Security ensures trust and competitiveness

Jarno Limnéll

Security is a hot topic both in Finland and worldwide. During the first months of 2017 (1 January–31 May), a total of 6,123 Finnish articles and pieces of news containing the word ‘security’ were published. Security forms a natural part of topics such as military operations, superpower politics, ransomware, digitalization, electricity supply security and multicopters. Overall, security covers a wide range of issues.

The present state of security can be summed up by two words: unpredictable instability.

The operating environment – and security situations – are changing quickly and often involve unexpected incidents. In addition to analyzing the current situation, security experts should increasingly ask, ”What will happen next? How well are we prepared to address even the most unlikely turn of events?” General uncertainty and rapid changes will continue to characterize our security landscape in the years to come. In practice, security increasingly requires resilience, both mental and operational.

According to Wikipedia, security means the absence of threats and risks, in other words, a situation where these simply do not exist. Even from a philosophical point of view, such a situation is impossible. Rather, security means understanding threats and risks, observing them and taking sufficient precautions. Security planning starts with understanding the various types of threats and risks and evaluating their probability and impact. Sufficient preparedness is always a relative concept. How much security should we produce? How much security does society or a business need? Security is always a matter of making choices. At the same time, we must understand the value of residual risk, i.e. what we choose not to prepare for.

However, security should not only be about threats and risks. I am sometimes frustrated by the strong negative stigma often attached to security.

We should bear in mind that security is a basic need among societies, businesses and individuals.

Unless we have sufficient security, we do not have the opportunity and freedom to do much else. On the other hand, we can see that in today’s world security is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage for businesses and societies.

Security is closely linked with trust. They go hand in hand – you cannot have one without the other.   Today’s questions about security are more and more questions about trust. What and whom can we trust in this rapidly changing, post-truth world? For example, the customer’s level of trust with a company directly affects that company’s value. We carried out an extensive survey on young people’s views about security in the future. Based on their responses, we came to the conclusion that the question, ”How to strengthen security?” should be rephrased as, ”How to strengthen trust?”

In today’s security landscape, a holistic approach is essential.

It is particularly important to understand that the physical and digital operating environments are becoming increasingly intertwined. We must be able to observe security as a whole, with the digital environment as an inseparable part – without over- or underestimating it. I believe that in the future we will abandon the concept of cybersecurity and only talk about security. After all, the borders between the various sub-areas of security are to a large extent artificial.

However, along with deepening digitalization and the accelerating pace of technological developments, we must pay particular attention to security in these areas – particularly from the viewpoint of leadership. This enables us to make security a major competitive advantage and ensure people’s continued trust in the benefits of technological development.

We recently carried out an extensive survey commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office on the current situation and future of cybersecurity in Finland. Based on this survey, I would like to highlight two key points. Firstly, a cyber secure society attracts investors, and consequently businesses that manufacture secure smart devices earn the trust of consumers. As regards cybersecurity, we are living in an era when a new kind of security culture is being created, and right now we have the opportunity to highlight security as a positive competitive factor.

Secondly, leadership is the most important area of cybersecurity that we should develop in Finland.

This security leadership requires strategic understanding and commitment and the establishment of a responsible security culture.

I believe that there is yet another area of today’s extensive security landscape that will expand considerably in the years to come. It is communications. Security and the provision of security are factors that will increasingly affect people’s impressions and emotions in the future. Changing things ”in the real world” is not sufficient if this does not change people’s understanding and impressions – not to mention situations in which things do not go as planned. The improvement of communication skills forms an essential part of security development.

I recently attended the Kultaranta talks hosted by the Finnish President. This year’s theme was the future. From the viewpoint of security, I would like to summarize the talks into one core message: ”Finland has all that it takes to ensure security also in the future, but this will require commitment, leadership and the right kind of attitude from all citizens in a rapidly changing world.” Finland’s high security competencies, the right kind of attitude and cooperation will continue to be the cornerstones of our security also in the future.

Jarno Limnéll is Professor of cybersecurity at Aalto University with more than 20 years’ experience in the field of security. He is an intsructor in various programs by Aalto EE and Aalto PRO for example in new Aalto Executive MBA in Security and Risk Management program. It is designed around the major areas of strategy, leadership, security and risk management. Read more about the program »

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