The Insecurity of Security

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Over the last decade I have been overwhelmed by security overhauls, both physical and now virtual. One thing has become apparent time and time again. In most of these situations, there has been a ton of work only to make everyone feel highly inconvenienced. Yet I have no evidence that anything is actually more secure or that anyone even feels even somewhat more secure.

There have been others, but I want to explore four security overhauls I’ve experienced in my life:

1) The Folly of TSA

We’ll start with the most obvious. I was living in Israel when terrorists tragically attacked my city of origin. I can honestly say I felt very detached from the events, since at the time I was in the Israeli Army, and we certainly had our own fair share of security concerns.

However, I surely felt the magic of security overhaul the first time I went to the States post-9/11. I remember noticing that nothing felt even remotely more secure to me. It just felt like the convenience levels had dropped several notches, and the security personnel were a lot more comfortable being rude and obnoxious to all of us.

I can’t imagine a moment when I’ve felt grateful that someone forced me to remove my shoes, or randomly selected me for an extra pat down. I’ve never been too keen on traveling. This certainly hasn’t helped the matter.

But seriously folks, does anyone who passes through an American airport feel more secure than they did in 2000? Granted I’m much happier that smoking on flights is no longer a thing. But there’s sill a lot of room for improvement.

Does anyone who passes through an American airport feel more secure than they did in 2000? Click To Tweet

2) Happy Fun Baltimore

My next major security overhaul came while I was teaching at a school in Baltimore. There was a terrorist attack in a Jewish institution in Toulouse, France, and we did what anybody would do under the circumstances. Across an ocean in an entirely unrelated facility, we decides now was the time to become concerned with security.

Screw all the students who lived in danger up to that point!

We just needed the right excuse to uproot everything we were doing, in order to make those who felt completely safe now feel uncomfortable. And we needed to provide no measurable feeling of security for anyone who really thought much about the endeavors. What do I mean? You have hundreds of innocent children, without a care in the world, now ducking behind desks and learning terms like “active shooter”… because it isn’t daunting enough to be a child.

And  then you have adult and child alike who can so easily pick apart every policy that’s been set. You have everything from the hardly secure gyms and bathrooms, to those who point out that a terrorist might just not be stopped by locked doors… when there are entire walls made out of glass! I’ll never quite understand the mentality that says psychotic murderers would always be so impolite as to gently knock.

So what do we get at the end of the day? Endless meetings, countless changed policies, and worlds of inconvenience.

3) Kansas too?

I left silly ole Baltimore for the good life of Kansas. I remember the first impression when I saw the building I would be working in. There was a sign prohibiting guns, and an unarmed security guard in front of the building. I thought this was crazy. It’s fine to feel safe and to not believe security is relevant to your location. However, what in the world is the point of an unarmed security guard!? Is he there to open the door and give a pleasant greeting to the visiting terrorist?

Sadly, all humor aside, I was living there only a matter of months before a psychopath drove in from Missouri and shot up the building. And before you knew it, I was back again in countless mindless meetings, watching from up close as convenience started decreasing alongside unchanged feelings of insecurity. And reality did not change. First of all, an organization that does not recognize the folly in an unarmed security guard until after a shooting is unlikely to wizen up and recognize its inherent need for protection.

Second, again, random door closing and inane, mindless drills don’t make for a safer community. They do, however, annoy just about everyone.

4) The Mighty GDPR

And finally, the reason I keep thinking about all of  this lately: The dreaded GDPR. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a new European law with steep, steep penalties, designed to protect people’s data. For most of us, it just means we have been receiving copious amounts of emails requesting us to push buttons agreeing to things.

And for some of us, who work for companies that handle huge amounts of customer data, it has meant a giant overhaul of our workflow.

Whether security is physical or virtual, the same rule applies: The more “secure” we are, the more inconvenienced we are. In the most extreme (and ridiculous) examples, the school with no doors or windows is the most secure environment, and disconnecting from the internet is the best way to keep all data as safe as possible. But we die of lack of oxygen and starvation, if the lack of Netflix doesn’t kill us first.

My Security Predictions

Anyone who’s been paying attention knows the hackers are becoming more sophisticated by the second. And they’re more than happy to go old school and rummage through your trashcan to find out your identity. My guess is, if history proves anything, one year after this law disrupts industry on top of industry, this is what we’ll have to show for it: Employees and customers will have grown disenchanted with the new systems so much, there will be greater job turnover and worse customer retention than in previous years. Countless companies will be fined due to violations. Most likely the violations will not be due to malice, but due to careless errors or lack of a large enough staff. The major companies that could afford large staffs and giant legal teams to deal with the issues will be safe. However, smaller industries will get irreparably damaged by the penalties.

And finally, there will be zero decrease in data breeches. No one will walk around feeling any safer than they did the day before. And we’ll have yet another instance of a security overhaul that disrupts without actual protection or feelings of security.

Those who commit the acts, from terrorism to school shootings to giant data breeches, are well aware that while we continue to suffer, they dance home with smiles on their faces and money in their pockets each and every day.

And finally…

Please understand, I don’t mean to pick on any particular city or institution. I think it’s pretty much a universal issue. People usually don’t think about security until it’s too late. And when they do think of security, it’s often in the most asinine and inconvenient ways. The bad guys win by hurting us… and then we kick ourselves when we’re down by making life more annoying. And we still don’t feel any safer!

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The Insecurity of Security

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