November 17, 2009

by Jeff Kirsch1210501_chess2

In “Playing Games”, I shared some lessons that I learned while playing chess with my son. Chess is a rich example of the need for, and challenge of, planning ahead. For those unfamiliar with this game of skill and strategy, the goal is simple: Capture your opponent’s king and force him into a position known as “checkmate.”

During the game, opponents take turns moving one piece at a time until a player is considered to be in “checkmate”, meaning he can no longer move his king. An interesting element is the need to notify an opponent when they are one move away from being captured by declaring “check.” This is a great game rich with strategy and nuance, with more details here.

So how does chess fit into my “plan ahead” strategy?

If a player simply moves pieces on the board without thought as to how her opponent will act, pieces will be captured easily, leaving her with a weaker offense and defense. Opponents must be evaluated on how they will move; offense must be based on anticipation of defense. Chess is a game where there are two opponents with an obvious adversary, and the less obvious self.  Those who properly anticipate the other player position themselves for maximum advantage.

The act of protecting information is similar to the practice of protecting the King. Those who seek to attack the protected information are opponents, and considered what they are doing as a game.  I’m not suggesting that what we treat it as a game as well; rather, what is important is the strategy required for both.

Understanding that we are at a disadvantage from the start is key to devising our strategy. Our opponent needs to remain undetected until they have what they need. If they are discovered too early, the chances of achieving their goal drops dramatically.

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