Several weeks ago I sat down with my good friend Jill to discuss security and the security profession. Jill doesn't come from our world yet she has a keen and sincere interest in what we do.
After a half hour or so of discussion Jill asked me a question that no one else has ever asked me:
"Why do you do it?"
I found myself a bit taken aback and momentarily speechless. Jill pressed on: "Several years ago someone asked me why I was an accountant. She then went on to describe all the ways in which accountants are mistreated and looked down upon in the company I was in, and asked me why I did what I did for a living. After thinking about it for a week or so, I decided that I didn't want to be an accountant.
"So why do security guys keep doing what they do?"
I admit I was touched by Jill's question. Most people view security as a necessary evil and fail to think about what we do every day -- or, rather, they don't think about it until something bad happens. I have likened the job of the security professional as that of the lone knight defending the drawbridge. Every day, the knight wakes up and dons his dented armor. Picking up his rusty sword, he steps out on the drawbridge to defend the castle. His bones are weary and achy, but he stands tall and faces off against the 100 dragons trying to enter his home. Now, most of the occupants of the castle don't see the dragons he faces daily...and those that do regularly underestimate their size/capabilities/intentions. At the end of a good day, the knight holds off the dragons and is only slightly worse for the wear. He goes back into castle, petitioning for better armor or a newer blade...and for the most part he is ignored. After all, no dragons have entered the castle yet, have they? Sighing, he goes to his quarters for a brief respite, and gets up to do the same thin the next day...
...and all the while he smiles, happy to do the work and be successful at it.
In truth, for me the answer to Jill's question has always been easy. I am, by nature, a sheepdog in the way that Dave Grossman defined the term in his essay. I have an overly-developed sense of justice and a need to keep bad things from happening to good people. This is why I soldiered when there were (lucrative) options to do other things, and why I chose the profession I did when I hung up my Army greens.
As a CSO, I talked a lot about the Single Mom at Wal-Mart as my motivation. It went something like this...
Picture a single mom shopping at Wal-Mart. She hovering just above the poverty line simply though hard work, determination, and personal resolve. Her kids don't wear new clothes, but they are always neat and clean. Their bellies are never hungry, if only through the three jobs she works.
It's shopping day. She has clipped her coupons and is trying to get her shopping done before she starts her third shift. The kids are tired, but well behaved. Her cart is full. She goes up to the checkout counter and swipes her card...
...and the transaction is DECLINED, either because (a) my systems have been hacked and someone stole all her money, or (b) my systems have been sabotaged and are down so Wal-Mart can't process the transaction.
I got up every morning, smiling, to prevent either scenario from occurring.
That's my story; what's yours? Why do you stand in the gap that few others see and even fewer appreciate? Please post your responses here if you feel like sharing.