Security Check

Unit of One

Feeling safe? All of us have new concerns about security: our national defense, our jobs, the financial markets, information technology, and the world at large. How do you measure security — and what do you do to improve it? Lock the door and check the windows — then sit down in the safety of your own home and take these lessons to heart.

Who: Mike McConnell

Title: Vice president, Infrastructure Assurance Center of Excellence, Booz Allen Hamilton
Home Base: Falls Church, Virginia

As former director of the National Security Agency, I've seen the realm of the possible. If 30 terrorists with hacker skills and $10 million were to attack us today, they could bring this country to its knees. It would take one focused cyberattack to exploit our communications and our critical infrastructures such as the money supply, electricity, and transportation. The United States is the most vulnerable nation on earth when it comes to cyberterrorism. Our economy relies on IT networks and systems. Information is what we do.

Government and business leaders haven't fully caught up to this new environment and embraced the magnitude of change required to update our security approach. The rules for handling information were largely created in the context of World War II and the Cold War. Today, everybody is an insider. The enemy can live among us and reach us through cybernetworks. What happens when terrorists realize that they can do more damage with a cyberattack than with an explosion?

Business leaders have no idea how vulnerable they are. IT networks and systems are not secure, and they need to be raised to a sufficient level of business security. Only the CEO can decide what is an acceptable level of security, because it's a question of risk management. We can do many things to make systems more secure, but we can't yet answer the question, Is that secure enough?

Mike McConnell (fc@bah.com) chairs a team of about 1,000 Booz Allen Hamilton consultants who focus on information-security issues. Prior to joining the consulting firm in 1997, he was the director of the National Security Agency.

Who: Sadako Ogata

Title: Scholar in residence, the Ford Foundation
Home Base: New York, New York

Security takes on a truly basic meaning for people who have lived in an environment of extreme insecurity for most of their lives. For the people of Afghanistan, who have experienced the devastation of continuous conflicts for the past 23 years, security means the promotion of genuine possibility. On a recent mission to that country, I was invited to visit 109 displaced families returning to the Shomali Plain. I saw that security is fundamentally a human issue.

During my 10 years as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I found that focusing on state security — the traditional way of thinking about security issues — is totally inadequate. Sure, military action and peacekeeping forces may be necessary at certain points. But the real focus should be on people and communities. So humanitarian assistance should work toward empowering people.

Real security is not about weapons. It's about the widest possible range of people having enough faith about living to see tomorrow — that they actually start to think about the next day, the next week, the next year. Feeling secure incorporates what you might call the elements of a normal life. It's about rebuilding your house. It's about going to school. It's about having enough hope to plant in time for the spring season, because you know that spring will come.

Sadako Ogata is examining the impact of global trends on refugee protection while completing her 18-month residency at the Ford Foundation. She is also Japan's special representative on Afghan issues. Previously, Ogata served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Who: Tom Ridge

Title: Director, Office of Homeland Security
Home Base: Washington, DC

The threat of terrorism is an inescapable, immutable fact of the 21st century. The United States and the rest of the world will have to adjust to this new reality. The need for homeland security isn't tied to any single threat but to the underlying vulnerability of American society.

The success of our nation does not deter terrorists. In fact, some people say it emboldens them. The hallmarks of modern American society that we cherish are the very things that make us vulnerable.

National security requires constant communication and collaboration. The private sector and all levels of government are working together like never before to set security standards and to share ideas. In the wake of September 11, we discovered that information on the hijackers' activities was available through databases at the federal, state, and local government levels as well as within the private sector. So we must build a system that brings together threat information from a variety of sources and transmits it to relevant law-enforcement and public-safety officials.

How will we know if the country is secure enough? The reality is that an acceptable level of risk cannot be defined. But we know that homeland security begins at home and that everyone must be involved in the process. In the end, our fight against terrorism will be won one home, one company, and one community at a time.

Tom Ridge, who was sworn in as the first director of the Office of Homeland Security last October, oversees a $19.5 billion budget to develop and coordinate a comprehensive strategy for national security. Previously, Ridge was the governor of Pennsylvania.

Who: Linda Chavez-Thompson

Title: Executive vice president, AFL-CIO
Home Base: Washington, DC

How secure is your job? On a scale of 1 to 10, job security on average in this country is just barely a 7. Now that the economy seems to be turning around, workers stand to have more security than in the previous year. But in general, workers are becoming less secure — and they are less secure than they actually think.

Security is not just about having a job; it's about having a stable job. Years ago, you got your gold watch after 35 or 40 years with one employer. You invested a lot in the company, and the company invested a lot in you. You had health care, a pension plan, and paid vacation time. Today, the package isn't nearly as sweet. There's nothing really keeping employees at a company for any substantial length of time. Corporate America has totally relinquished all responsibility to provide a stable environment for its employees.

The single-biggest question workers should be asking themselves is, How well is my company taking care of me? Employees should be taking a good hard look at how functional their so-called corporate families really are. No matter how high their salary or position, many workers are vulnerable, whether it be from a lack of built-in protections for 401(k)s or wage discrimination. I'm going to continue fighting the hard fight to protect every worker in this country. When I'm out of a job, every single American will have job security.

Linda Chavez-Thompson (EVP@aflcio.org) was reelected last year to a second four-year term as executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, which represents more than 13 million workers nationwide. She has been a union activist and leader for 35 years.

Who: Richard Ketchum

Title: President, the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.
Home Base: New York, New York

For the world's largest electronic stock market, there's no such thing as being too secure. Every day, the Nasdaq disseminates more than 285 billion bytes of information, 6.5 million quotes, 2.5 million trades, 1.5 million orders, and more than 1.9 billion shares. That has to happen flawlessly, in a fair environment, with high degrees of transparency, and without interruption — no matter what happens in the world.

Security means preparedness. We have always emphasized redundancy and backups in our systems. Since September 11, however, we have taken an even harder look at our security, from the physical protection of our technology to the degree of testing that we do to ensure the reliability of our systems. We're also working with the New York Stock Exchange to explore ways to back up one another.

Security also means confidence. People need to feel confident that financial information presents a sufficiently clear picture of the company and that the markets are safe from manipulation. One way we're addressing that is through an exhaustive review of our listing standards and our corporate-governance requirements.

The perfect storm of a number of events in the past year has raised considerably our level of awareness of potential threats — which is unbelievably healthy. As a result, the financial markets have never been more secure.

Richard Ketchum (president@nasdaq.com) was appointed president of the Nasdaq nearly two years ago. Earlier in his career, he held senior positions at the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc. and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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