Speaking of Security: A new monthly blog for SDN
Editor's Note: Christopher Walker, a Professor and Director of Security Studies at Northeastern University, is a new regular contributor for Security Director News. In his new monthly guest blog, "Speaking of Security," Walker will explore the security profession and its integration with the wider world of business. He'll bring his perspective gained from his years as a law enforcement officer, a chief security officer in the private sector, and his time in academia. He also holds a doctorate in business administration.
Not surprisingly, as with the tragic events of 9/11, the shooting in Aurora, Colo., has brought out many security “experts” who opine how the shooting might have been prevented or mitigated (even my son’s martial arts instructor has an opinion). What is also unsurprising is that, without knowing what security or risk mitigation programs might have actually been in place, the company that owns the movie theater has been judged by many to have failed to secure its environment against a violent attack. Perhaps, it did. But that is an issue to be addressed in the courts. And, it will be. Both sides will have their various experts testify and the most compelling legal argument may not win. I understand this as a former court-qualified expert witness in negligent security. I say “former” because that was only a temporary role and never how I made a living. What I do now is more mundane. I educate. I do it in the classroom, in executive education programs, as a consultant and will now seek to do some variation of it for Security Director News. More specifically, I have been asked to create an ongoing column that will appear in SDN roughly once a month, depending on interest—yours, mine and the editor’s.
I want to be clear why I agreed to do this column. I am not selling anything. I have no agenda beyond informing and, if I am lucky, educating. To what end? Well, if security is to be recognized as a profession within the business community, it will not be by establishing security standards or developing technical expertise. It will be the result of understanding more fully the world of business. Consequently, no matter what security related topic I write about, it will always come back to the basic point that security practitioners must help businesses operate more efficiently and effectively. And, to be clear, these are two very different concepts. But, I will save that discussion for another day.
Understandably, there is a tendency to question the credibility of a writer or speaker who posits an opinion. In truth, one of my biggest irritations comes from the so-called security experts who, absent any real business experience, base their claims on years in law enforcement or the military. Somehow, the media find these people credible on the topic, often because of the position or rank they once held. I do not. While I respect this prior experience, it is not business experience and that anyone might conflate the two is, well, ignorant of the realities of business. This leads me to the credibility question that may well have formed in your mind—Just what does this guy bring to the table? Or, as someone once asked me, why should I listen to you?
As simply said as possible, my perspective is born of ten years in law enforcement, twelve years with a global firm (nine as the CSO responsible for global security in a multi-billion dollar division), and six years as a full-time professor at Northeastern University, where I got the job because I hold a doctorate degree in business. This is not an attempt to say my resume is better than yours; rather, it is to suggest that I might offer a different point of view.
So my commitment to the reader is simple; I will not shy away from weighing in on topics that deserve discussion, even if not agreement. While I will try to be fair, undoubtedly I will offend, irritate, or otherwise bother some readers. But, there is nothing wrong with that. Just like medicine and law, security is a field that needs much debate and discussion. In fact, without it there would be no growth and improvement. As anyone in the field of technology knows, innovations do not occur because something is bad, but because it can be better (think landlines being replaced by cell phones; which, in turn, are being replaced by smartphones with countless apps). At its heart, my effort will seek to generate thinking and discussion. And, speaking of that…
ASIS International's global conference will take place in Philadelphia in September and a number of speakers will offer their insights and opinions, based on their education and experience. I will be among them. More by accident than design, I will speak at two sessions. A member of ASIS for more than 25 years, it has been my privilege to speak at a number of their conferences in a variety of countries. So, I welcome your attendance and feedback. As with this column, I will try to be interesting, even if disagreeable. I will never have all the answers, nor will I pretend that I do. On the contrary, what I am more likely to have are tough questions. As Theodore Geisel (Doctor Seuss) once said: “Sometimes the answers are easy and it is the questions that are complicated.”
Christopher Walker is the former Executive Professor of Strategy with Northeastern University's College of Business Administration and now Professor and Director of Security Studies at the university's College of Professional Studies. Prior to entering academia, Walker served 10 years as a law enforcement officer, followed by nearly a decade as CSO in charge of global security for a multi-billion dollar division of a Fortune 50 company. He also holds a doctorate in business administration.