Snow and security

I live in Vancouver.  Despite the fact that this is in Canada, we do not live in igloos, nor do we have to get around by dogsled.  Most of the time.  At the moment, we are having an unusual spell of snowy weather.  It’s here, for one thing.  It’s been here for more than two weeks, for another.  It’s also much deeper than usual: more than 30 cm (a foot, US) is on level areas in many places, and the piles where the snow has been shovelled are getting pretty high.

That’s not unusual in many places, but in Vancouver it is practically unheard of.

The weather in Vancouver is very similar to the weather in Seattle, so Seattle is snowed in, too.  And I was discussing this with a much younger friend in that area.  I was complaining that nobody around here was shovelling their sidewalks.  He was complaining that people in his area were.

Those of you who live in the deep snow areas will probably not understand his complaint.  You see, in this region, when we do get snow, the temperatures tend to hover around the freezing point.  So, some days the snow will start to melt.  And at nights, or on other days, it freezes again.  So if you don’t shovel the sidewalk properly, you create a bit of skating rink.

The key is to shovel properly.  There are a few factors involved in this, but the primary one is to shovel right to the edge of the sidewalk.  If you can see even one blade of grass as the edge, then, when the snow starts to melt, the meltwater does into the ground.  Leave even a centimetre of snow on the edge of the walk, and the meltwater runs all over the sidewalk, and, when it freezes, you’ve got the slickest, most treacherous footing imaginable.

Which brings me to security.  For a number of years, many of us in the field have been faced with the extreme frustration of preparing security architectures, designs, and plans to fit the particular business and environment in which we find ourselves.  Finely tuned, appropriate to the assets and risks involved, and complete.  Only to have some bean-counter come along and say that this is great, but a bit too expensive: couldn’t we get half the security for half the cost.

The answer, as we know, is no.  Security is not something you buy by the kilogram.  Security is not like a blanket, where the more you have, the warmer you are: it’s like a roof or tent, where you’ve either got one up or not.  Security is not like a road, where, no matter how long it is, it is of some use: it’s like a bridge, where, if it’s even a little bit too short it is no use at all.

So, here’s another illustation for you.  Security is like clearing the snow in Vancouver.  Do it right, out to the very edge, and you’re golden.  Do it quick and dirty and cheap, with one shovel width down the middle, and you’re creating a problem for yourself.  And others.

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Researcher, author, communications guy, teacher, security maven, management consultant, and general loudmouth Rob Slade. Also

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