Like most abstract concepts, security can be very tricky to pin down. There are almost as many definitions as there are sources, and they vary from th every concise to the very precise. But in order to discuss security, we must first define it, so lets give it a shot.
According to dictionary.com
, security is
- Freedom from risk or danger; safety.
- Freedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear; confidence.
- Something that gives or assures safety, as:
- A group or department of private guards: Call building security if a visitor acts suspicious.
- Measures adopted by a government to prevent espionage, sabotage, or attack.
- Measures adopted, as by a business or homeowner, to prevent a crime such as burglary or assault: Security was lax at the firm's smaller plant.
- Measures adopted to prevent escape: Security in the prison is very tight
- Something deposited or given as assurance of the fulfillment of an obligation; a pledge.
- One who undertakes to fulfill the obligation of another; a surety.
- A document indicating ownership or creditorship; a stock certificate or bond.
Whereas Merriam-Webster's online dictionary
defines it as
1 : the quality or state of being secure : as a : freedom from danger : SAFETY b : freedom from fear or anxiety c : freedom from the prospect of being laid off <job security>
2 a : something given, deposited, or pledged to make certain the fulfillment of an obligation b : SURETY
3 : an instrument of investment in the form of a document (as a stock certificate or bond) providing evidence of its ownership
4 a : something that secures : PROTECTION b (1) : measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape (2) : an organization or department whose task is security
The common themes we see between these two dictionaries so far are safety, both percieved and actual, and the institutions, devices, measures, and people that provide it. This seems to be the basic definition everyone has formulated in their minds, but as to what this safety is from, well, that is where things get interesting.
When most people think of home or business security, they think of a few very specific threats. Burglary, shoplifting, maybe hackers if they are technologically adept. Financial security may come up, but as we are concerned with the duties of a security professional, this isn't really applicable. What most people don't realize is
applicable is damage prevention. Emergency procedures. Fire and flood protection for personnel, data, and property. A good security system will include not only burglar alarms, but smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. A good security officer will not just manage a security force, but will also develop emergency procedures, actively combat potential workplace violence, and accident prevention.
You see, in many ways, fires, floods, and clumsyness are more of a threat to a business than burglars will ever be. According to OSHA, in 2004 there were 4,257,300 nonfatal accidents in private industry, and 5,764 fatal ones. This doesn't include fires, floods, and other disasters. While a shoplifter will make off with maybe a few hundred dollars of goods, a dead employee represents the loss of thousands of dollars worth of training and experiance. And oh yeah, SOMEONE IS DEAD!!
Also, while most people believe that security devices and forces are intended to defend from exterior threats, the truth is that employee theft is the chief threat watched for by most security professionals. Interior threats are always
more dangerous that outside threats. Employees have more opportunity, better access, and tend to think they have a better chance of success. Even in prisons, most of the technological and design features are meant to protect the prisoners from the guards, not to keep the inmates contained, as most people think.
Obviously, the average person's view of security does not realistically encompass the threats posed to a company. Luckily, most companies are well aware of what the threats to their bottomline are. Most of the job functions described so far are covered by security professionals all over the world, and much more. In fact, in many companies, the head of security has been elevated to an executive position (Chief Security Officer, or CSO) to reflect the importance of their responsiblities. This position will also take an active role in hiring procedures, loss prevention, and network security.
In light of this, I think its important that any definition of security also include a description of what the safety is from
, if only to bring non-human threats to people's attention. Things like fires and power outages are actually rather mundane if they are prepared for
. If they catch a company unaware, however, they can be devestating. In my eyes, security as a field is the practice of protecting people and assets from malicious individuals, human error, and inhuman disruptions, both natural and unnatural.
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