Securing all kinds of borders.
With increasing fears about terrorism, theft, and fraud, security has become a well-watched field in the last few years. Annapolis-based RiskWatch is happy to see the industry get the notice it deserves, and sees a brighter, more secure future because of the attention. President and founder Caroline Ramsey Hamilton talks about security, software, and voices in the wilderness.
How did you become interested in this field?
I got into this when computers first came out for home use. I had my own advertising and market research firm, and I was doing a lot of work for political campaigns. I was using Lotus when it first came out to model the results of my research, and someone from the Navy became interested. That’s when I got a partner and started building a software product that would do a security assessment.
Did 9/11 change RiskWatch’s focus and future?
It changed everything for us. Up until that time, we were doing 70 percent government work, and had branched out into physical security and risk management. After September 11th, we were asked to do risk assessment on everything, for a variety of clients.
What are some of the challenges you encounter in doing these kind of assessments?
It’s a challenge to come up with software that’s customizable. To address this, we have a whole bunch of new programs that we’re working on. In addition to the risk assessment software and physical security audits we do, we’re adding software focused on homeland security, terrorism, and port security. That last one is RiskWatch for ships, so that sea ports can do risk assessments. We’re also working in chemical bioterrorism, where we look at facilities like refineries to determine their security levels.
What are some aspects of security that companies may be missing?
You have to look at different aspects of security. When we first developed the application, we looked mostly at information security, but there are also physical security problems as well. Having an elaborate information security set-up won’t help if you leave the door unlocked to the office. So, you have to know something about different environments. You also have to have a good relationship with the government, because that’s where security standards are created.
Why do you think that physical and information security departments are so separated?
What’s happened is that when we first had computers, the people using them became increasingly technical, but companies still had the old security officer at the front desk. The officer had to worry about locks and keys, and it was a low-tech job, unlike the high-tech security officer in charge of the data. Now, what’s happening is that all the physical controls like key cards and cameras have become digital, and there’s a greater need for these different types of security people to talk to each other. The organization needs to be set up so that there’s one security department, and the people in it are equally valued officers.
What do you like most about your job?
I find it so exciting to be on the inside of everything that’s happening with anti-terrorism. I like the people that are in this business. Before 9/11, a lot of people in this industry felt like they were voices crying in the wilderness, saying “security is a problem,” and having no one hear them. Now everybody’s running to the security officer, and it’s nice to see the changes that are happening because of that.
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