Complacency Will Kill You (Right Delta Airlines?)

Airplane crashI’ve been heavily involved in technology nearly all of my life.  As a child, it was a hobby I was passionate about.  As an adult, I found a way to turn that passion into a career.  But I have a second love: aviation.  I LOVE airplanes.  I flew gas-powered radio controlled airplanes that I built myself starting at 12 years old.  I became a licensed (certificated) pilot in 1999.  And for a time I even took a hiatus from my career in technology to explore the idea of becoming a commercial airline pilot.  I went to flight school and earned all of my certificates (instrument, commercial, multi-engine, flight instructor, instrument flight instructor, multi-engine flight instructor) and then taught others to fly while I built up my flight time and experience.  Eventually I flew for an air ambulance company flying Cessna 421s, which are small twin engine propeller-driven airplanes.  I accumulated just over 2,000 hours of flight time all together before returning to the world of computers.

One of the most important lessons I learned from aviation is that complacency will kill you.  To protect the innocent, the guilty, and also to save time, I won’t go into the details here, but I will say that I lost several dear friends and acquaintances to aviation accidents due to complacency.  Pre-flight checklists were skipped or rushed, distractions were allowed into the cockpit, and in some cases, ego crept in.

I’m not immune to any of this.  As hard as I consciously fought it, complacency got the best of me as well.  I was in a relatively minor accident myself several years back.  While I wasn’t the one in control of the aircraft, I was the instructor who was ultimately responsible for my own safety as well as the safety of my student.  I was comfortable with his skills, I relaxed, and things went wrong.

Andrew Grove, founding member and former CEO of Intel, once said, “Success breeds complacency.  Complacency breeds failure.  Only the paranoid survive.”

In my case, I had never been in an aircraft accident before.  I was “successful” in that regard.  That success did, in fact, breed complacency which contributed to the accident.  I was very fortunate because nobody was seriously injured as a result of my complacency.  I cannot say the same for my friends who are no longer with us today.

Most of us fight complacency in much of what we do.  It’s human nature.  We simply can’t pay full attention to everything, so our mind and body manage to automate much of what we do.  For example, how much attention and effort does it take to drive your car?  Zero.  The car becomes an extension of your mind.  It seems all we have to do is think, and the car obeys.  Which is why we can drive while eating, fixing our hair, talking on the phone, dealing with children in the back seat, you name it.  Until we fail.  If you’ve ever been in a car accident you likely remember the paranoia that follows.  Driving now has our full attention again.  We quickly become firm believers in Grove’s philosophy that “only the paranoid survive.”

I talk (and write) a lot about cybersecurity.  It’s my business, I get paid to do this.  But I am very aware that this is not necessarily something that the rest of the business community tends to get excited about.  Most organizations, where cybercrime is concerned, have been successful.  Meaning they have not yet dealt with a catastrophic breach, system failure, and/or data loss.  If they have been compromised at all, the consequences weren’t significant.  This level of success leads us to complacency.  We have a firewall in place, anti-virus software installed, data backups running, and an IT guy to take care of it all.  What could possibly go wrong?

It seems that in life we have two options: 1) learn from our own painful mistakes, or 2) glean wisdom from the mistakes of others.  Delta airlines has been making all kinds of news this week.  It is often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  I bet Delta disagrees right now.  What happened?  A power surge, a power outage, out of date equipment, failed backup systems.  Those are just some of the things I’ve read.  This isn’t directly related to cybersecurity (as far as they are willing to admit, anyway), but it does illustrate the importance of complacency.  When was the backup system last tested?  My guess: never.  At least that is what we find with the vast majority of businesses that we audit.  The backup system is in place and so they become complacent.  It’s a wonderful false sense of security.  The same goes for your outsourced IT company or in-house IT department.  Are they doing what they tell you they are doing?  Are they keeping you safe from data loss, system failures, security breaches, and human error?  How do you know?

In the aviation world, the cost of complacency is very obvious.  Death.  Literal, ugly, gory, brutal death.  But in the world of business, the consequences are not always so obvious.  We tell ourselves that it will never happen to us, and if it does, our IT guy will make it all better.  That’s a LOT of trust to place in one person, one department, or one organization.  Perhaps it’s time for a second opinion?

Here comes the sales pitch!  (You had to know it was coming, right?)  But the good news is we have two audit services we offer, and one of them is completely free.  The other costs a few dollars, but the peace of mind should be worth 10 times what we charge.  Maybe more.  Just ask Delta.

Don’t let complacency kill your organization.  Call us TODAY to schedule your FREE technology audit.  Unless, of course, you prefer to learn the hard way: from your own mistakes…