What Your Security Team Can Learn From the Olympics

The Olympics are such an inspirational time of year. Extraordinary athletes from around the world gather to attempt a lifelong goal of achieving Olympic gold, often the culmination of years or decades of tireless training and dedication. And, we at home get to sit back and watch the best competitors in the world perform amazing acts of athleticism. It’s an exciting time and one I always look forward to. 

While watching some of these world-class athletes at the top of their game over the past few weeks, I started to think about the field of security, and what important lessons could be learned by considering how Olympians got to where they are. With that in mind, I came up with a few takeaways for how security teams can work together to reach cybersecurity gold.

Bring your individual strengths. Not every security practitioner has the same skill set, just as not every athlete plays the same position. The US basketball team wouldn’t be effective with five point guards on the court, even if they were the very best in the world. Similarly, your security team should be made up of a well-rounded group of individuals who each bring a crucial piece of the puzzle, from experts in running a security operations center to skilled networks administrators. They should also be working closely with NetOps, DevOps and other units to best serve the organization. It’s important to have a well-balanced team who together form a complete unit to most effectively secure your organization’s data.

Remain dedicated to your craft. Athletes train for years, even decades, to make it to the Olympics. Likewise, security professionals need to remain up-to-date on current trends, threats and technologies so they are staying ahead of the bad guys. Just as many Olympians train several hours a day, seven days a week, it’s important for security teams to remain on high alert and be ready to intercept a threat or react to a data breach at a moment’s notice. They also need to continue to learn new skills to effectively compete against the adversaries they face.

Consult your playbook. In sports, preparation is key. Athletes will often watch footage of opposing teams to understand what they are up against, while spending endless hours training for what could be just a short race or a few moments of play time. Having a precisely laid out plan for what you are going to do in that moment of conflict is of the utmost importance. Similarly, security professionals need to have a plan in place for what will happen if or when their organization is attacked. Just like an athlete, you will often spend hours, or years, preparing for just a few moments – it’s absolutely key to ensure you have set tactics in mind when the time comes. 

Adjust your tactics. Having a playbook is incredibly important to best prepare yourself for whatever conflict comes your way, either on the field or in your network. But nothing prepares you for the actual moment of attack. It’s important for security practitioners to understand the potential threats that are out there before they become an issue; but once you are under attack, it’s even more crucial to adjust your responses and adapt to whatever the assailants throw your way. Remaining nimble and adaptable will be key to a positive outcome, whether that’s a secure network or a gold medal. 

Listen to your coach. While athletes are hard at work on their individual tasks, it’s up to the coach to consider the bigger picture and how best to bring the team together to benefit the whole. Similarly, the CSO or CISO needs to be able to lead their team and consider the impact they will have on the broader organization. Having a strong leader to look to can be the difference between a well-functioning unit and missing the podium altogether.

With all of the excitement surrounding the Olympics, it’s easy to forget the amount of hard work and dedication it has taken the athletes to get to where they are – the peak of athletic performance. If security teams dedicate themselves in the same way, they can also reach cybersecurity gold.

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Jennifer Blatnik is VP of cloud, security and enterprise marketing at Juniper Networks with focus on enterprise deployments of security, routing, switching and SDN products, as well as cloud solutions. She has more than 20 years of experience helping enterprises solve network security challenges. Before joining Juniper, she served multiple roles at Cisco, including directing product management for security technologies aimed at small to medium enterprises, as well as supporting managed services, cloud service architectures and go-to-market strategies. She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley.

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