5 minutes with Joe McMahon

We recently caught up with Joseph McMahon, COO of SAME Solutions and Human Risks Advisory Board member, to get his thoughts on the state of Security and what keeps him up at night.

Security expert Joe McMahon

  1. What do you think security leaders should be focused on over the next 3 years?

    In my opinion, the keyword is ‘agility’. Ask yourself ‘what will the threat environment look like next year (let alone in three years)?’, ‘what will the constraints be to counter it?’ and ‘what will my budget be to do so?’ I think you’ll find those questions pretty difficult to answer, and if you feel like you have the answers, maybe that’s even more dangerous. We live in such an intense period of transition – economic, political and social – that it’s difficult to predict anything. In the physical security field alone there’s the changing threat, but also increasing demands for regulation, and conversely a demand for openness and reduction of overt physical security. It’s a case of preparing for everything and being ready to devote resources quickly and efficiently when specific issues emerge. That means holistic risk management across the company, of which security is an integral part. It also means a convergence of cyber, physical, travel, crisis management and other related capabilities. We talk a good game about these being one but the truth is that most companies are still siloed.

    So, just like the companies themselves, their security departments will need to focus on flexibility, creativity and speed to stay relevant, and it is not something security departments are known for. If you’re thinking ‘I’ll just keep doing what I always do, it’s worked so far’ I think you are going to be called out. At best you’ll lose relevance within your organisation and at worst you’ll fail to protect your people and assets. Instead, we need to think ‘how can I continue to innovate my security provision to give my company a competitive advantage?’ to win more contracts or to gain more market share.

  2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest pandemic-related risk, other than the virus itself?

    The global economy. I don’t quite get how economies can be doing well during the global pandemic. Quantitative easing, countries borrowing at unprecedented levels, the hidden costs of the pandemic to the less well-off, will all contribute to us having to pay for that at some point, and it could be very painful. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already so hopefully I’m wrong!

    If we think in pure security terms though, it’s got to be cyber. The pandemic has accelerated our reliance on technology, and I can’t (or perhaps don’t want to!) imagine a sudden, prolonged loss of connectivity or a failure of a major IT provider. An accident would be bad enough, if it was an intentional act it would be even worse and we are seeing developing threat actors whether criminal organisations, nation-states or simply Joe Bloggs in his basement.

  3. If you were a world leader, what concerns about the world’s future would keep you up at night?

    Well, definitely COVID-19, the global economy and the cyber threat would keep me up most of the night already! But if I had any hours sleep left I’d say, war. Yikes. As well as the cyber and hybrid stuff going on in the background there are so many potential flare-ups for state-on-state conflict these days that if your children asked you ten years from now, ‘was it a surprise that the war started?’ You’d say ‘no, not at all, what was a surprise was how it started, nobody expected that, but that there was a war? No, that wasn’t a surprise at all.’

  4. If you could have any superhero power, what power would you choose and why?

    The ability to, with a single email, cut the procurement cycle of my clients in half. Or even better – every time I sneeze it cuts a month off of my client’s procurement cycle. It would be the best, a) because those cycles tend to be very long and b) because it’s spring and the pollen will help with the sneezing.

  5. Are you team cats or dogs?

    Cats. I appreciate how they manage to make you feel like they don’t need you, whilst spending every living moment of their lives being fed and hanging out on your lap. Pretty clever.

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