In the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks it is important to recognize a few important points as the media bombards the world with comments from scared politicians, especially in the United States more than anywhere. Like with any form of security, the primary operating foundation is risk management. This is in stark contrast to what the average citizen believes – the ability to prevent every terrorist attack.
Like in the ephemeral world of cyber security, it is impossible to stop every single attack, every day, from now through eternity. In cyber, attacks happen constantly – not a minute passes without some cyber weaponry being fired. Malicious actors continuously launch operations designed to disrupt or compromise their targets.
The differentiators in cyber are the low threshold to arm oneself, and the ability to attack without causing any form of physical harm. This makes it easy to constantly pull a so-called cyber trigger without ever needing to stop. People almost never face actual bodily harm.
The type of terrorism experienced in Paris causes actual physical harm, as we can all witness on the 24-hour news cycle. However, although one form of terrorism is kinetic and the other is not, they both are identical in one aspect: the ability to prevent every form of both malicious acts is unattainable. While the goal is lofty, it is impractical to believe security professionals are capable of thwarting every act of terrorism, no matter the form it takes.
We need to recognize the goal of terrorism is to scare people. However, by giving in to the terror by enacting laws and policies designed to drastically modify the American way of life, we allow the terrorists to win. This is what they want to happen – they want us to change. If we become more personally vigilant through education, rather than expecting our government to save us from future cowardly acts of murder, we win.
Do not let the media sway us from the truth: terrorism will continue no matter the loose or strict our laws we pass. Whether America – or other countries throughout the world – take additional steps towards the inevitable police state or not, there will be future acts of terrorism. They will happen in the United States or somewhere else in the world. It is inevitable. Why?
We cannot stop every act of terrorism. Nobody can. It is an impossible task, and something we should not expect of law enforcement and our intelligence agencies. Hindsight is absolutely 20/20, so it is easy to look back on an incident and theorize how it could have been prevented. In some cases that may be true, but mostly it is a false assumption.
The best thing we can do now is to continue living our lives as we always have – be the consummate American, but grow and learn from these terrorists. As in cyber security, our goal in fighting terrorism is to assume compromise but minimize the damage the malicious actors can inflict. There is a delicate balance between security and liberty; we should err on the side of liberty otherwise we lose and allow the terrorists to dictate the message.
That can never happen. We can, and will, overcome these trying times thanks to our resilience, so long as we keep our eye on what is important.