enabler for the company and its 113,000 employees. Its mission is not only to build a robust, mature security program that protects intellectual property (IP) and trade secrets, but also to manage every aspect of security, including crisis management, business continuity and business resilience, technical operations and security systems, executive protection, safety and security of all Abbott facilities and locations throughout the U.S. and more than 160 countries. At the center of the Global Security mission is safeguarding Abbott’s reputation as a market leader and an enduringly successful company.

Building operational resilience

To ensure the business is on the right trajectory to operational resilience, Abbott has been on a five-year journey to evolve the security division into a technically advanced and intelligence-driven security organization. This mandate includes establishing holistic business continuity and business resilience, guarding against intellectual property theft and establishing risk and threat intelligence.

“Protecting Abbott today to ensure a better tomorrow — that is our central emphasis when it comes to our e-commerce Brand Protection, Health and Safety Program. We have an experienced team skilled in supply chain risk management, criminal investigations, analytics, and link analysis that delivers measurable results,” Shank explains. “We coordinate our efforts with Abbott’s highly skilled Legal Trademark lawyers and are supported by investigators across the globe. We are a partner and business enabler that leverages experience and technology to discover, analyze, prioritize, and remove non-compliant products across multiple platforms.”

Because business continuity and business resilience impact every facet of the business, it permeates everything Global Security does. “It all comes back to that central theme of having a safe space to do our work and deliver life-changing products,” Shank explains. Whether it is a traditional brick-and-mortar store or an e-commerce marketplace or platform, the focus remains the same.

Protecting intellectual property

A primary focus for Global Security is overseeing efforts to mitigate IP theft. Because Abbott produces life-changing technology, it’s incredibly important to safeguard Abbott’s cutting-edge innovation. To do this, the Global Security team collaborates with Abbott stakeholders to develop a situational awareness program.

The program, Situational Awareness for Everyone, Everywhere, allows the Global Security team to train thousands of employees in person and virtually to address intellectual property, trade secret and public identifiable information (PII) protection, as well as other security concerns. 

A critical part of designing a program to protect IP has been bolstering the company’s technical security. Whereas many companies will outsource technical security countermeasures, Global Security has built that capability internally to retain critical and sensitive information. “We are limiting our exposure to protect and provide services to critical business sites worldwide,” Shank explains.

Developing risk and threat intelligence

During the process of securing intellectual property, Shank also saw the need to develop a risk and threat intelligence program. The main challenge was defining the difference between information and intelligence. “It took some time to reevaluate and evolve the way we looked at sharing information, how it was vetted and then for people to trust the source,” Shank says. “Now, situational reporting from our Global Communication Center is a familiar, vetted source that is value-adding by aiding crisis management leadership’s sound decision-making process.”

But it was important for Global Security to separate the two — risk intelligence and threat intelligence. According to Shank, threat intelligence “tends to focus on predominantly unknown, potentially negative actions, impacts or actors that, for lack of a better term, are in process. On the other hand, risk intelligence builds upon discoverable or known infrastructure vulnerabilities that raise the potentially negative impacts from known/unknown threats. Both have applicability across the broad spectrum of security-related areas of responsibility,” he explains.

The Global Communication Center — which plays a crucial part in investigating and vetting information — is different from a traditional global security operations center, Shank says. The Global Communication Center is staffed with information experts that work 24/7, all 365 days of the year. The center works in tandem with an internal and highly trained intelligence team who are subject matter experts on open-source investigations, tools, and techniques.

A key part of this team is that it’s internal, Shank says. “We are doing all critical intelligence pieces internally. Our team is led by experienced subject matter experts, the best in the business, and has been a key part of building our intelligence function.”

Hiring and retaining experts in different core competencies has played a key role in Abbott’s journey to operational resilience. Abbott has recruited top security professionals from a broad spectrum of outlets, including INTERPOL, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Law Enforcement, Intelligence, and all branches of the military. Of equal importance, the division continues to develop internal talent with an inherent knowledge of business operations, thereby creating promotional opportunities for all employees through a strong matrixed organization.

Developing this internal capability has allowed Global Security to be better positioned with the information piece in place, and it is now ready to partner with an intelligence resource to take it to the next level. “It’s about giving us visibility into the past, present and future, but also about creating a risk register to chronicle what is going to happen so it can be triaged, categorized and then pushed out to all of our stakeholders and team around the world,” Shank says.

“Because our scope is so broad, we are able to recruit and train people to transform our workforce to look like the people we serve,” he says.

Six years into its efforts to focus on intelligence and technology, employees and stakeholders are better positioned to help Abbott ensure success is sustained for the long term. “In 2023, we’ll have our mission roadmap completed and establish a blueprint for how we look into the future,” Shank says.