IT Security: Winning When You Fail

As a marketing lead at an information security company, I spend a lot of time talking to customers. I hear about their concerns, how they use our technology, what we can do better, and how they live a reality where catastrophe can (and does) strike without warning.

The best stories are the war stories. Tales from the front line where hackers patiently wait for the perfect shot and oblivious employees gently toss hand grenades over the firewall without a care in the world.

After talking with so many customers, I’ve learned a lot. For example, the best and most innovative IT security teams are losers. That’s right. At some point in their history, they lost and they lost bad. But it was this failure that spurred them on to redefine their approach and – as a result – build some pretty amazing solutions.

You can’t really win until you fail.

When It Comes to IT Security, Failure Feeds Innovation

One of our customers – a large school district in Texas – is a perfect example. First let’s all agree that working IT at a high school is a tough gig since you’re expected to run interference on a generation of people who cut their teeth on technology. In this particular case, a group of students from the computer science class took it upon themselves to continually hack into the video system of the school. This led to a series of intrusive and embarrassing incidents that reflected poorly on the IT team.

Rather than engage in a protracted game of whack-a-mole, with IT madly hammering down on each new point of ingress, these veterans of InfoSec took a different approach. Instead, they converted their enemies into allies and developed an in-house team of White Hats. Today, these students work shoulder-to-shoulder with IT, helping them anticipate the next hack / virus / threat so they can build the necessary workflows to avoid these traps.

With this approach, the IT team converted the competitive, “beat-the-system” energy of the students into the ultimate focus group. It’s a win-win. The school benefits from having insiders on their side while the students are engaged and learning – maybe even discovering a potential career path down the road.

It’s amazing when you consider that all of this evolved from a significant point of failure. Of course, failing is never the objective, but sometimes it’s a really good way to get ahead.