Cybersecurity First: Becoming GOAT

As we close off Cybersecurity Awareness Month, let us examine how we can become the cyber GOAT: ‘greatest of all time’. Sure, there will be plenty this week on cybersecurity training, making security a priority, more investments into products and processes and all that fun stuff. But we’re not going to talk about that right now. We are going to talk about something different you may not see elsewhere. We are going to talk about success.

You see, no matter what strategies your organization decides to deploy — password safety, microlearning, security by design, hardening, you name it — success (not security, not safety, but success) is the glue. It is all those individual pieces of greatness building up to something larger than the sum of its parts.

Success is what you, as an individual and organization, should strive for. If you focus on security and safety, you miss the bigger picture. Those are goals. Success is a system. Success is:

That’s your platinum-level, all-access pass, nirvana state.

Turning Your Cybersecurity Skills Weaknesses Into Strengths

Wayne Gretzky had many incredible quotes, and we can apply many of them to cybersecurity training and strategy. One of the most relatable ones is: “When I was five years old, I played against 11-year-olds, who were bigger, stronger and faster; I just had to figure out a way to play with them.”

Folks, you may be up against nation-states, advanced persistent threats and cybercriminals who have no sense of law or common decency. Then, you are the five-year-old playing against 11-year-olds who are bigger, stronger and faster.

Therefore, to achieve success in the cybersecurity domain (the individual aspect) you have to define success in the organizational domain (the team aspect). Cybersecurity, albeit an important piece of the puzzle, is still just a piece. You see, it’s about being the best you can be individually, but also supporting the efforts to attain the prize. In the hockey universe, the prize is the Stanley Cup. Let’s see what we can learn about good cybersecurity training from good hockey.

A Team Outcome: The Way to Achieve Success

The Edmonton Oilers, from 1983 through to 1985, were the most dominant professional hockey team (insert debates regarding 1987 and 2014 Team Canada teams for most dominant ever). That team was graced with so much talent. The Oilers were so dominant, goalie Grant Fuhr racked up a record-setting 14 assists. The NHL had to change the rules for the coincidental minor 4-on-4 rule.

But their success was a function of their individual talents and aspirations becoming unified. It lead to something much larger: winning the Stanley Cup. Gretzky’s 200-plus point seasons are amazing feats but mean less without the championships. And Gretzky knew that individual talent meant nothing without that team cohesion. The same is true for cybersecurity awareness and training.

Good Cybersecurity Training Makes Your Teammates Full Partners

The book “Wayne Gretzky: The Making of the Great One” quotes Ken Dryden, legendary goalie from the dynastic 1970s Montreal Canadiens, on how Gretzky flipped his disadvantages to become strengths.

“He was, I think, the first Canadian forward to play a true team game,” Dryden begins, stating how teams, prior to Gretzky’s arrival into the NHL, focused on the player with the puck. “Gretzky reversed that. He knew he wasn’t big enough, strong enough or even fast enough to do what he wanted to do if others focused on him. Like a magician, he had to direct attention elsewhere, to his four teammates on the ice with him, to create the momentary distraction in order to move unnoticed into the open ice where size and strength didn’t matter … Gretzky made his opponents compete with five players, not one, and he made his teammates full partners to the game. He made them skate to his level and pass and finish up to his level or they would be embarrassed.”

The cybersecurity world can learn something from Gretzky’s approach to the game. If an adversary is playing against a few select players (your security operations center, your incident responders, your security staff) and taking advantage of those not playing the game (everybody else that is uninterested), it is easier for adversaries to succeed. 

But if the bad actors are playing against your entire organization? That’s an entirely different story. With good cybersecurity training, you can become partners in success with your colleagues, and the wins will come naturally.

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Author: George Platsis