Is your security more like a seatbelt, or an elevator brake?

Bobbie Chen
Senior Product Manager
Published on
Mar 14, 2024
At Anjuna, we draw inspiration from anywhere - not only Confidential Computing in the cloud, but also traditional security technology in the physical world.

At Anjuna, we draw inspiration from anywhere - not only Confidential Computing in the cloud, but also traditional security technology in the physical world. Lately I’ve been thinking about two inventions in particular: the seatbelt, and the elevator brake. How can we learn from their history?

The seatbelt: risk reduction

In the early days of automobiles, seatbelts were nonexistent. The modern seatbelt was only invented in 1959, and adoption grew slowly over multiple decades of anti-seatbelt protest, public safety awareness campaigns, and mandatory legislation. 25% of riders in New Hampshire still do not wear a seatbelt even today, since it is not required by state law (state motto: “Live free or die”). The resistance to wearing seatbelts underscores a common human tendency: to prioritize convenience over safety.

Every time you fasten your seatbelt, you invest a small amount of time into a potentially life-saving outcome. Even though the vast majority of car rides happen without any incident, you never know when you’ll need it. In the rare event of a catastrophic accident, the seatbelt significantly reduces the risk of death and serious injury.

We often think about seatbelts in terms of risk reduction. If I adopt a specific technology or process, will the price of adoption outweigh the cost-multiplied-by-probability of an adverse event? Cybersecurity incidents are rare but can be extremely expensive considering remediation, potential litigation or regulator fines, and brand damage. It can be hard to conceptualize the exact numbers involved when we don’t even hear about most breaches - the SEC only started requiring disclosure in December 2023! Some individuals choose not to buy risk reduction, because they’ve done the math and decided to take the chances.

Even though some people skip the seatbelt and get lucky, the safety benefits of wearing a seatbelt are obvious across the population of all automobile travelers. That’s why regulators and insurers - those who bear the costs of the entire collective - eventually mandated the installation and usage of seatbelts. In the digital world, the PCI DSS standard was created by a group of payments companies to standardize on security practices like firewalls, HTTPS, and tokenization, in order to reduce the risk of credit card fraud. Similarly, cybersecurity insurance providers will offer discounts for companies with certain best practices, like encryption-at-rest and offsite backups.

The elevator brake: an enabler

Meanwhile, the history of the elevator tells a different story. The concept of using cables and pulleys to lift heavy objects goes back to Archimedes, but elevators were primarily used to move freight well into the 19th century. People were not ready to ride in elevators yet, and this limited commercial adoption: no one wanted to risk death by snapped cable every single day, regardless of the statistics about cable failure.

Elisha Otis changed everything in 1854. At the World Fair in New York, he climbed on his own elevator to a height of 50 feet and cut its supporting cable. Thanks to his patented safety brake, Otis descended a few inches instead of plummeting to his death. Otis’s skin-in-the-game demo won over wary customers and enabled him to start selling the product; the Otis Elevator Company still exists today, with millions of elevators sold. 

The legacy of Otis goes beyond his own company; it fundamentally transformed what the modern city looked like. His invention kickstarted an era of vertical expansion, enabling skyscrapers to grow higher than ever before. The elevator brake didn't just reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic event; it created entirely new opportunities.

The elevator brake is an enabler: it lets you do things that used to be too dangerous or impossible altogether. The other capabilities of the elevator already existed, but the brake closed the gap and made the whole thing possible. In the digital world, the invention of virtualization through Xen and VMware was similar: by enabling better isolation between different workloads, virtualization ultimately paved the path for entirely new multi-tenant business models - today’s public cloud.

Security as risk reduction, security as enabler

The seatbelt was amazing for risk reduction. The elevator brake also reduces risk, in a way that unlocks an entire new area of innovation. Diving into the history of other security technologies, the story repeats itself: personal flotation devices, the pressure cooker release valve, vehicle backup cameras, the fume hood, chip-and-PIN cards, the welding helmet, and so on. 

The good news: you don’t need to choose one or the other. In modern enterprises, you need both.

You will always need risk reduction to protect your most valuable assets. In 2024, PwC reported that 36% of surveyed businesses experienced a data breach of more than $1 million, up from 27% the previous year. Your customers trust you to defend them from increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals.

You also need to create new products and revenue streams, and that means finding enablers for innovation. That’s what drives growth and keeps you ahead of your competitors. If you’re reading this, you know that your organization’s seatbelts, elevator brakes, and other forms of security are not an afterthought: they empower you to serve your customers and win their business.

Buckle up, because Anjuna is elevating security 

At Anjuna, we understand that security is a necessity. We built the Anjuna Seaglass platform with the knowledge of Confidential Computing technology and modern enterprise security needs. Our customers have found Anjuna Seaglass to be an “elevator brake” enabling them to build cutting-edge Confidential AI use cases; they also view it as a “seatbelt”, helping them to protect from catastrophic key management breaches and meet the needs of emerging regulation; as “work boots”, preventing the constant pain of blocked cloud migrations; and even as “childproof outlet covers”, ensuring the peace of mind of knowing that insider threats are locked out from sensitive customer data.

Metaphors are nice, but how about some concrete numbers? Anjuna Seaglass reduces your risk immediately by protecting against 77 of the top MITRE threats. Our customers improve their time to market by 90% for Confidential Computing enabled products and services, especially in AI and machine learning use cases

Like Elisha Otis, I know that seeing is believing. Besides the resources on this website, you can schedule a live demo or for more hands-on technical folks, sign up for our free trial.

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