Thursday, February 19, 2015

Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish

It often amazes me how many people don't understand the value in building and maintaining long-term relationships built on trust.  To some people, if there is a dollar to be made in the moment, or a favor to be extracted at the current time, that trumps all.  Of course, behaving this way erodes trust and sacrifices any chance of an enduring relationship.  It's a penny-wise, pound-foolish way to behave.

In the information security realm, this is all the more true.  Most of us spend years building and maintaining long-term relationships because we understand that the information security community is built on trust.  It can often be tempting to sacrifice this trust for a short-term monetary return or a favor.  But, in the long run, this is a foolish way to behave.  After all, at the end of the day, our relationships and our reputations are essentially our careers.

As the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.  There is much truth in this.  We all know what happens when someone optimizes for the short-term.  The next time that person calls, no one answers the phone.  We are all human, and we all err from time to time.  When we err in this manner, we should own up to it when called on it.  Believe it or not, that actually helps restore trust.  Certainly moreso than dancing around the truth or trying to distract those who are questioning us.  That seldom fools anyone, despite how politely they may behave in reaction to these tactics.

The information security community is close and tight-knit.  None of us can afford to have no one answer the phone the next time it rings.  It pays to think about that the next time we consider substituting short-term gain for long-term trust.  It's penny-wise, pound-foolish.

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