The Security Outlook for 2014

               This is the time of year when we find ourselves thinking of New Year Eve’s parties, confetti, Auld Lang Syne and resolutions for the new year (usually around getting rid of the pounds we put on during Christmas). There is also the stream of news stories about the past year, the top stories and the events and people that shaped the year. It is also a good time to take a glimpse into the coming year and think about the changes, challenges and rewards that lie ahead.

               Security, and how security relates to business, is constantly changing as well, so this is a good time to reflect and plan for the future.

Information Security
Cyber risks are a global concern

               Information security will continue to be a top focus when it comes to security. With the latest breach of credit and debit cardholders who shopped at Target, there is the ongoing fear of identity theft. The investigation continues on how hackers were able to collect all that information, including PINs for debit cards. How much of this was actually used remains to be seen or if it was an inside job. However, it has garnered a lot of media attention and brought identity theft and information security back into the spotlight. It would be surprising if there were not a push for some new legislation as a result of this, including penalties to businesses that expose customers.

               Another top concern related to information security and hacking is the risk of cyber-attacks, especially on critical infrastructure such as power grids. There have been various attacks, including some coming from foreign governments, such as China and Iran. A serious attack on utilities could essentially put the United States back in the stone ages in moments and would certainly wreak havoc.

               The hidden risk is the continued shift of focus away from physical security. Protection from physical attacks should never be overlooked. There have been a number of actual attacks, including active shooters, even the recent suicide bombs in Russia. 

               The story of Edward Snowden, the wayward NSA contractor, fleeing the country with tens of thousands of confidential documents is not going to disappear any time soon. There are legal repercussions ongoing and the question of how much information the NSA (National Security Agency) can legally gather from citizens will almost certainly end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

               In the meantime, Snowden still has tens of thousands of additional documents that could be released and we can only speculate what kind of information might be within. The revelations have re-ignited the debate between security and liberty. Benjamin Franklin is known for saying that those who value security over liberty deserve neither. In 2014, we will certainly see more debates on how to balance protection from terrorists while protecting individual privacy and our constitutional rights. There is an additional question related to security; how did the NSA, of all groups, miss the dangers of allowing a contractor, not even a full employee, access to so many confidential documents. You have to wonder what kind of background screening was done as well. That leads to the question of how the NSA can manage gathering so much information and find the true threats when probably 99% of the information is useless.

Pay Inequality

               The World Economic Forum’s annual report has identified economic disparity has one of the top risks facing the globe. It is certainly an area getting a great deal of attention, not just between poor and wealthy nations, but even within developed countries. The U.S. president routinely brings up the issue as a champion of the downtrodden, who in turn express their outrage at being poor across social media with their iPhones. 

               In truth, there is a growing problem. Historically, top executives once earned about 20 times what the average employee made. Today, it is not uncommon for top executives to earn 200 or even 500 times what the average employees earn. Worse, household income has dropped over the last few years while corporate profits have been increasing. That is a recipe for discontent and social unrest. Switzerland, a business-friendly nation, nearly passed a restriction that would have limited executive pay to only 12 times the pay of the lowest-paid employee.
News Photo
               The risk is disturbances or even riots, is a very real threat that could impact supply chains and disruptions of service or even strikes. We have seen a variety of businesses that boast of being ‘green’ or promoting ‘fair trade’ and it is likely that some forward thinking businesses will promote themselves for caring for employees and having more equitable pay scales.


               A look at business risks cannot ignore health insurance reform, a top issue in the United States, specifically the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Within the healthcare industry there is great uncertainty and talk of cost control, i.e., lay-offs. Meanwhile of the 40 million uninsured Americans, only 1 million signed up for Obamacare. Most Americans are finding that the costs are anything but affordable. 

               Certainly, health insurance is going to be a hot topic, within both politics and healthcare, but also one that impacts every business and individual with insurance. The deductibles and monthly premiums are increasing. Businesses that provide services to hospitals should be particularly wary, as the hospitals will squeeze every contract for savings. Likely, the only things that will not change are the salaries paid to the physicians.

Active Shooters

               Shootings in Colorado and at Sandy Hook Elementary have sparked debate on care for mental health patients and gun control. School security has been a particular focus. Just like after 9-11, when there was a sudden emersion of so-called terrorist experts, there is now a rush of school security experts with arrays of solutions. Training teachers how to fight armed attackers with knee strikes and elbows is becoming more commonplace, although there still seems to be reluctance to add well-trained, armed guards to schools (expense is part of the concern). Learning to fight back is great, but it would be better yet to have the right tools for the job.

               The risk is that attackers also learn from news coverage and will adapt their plans to harm as many people as possible. Schools and all organizations need to consider other potential tactics, such as explosives, chemicals or gas attacks and so forth. Terrorists have used similar methods around the world for decades, sometimes with horrific effect. Do not get tunnel vision.

All the Usual

               In 2014, we will see our share of bizarre and strange crimes. Lust and greed fuel evil people into all sorts of crazy schemes. If any involve beautiful women or tales of sex as part of it, you can expect the usual media frenzy. Oh. Don’t forget the usual celebrity stories with drugs, alcohol, rehab and relapses and whatnot. Did I mention Duck Dynasty?

               Fasten your seat belt and hold on. 2014 will certainly be another interesting year.

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense. He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management. Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces. To learn more email Eric at businesskarate dot com.


If you would like to reprint this post, please contact Eric at Eric at businesskarate dot com.

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