The title of this post is essentially the first 3 elements you hear in any security class.  I should know, I have a minor in physical security, have a master’s in cybersecurity, have two advanced IT security certifications, and have worked in the DoD in cybersecurity since 2009.  Back in college, I had two summers working in industrialized security.

This post is about how you secure something.  For example, your great grandmother’s diamond ring, a high priced baseball card, or even one’s national borders.

I have been hearing a lot the last few months that “walls and fences do not work”.  This is somehow the message many people in the media have been telling you, which is now some sort of amusing punch line to me.  I now have liberal friends and family parroting this statement to me – because they heard it on the news, it must be true.  More than ever, the news has been used as a means of conveying one party’s (or the other) base messages, so you have to be careful – it’s not news you are stating as fact, you are stating the opinion of a news network who may strongly favor one candidate’s position over another.

Every time I hear the statement “walls don’t work”, there’s a level of rage boiling beneath the surface that is hard to express in our 140 character society before I am shouted down for trying to express my opinion on the subject…one I’m very qualified to answer in a logical and academic way for anyone who wishes to spend 10 minutes in academia as opposed to cowering in a safe space.

“Walls don’t work”.

So now let’s examine security as a whole and get the aerial view.  Many of you now probably have images of “Paul Blart; Mall Cop” and some of you would not be off base.  This might be the best way to deter a 15 year old from stealing a $15 shirt off the rack.

While I cannot get into every nuance of security here, I can give you the overall basics in the next 5-10 minutes of reading – and allow you to try and think for yourself here.

We’re going to test the statement “walls do not work” here, and see if this stands up to scrutiny and thousands of years of security practices.

Who knows, maybe we should outlaw making walls/fences anywhere because it can offend neighbors who want to take a shit in your back yard or break into your shed?

First, let’s talk about some famous walls, or walls you see in society…

  1. Walls of Jericho.  Constructed around 8,000 BC.
  2. Great Wall of China.  Those pesky Mongols!!
  3. Berlin Wall.  They didn’t capture and deport people.  They had a cheaper solution.
  4. Walls of Israel.  Stopped terrorism.
  5. Castle walls (pick your castle.  Any castle.  Really, any castle has walls.  Ever.)
  6. Walls/fences around prisons.  Maybe we should tear down all prison fences, and see how the people who live next to the prison feel?
  7. Walls/fences around the White House.  F that.  Let’s let people walk up and ring the doorbell.
  8. Walls/fences around your neighbor’s yard.  Let’s make it illegal!!  It offends me.  I want to sit on his back porch and eat my sandwich because he has nicer furniture than me.  It’s not fair I can’t sit there.
  9. Walls/fences around any celebrity house.  Don’t they love their fans?  All of these celebrities who want to welcome the world in here….don’t welcome you to their front porch.  And neither do the politicians who are against the wall.

So you then ask yourself, why have walls?  What good are they, if some person can just pole vault 30 feet or dig a 6,000 ft tunnel 30 feet under the earth, then it’s useless.  There’s just no point in making the wall if it’s so easy to defeat, right?  No point.

Hmmm..Tunnel under a wall?  As luck would have it, if I ever won a billion dollars in the lottery, my home security system will have a moat.  At first, you think I’d have some big ass alligators in there (and you’d probably be right), but the reason castles had moats were to prevent people from tunneling under a castle’s walls.  You dig a tunnel, you hit the moat, you drown.

Anyway, why have walls?

  • Security by obscurity.  While it’s not a perfect solution, if people do not see you have a really expensive chair out back, it’s less likely to be stolen.  While someone might be able to leap the wall, they might not be able to get back out.
  • Layers of security.  While a wall can be defeated by several means, it slows people down.  It makes it more difficult.  You can have two fences with a zone in between patrolled by dogs, jeeps, snipers, and even motion sensors.  You can have barbed wire or razor wire.  While someone may make it difficult to get through the first fence, they will be detected prior to getting through the second fence.
  • Deterrence.  In 5 minutes, you can do google searches for people who are sick and tired of people coming across the border and walking through their back yards.  Where fences have been built (600 miles have already been constructed), it funnels traffic to where there are no fences.
  • If you deport people, it makes it more difficult for them to come back over.  Many people have been deported many times.
  • Enforcement of laws/policy.  A wall/fence is a physical barrier enforcing a law or policy.  As Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors”.  If my neighbor has a 6 ft privacy fence up, it’s showing me it’s not ok to go walking around his back yard when I’m fall down drunk one night.

OK.  So when should we be using “security?”  Why doesn’t every person have a massive fence and expensive safes in their houses?

Much of this boils down to a risk analysis and cost benefit analsys (or ROI).  Whether you are talking about physical security, cybersecurity – or even national security, you usually start with a risk analysis.  Then, you weigh your options and put costs with the options.  Simple at that.

For example, ATM + A.

  • Accept.  Nothing we can really do about it.  Low risk.  It might cost way too much to deal with, so it is what it is.
  • Transfer.  I have a $1,000 baseball card at home.  I don’t want to buy a million dollar security system.  I insure it against theft for $5 per month.
  • Mitigate.  I’m going to design a way to secure this object.
  • Avoid.  Florida gets hurricanes.  Perhaps we do not want our backup data server to be located in a place that has unpredictable weather.  And bath salt people who eat faces off.

