When a lottery jackpot in the United States climbed to an unprecedented $1.6 billion earlier this month, a noted security researcher posited via social media that his industry peers shouldn't play the lotto. If they do, he argued, they tacitly admit to being poor at risk analysis, an essential component of the security professional's job. His reasoning was grounded in fact: The particular lottery game he was referencing comes with a 1-in-292.2 million chance of winning the grand prize. Not to sound purposely morbid, but players actually stand about a 10-times likelier chance of dying on their way to purchase a ticket than they do of selecting the correct combination of numbers.
Nevertheless, the researcher's observation drew a spirited response. Some agreed with his premise, but others remarked the two can't be conflated - that the risk assumed by purchasing a $2 lotto ticket is negligible and acceptable compared to the risks involved with defending a corporate network. But perhaps the most telling, albeit disheartening, responses came from a handful of infosec professionals who were willing to justify dismissing mathematical probability on the basis that the lottery offers an out, however unlikely, to the grueling reality of the security field, which is brimming with round-the-clock threats from outsiders and insiders alike.
Truth be told, it's likely few if any security professionals are truly banking on a gambling windfall to free them from their jobs. In fact, most people decide to specialize in security because they are drawn to the challenges and thrills that such a career brings, and are willing to overlook the mundane and the maddening for the greater goal of repelling attackers and safeguarding precious assets. Security pros may not be a relentlessly upbeat bunch, but they aren't looking for a way out either.
But the somber sentiment, and others like it, is worth noting. Security professionals do face an avalanche of high-pressure pain points uncommon to other professions, from malware threats and an expanding attack surface to complex and uncontrollable technologies to committed adversaries and oblivious insiders - all while confronting these risks with constrained resources, including headcount, skills, budget dollars and security operations centers that either don't exist or aren't enough.
As the demand for these resources continues to far outpace the supply, the logical answer for harried IT professionals is to not to rely on a stroke of luck, but to invest in something more reliable and rewarding that will help relieve some of the burden. One way to do this is by partnering with a managed security services provider, which can help augment skills, stretch security budgets and drastically improve security outcomes. Your chances for success and happiness are likely - and you won't have to beat astronomical odds to get there.
Dan Kaplan is manager of online content at Trustwave and a former IT security reporter and editor.