IT security owes a lot to the game of football. We have huddles to determine strategy. We have defense. Our job is to keep the other team away from our ball. We have a game plan. Sometimes, we fumble, but winning is so sweet! In honor of the big game this weekend, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how IT security and football have changed over the last 50 years.

IT SecurityA lot of today’s CISOs weren’t even alive when the Green Bay Packers faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the big game of 1965. 1965 was more than a major moment in football, though. It was also an important year in IT. That was when the IBM System 360 really started to catch on, ushering in a new era of corporate computing.  Security was a bit simpler then, of course. Networks were essentially private and relatively easy to secure. As long as you could keep human beings away from your data center, all of which were apparently guarded by “Madman” style data processing clerks who used a lot of hairspray, you were staying ahead of the bad guys.

In some ways, football has changed since 1965. The goal posts are placed differently on the field today. The hash marks were closer together. And, for some reason, every football game in the 1960s seemed to take place on a blustery day in Minnesota, in slow motion, with Sam Spence’s “March to the Trenches” playing in the background.

Ultimately, though, football is still pretty similar to the way it was played in 1965.  IT security… well let’s just say it’s a totally different ball game. The cloud data center of 2016, which might have hundreds of thousands of servers open to millions of users across the globe.  It’s simply not your daddy’s data center anymore.

Security has gotten a lot more complex and challenging today. It can be stressful to consider the level of risk we are facing in IT security.  Yet, perhaps the enduring strategies of football can help us think about how we can evolve our IT security practices and become more effective at protecting our enterprises today:

– Be the quarterback of IT security – There are moments in IT security when you must feel like you’re the #1 quarterback facing down players like the Panthers’ 320 pound Star Lotulelei and his “smaller” teammates without anyone to run interference. Yet, at the same time, no matter how crazy it gets, you’re still the #1 guy! You can outthink the bad guys. You’ve got moves they’ve never seen before. IT security is a head game. Understanding your opponents is key to staying ahead of their exploits. And, like the quarterback, you need to know how to recover from an attempted sacking. This is what business resiliency is about – getting back up and playing to win no matter how badly you get hit.

– Rethink your defense strategy – In the old days, most teams relied on either a “man to man” or “zone” defense. In IT security, it was the same, with separate siloes of activity, such as network security, operating system patching, and so forth. Today, we need to switch around our “men” and “zones.” We cannot keep the old habits any longer if we want to ensure effective security. The best IT security practitioners today are cross-discipline, with security policies cutting across infrastructure, software, compliance, networks, business continuity, disaster recovery and beyond.

– Keep your eyes on the ball – Football is about moving the ball down the field, using defense to protect the quarterback and receivers so they can score touchdowns. Security is about defending against threats so your company can make money. Life gets way more complicated as time goes on, but these fundamentals do not shift. The key to success in both football and IT security, though, is agility. Pure defense on its own is meaningless. IT security is only relevant if it enables the business to execute on its strategy.  If security inhibits agility, the business suffers.

Now is the time to kick off new thinking on security and business resiliency. Get in a huddle with CenturyLink’s security experts and learn how we can help you play better defense in order to enable your management team to carry the ball to the strategic end zone. Request a risk assessment or a 1:1 consultation today.

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