To do a risk analysis, you then plug items into a matrix and do the following for EACH item:

  • likelihood of occurrence (low, medium, high)
  • impact of occurrence (low, medium, high)

So, you give numbers for likelihood and numbers for impact, and multiply.  The highest numbers are addressed with the most importance and you cannot “accept” these items.

What do you do?

You investigate options, evaluate costs, and perform return on investment analysis.

Let’s look at some below possible scenarios:

  • I have a baseball card worth $1,000.  I can:
    • insure it for $5 per month
    • buy a $3,000 safe
    • put it in a safety deposit box in a bank for $10 per month ($120 per year, or $3,600 for 30 years).

In the above scenario, you evaluate the worth of the item you are securing, and then perhaps choose to transfer the risk and insure it for $5 per month.

Does your thinking change if the card is worth $400,000 and your options are now:

  • I have a baseball card worth $400,000.  I can:
    • insure it for $1,000 per month
    • buy a $3,000 safe
    • put it in a safety deposit box in a bank for $10 per month ($120 per year, or $3,600 for 30 years).

If you look at the above options – it might cost too much to insure it.  Also, while the home safe might be good, you may have now have introduced secondary and tertiary risks of increasing your likelihood of home invasion – which now threatens the safety of your family which you cannot put a price on and is therefore your “costliest” option.  You then decide in this case to put it in a bank’s safety deposit box.  They have walls.  And guards with guns.

So sometimes you have to evaluate the value of what you are securing and weigh it against the costs.

The problem can then be applied to our border protection.  For example, you have the below problem statements:

  • Problem 1 – Illegal immigration costs this country $113 billion per year in social services, criminal just system, etc.  With having a $20 trillion national debt, we are wanting to reduce our costs and expenses because our national debt is critical to our national security.
    • Option 1 – accept/transfer – increase taxes and have U.S. tax payers pay for these services.
    • Option 1 – accept/transfer – decrease spending elsewhere, like national defense, medicare, etc
    • Option 3 – mitigate by trying to resolve the root issue
  • Problem 2 – When people come across our border, and we cannot determine who is coming across, this poses a national security problem.
    • Option 1 – accept.  The world is a bad place.  Sometimes bad people will come across and do bad things.  C’est la vie.
    • Option 2 – mitigate.  Filter who is coming in so we do not let people on international terror lists in.  Filter those coming into our country by making entrance more difficult with improved guards/gates/guns.
  • Problem 3 – When people come across our border, and we cannot determine who is coming in, this poses a problem to our citizens’ security.  A US GAO study revealed in a 7 year period, that illegal immigrants were arrested for 25,000 murders and 69,000 sexual assaults.
    • Option 1 – Accept.  99% of the people coming over are good people. They should not suffer for the bad people.
    • Option 2 – Mitigate.  Filter those coming into our country by making entrance more difficult with improved guards/gates/guns.


What you then get into, is what are the costs of accepting and mitigating these items?

In generalized terms, to ACCEPT the items above and do nothing:

  • Over a 30 year period, you are looking at $113 billion per year at a cost of $3.39 trillion and could completely overrun our social services, communities, and social systems (plumbing, traffic, water supplies, etc).
  • Over a 30 year period, you run the increased risks of over 100,000 arrests for murders of US citizens and nearly 280,000 sexual assaults.
  • Over a 30 year period, there is an enhanced risk of terrorists coming here and shooting up schools where your kids go or blowing up people that you care about.

In generalized terms, if you want to TRANSFER the items above:

  • Over a 30 year period, taxpayers will have to pay more for services of illegal persons as well as harm our national security or welfare systems.  Increased taxes stifle productivity and lead to long periods of slow growth and recession.

In generalized terms, if you want to MITIGATE the items above:

  • Over a 30 year period, there is potential to save the taxpayers from paying $1-$3 trillion in services for illegal persons.
  • Over a 30 year period, up to 100,000 murders can be prevented as well as almost 280,000 sexual assaults.
  • Over a 30 year period, there will be a $20 billion initial price tag and $1-2 billion per year maintenance fees at a cost of perhaps $50-$100 billion over 30 years against almost $2-3 trillion in savings.
  • Over a 30 year period, dozens or hundreds of would-be terrorists would be thwarted at our border walls saving countless lives or be deterred from trying to cross there.


The responses I would get to a logical writing such as this is perhaps “xenophobic” or far worse.  That is an emotional response to a logical and mathematical/business argument on how security works in conjunction with risk analysis.  I’m simply teaching you the discipline of security and risk analysis as its been taught to me.

Make up your own mind.  Accept? Transfer?  Mitigate?

To conclude, I would posit that history has demonstrated that walls are used as a layer of protection as part of a security plan, not be the end-all of total security.  While walls are not foolproof and can be defeated with some effort, they offer a cost-effective way of deterring and preventing breach by slowing or preventing a would-be attacker.  Using risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis to apply to the problem statements above, it is therefore logical to mitigate the problems by building additional walls or fencing in the most cost-effective solution which provides the greatest ROI over 30 years, despite high up front costs.  I have heard entertainers and the like recently cry out how this $15 billion can go to feeding the hungry instead of building a wall.  Well, if you save $1-3 trillion over 30 years by spending $15 billion now, you are indeed feeding a lot more hungry people by building the wall now.

Finally, while emotions from many run high with helping poor immigrants, this video pretty much solidifies that the best way to  help the world’s downtrodden is to help them where they are.