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Security’s moments of bravery

Sep 07, 20124 mins
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Security leaders are asked to be brave in the face of uncertainty every day. What are your proudest moments of courage?

“Bravery resides in every heart, and the time will come when it must be summoned.”

I have been watching, with great interest, the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, both of which have been held and televised over the past two weeks. Now, this blog is not, and will never be, a forum for political discussion. I bring up the conventions because last night, while watching Vice President Joe Biden speak to the delegates at the DNC, he mentioned a quote that got me thinking.

Growing up, Biden said his mother was fond of telling him: “Bravery resides in every heart, and the time will come when it must be summoned.”

This month marks our ten-year anniversary here at CSO. The publication has been serving security and risk professionals for a decade. Yesterday, the CSO team gathered for a small celebratory event to mark the occasion, and one of the topics of discussion was memorable speakers from CSO events over the last ten years.  One person that stood out for many was Marcus Luttrell – a young Navy SEAL who, in 2005, while serving in Afghanistan, was part of a mission known as Operation Red Wings.

Luttrell wowed a CSO Perspectives crowd one year with his tale. Luttrell and 3 other SEALS, while on the covert mission, were discovered by local goat herders. The group let them go because they were civilians. But within two hours of releasing them, Luttrell and his team was ambushed by a large group of Taliban fighters. The three other SEALS Luttrell was serving with were killed, and Luttrell was severely wounded and left unconscious. But when he came to, Luttrell managed to evade enemy capture, and was assisted by local Pashtun villagers, who not only took him in – but kept him safe and ultimately saved his life.

Luttrell, his SEAL team, as well as the villagers who helped save Luttrell’s life, certainly understand what it means to summon the bravery in their hearts.

Before I came to CSO, I worked for many years as a local television news reporter. One of the more memorable stories that sticks out for me was about a middle-school student in Vermont named Ryan Halligan. Long before the term “cyber bullying” came to be commonplace, Ryan was one of the first cases I had ever encountered. Ryan, at just age 13, took his own life after enduring the cruel taunts of classmates – both in person and online.

As reporters, we are not supposed to be emotional, but I can tell you it was very hard not to cry while sitting with his parents one day at their kitchen table and seeing how raw their pain was in dealing with this senseless, unspeakable loss. But Ryan’s parents, John and Kelly Halligan, summoned that bravery in their hearts and began to lobby for legislation in Vermont to improve how schools address bullying and suicide prevention. They also speak in schools about the effects of cyber-bullying on teens. And, perhaps most importantly, they were instrumental in the passage of a Bullying Prevention Policy Law in May 2004, and later a Suicide Prevention Law in Vermont – one of the first such laws on the books.

As security professionals, you are likely called upon to summon your bravery often. Perhaps not in such a dramatic fashion as the examples I have just provided, but, no doubt, security professionals need to be able to be strong just to make it through many days. Reflecting up this now, I’m sure many of you can think of a time when moving your security program forward seemed almost impossible with the challenges in your way.

I’m thinking, for example, of the CSO and security team of any organization that has just experienced a headline-making breach. While the easier thing to do might be to simply throw up one’s hands and leave in the face of a cybercrime landscape that is constantly evolving, always becoming more threatening, many brave security leaders stay, learn from mistakes and make effective changes to mitigate the threat of breach again in the future. We have examples all over CSOonline and their organizations are better for it.

What are your moments of bravery? Can you think of a time when the task seemed insurmountable, but you summoned the courage necessary to get it done? We love a good story here at CSO, so leave me a comment with your tale. Or email me with your thoughts at