Despite the added spending… are we safer than we were a decade or 2 ago?

07 Oct

635501157613460008-homeland-security-43483471                Since the mid to late 90s spending on security has increased by several million dollars. After 9-11, it increased faster and at an exponential rate because of the technology aspect of it. But the question we have to ask ourselves is quite simple and because it is so simplistic it will be ignored or glossed over by most.

That question is this; are we safer than we were a decade or 2 ago? My answer for this is an absolute no. We are not safer, although we have convinced most of the general population that we have made ourselves that way. We as security professionals can point to alarms, fences, officers, software and the like to quantify this as well.

But usually it is the politicians who will spout that “I did it…I made us safer…I passed this bill…I introduced…” and so on and so on. Of course it’s not only politicians. Security professionals, software engineers, sales people (of all stripes), and innumerable others will saturate you with the platitudes about how well and impregnable their products will make our facilities. And absolutely none of it is true.

As security professionals we have to think like the criminal, terrorist, or hacker. If you do that then you can easily see how our facilities are not impregnable and how easily they can be breached. The facility can, and probably will be breached, no matter how much money we throw at the problem.

One of the worst things we can do after we upgrade to newer ‘more secure’ appliances, equipment, or software is make the declaration. When the state of Connecticut spouted that the new, and improved, Sandy Hook Elementary was the most secure school around it made me cringe. Before the 30 second news cast was over with I had already thought of 3 ways to get into the school and cause havoc and chaos as well as kill dozens. This despite that the school was secure.

They spent more than
$10 million on the new school. And while it may be true it may be safer than the previous version it’s not the most secure and impregnable. Those words are spoken to calm the fears of parents and groups who want our kids safe and secure and none of it is true. But as I said earlier. No matter the amount of money you throw at the problem it can’t be solved that way.

What we have to do as security professionals is temper the flattery and feel good words that flow out the mouths of salesmen, consultants, and our own management/C-suite. We can never be 100% safe and secure. We can’t even assure than we can be even 60% sure.

The best we can hope for is a stalemate between those who wish to do us harm and our efforts to protect our charges. Whether those charges be people, assets, property, or products doesn’t matter. We have to be constantly on the lookout for the next threat.

That threat is just around the corner, despite what anyone wants to think or what they will say to employees, the public, politicians, or whoever. Do you remember the cliché from the 70s television show ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’? “Bigger, stronger, and faster.”

That is what we face. There is always someone out there who is bigger, better, stronger, and faster to get their threats into production to injure, kill, maim, and traumatize people. From terrorists, workplace violence, theft, fraud, computer hacking and the stealing of secrets, to military conquest.

That is where we, as security professionals, need to be aware and think like a criminal, terrorist, or hooligan. We need to stay a step ahead and the only way to do that is to think like them. We know we can’t out spend their brains but we can try to out think them. Sometimes those thoughts are definitely old school and considered, at least in this digital world, out-of-the-box and weird but…

Just because you spend an extra $10,000 for a voice activated/interactive vehicle doesn’t mean it will work to perfection. Spend money on IT consultants who will tell you that it will be easy to upgrade to the newest and hottest newfangled computer software. and does it work as well as they promised? Usually it takes months, if not years, to work out all the bugs and kinks.

So just because we throw money at the problem of security has it made us any safer? No, it hasn’t. There are ways to circumvent any security system you have, even drones, there are ways to evade detection and get around them. Dogs can be compromised by food. Officers can be compromised by money or a beautiful and sexy member of the opposite sex. And alarms, including CCVS & computers, can be compromised by innumerable methods.


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.


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