This essay claims that the upsurge of security nowadays is not caused by specific events such as 9/11, Fukushima, or similar catastrophes. Our assumption is, in contrast, that it is the constitution of functionally differentiated societies itself which allows the security and risk discourse to be applied to all types of issues and phenomena, even though security and risk have only went viral as universal societal problems in the late 20th century. We will flesh out this approach using three bodies of work essential to the German debate. With regard to social policy, Franz-Xaver Kaufmann argues that the viral nature of the security issue arises from the fact that the security concept in modern society is split into system security and self-confidence. Niklas Luhmann’s concept of risk – stemming from systems theory – shows that the prominence of the topic is the result of the intrinsically modern compulsion of having to forejudge an uncertain future. In contrast, Ulrich Beck’s work on (global) risk societies is centred on the catastrophic potential inherent in (post-)modern risks as a cause for the rise of security debates. The sociological analysis employed here not only explains the rise of risk and security topics; it also provides society with a characterization of itself, which in turn can re-affect society and ultimately motivate a different historiographical self-description.