Cyber Reality Check: This is No Amusement Park

October 2015

Photo from an (ISC)2 Security Congress session

Photo from an (ISC)2 Security Congress session

A toast among colleagues overheard at a tech conference:

“Here’s to an insecure world…and lifetime employment.”

Cynical? Perhaps. But in today’s world, insecurity is a common anxiety accompanied by the persistent search for security of all kinds, Nowhere was that more obvious to me than at the 2015 ASIS International/(ISC)2 Security Congress, a conference for all things security, from hardware to software to cyber, held recently in Anaheim, just a few blocks from Disneyland.

While a traditional conference in the sense of combining panel discussions, workshops, presentations and an exhibitor/vendor space, this conference touched at the very core of the modern angst: Is someone watching me? Is someone listening in on me? Is someone stealing my stuff, even my good name? How can I protect myself?

The good news: There are many people who are working at ways to keep you and your stuff safe.

The more challenging news: That level of security comes at a price, not only in dollars but in potential risks to personal privacy.

Security professionals offer locks and keys of the real and virtual sort to protect your personal information, your finances and your home. The trade-off is that we must trust them to deliver that security without taking advantage of their insider status.

Wandering around the exhibition halls at the Anaheim Convention Center, I saw all kinds of security items for sale. Here’s a very partial list:

  • Portable metal detectors
  • Home security systems (cyber and wired)
  • Body cameras
  • Camera-equipped drones
  • Body armor
  • Police batons
  • Very high-tech locks and keys
  • Social media monitoring
  • Solar powered surveillance systems
  • Private investigation
  • New-era security guards
  • Security consultants
  • Software in all varieties

Being flip, I described this expo as more overwhelming than Comic-Con. And it is, in a very tangible way. While Comic-Con provides the fantasy of all kinds of security breaches (usually accompanied by special effects and eerie sounds) and solutions, this conference brings home the real-world fears of both hand-to-hand and virtual violence, all the while showcasing efforts to protect us.

After wandering the exhibition hall (picking up pens and other tchotchkes along the way), I went back to the world of the developers and got re-grounded. Here were some very devoted, passionate and smart folks trying to make our unwired world safe and productive. While I do struggle with security versus personal privacy, some of the people I met at the conference were able to, perhaps unknowingly, reassure me that they are working for my best interest.

—Deborah Johnson