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Why thinking like a poker player can help cyber security decisions

January 2020 by GlobalData’s technology deputy editor Robert Scammell

Liv Boeree is one of the most successful female poker players in history, having scooped up $3.5m in tournament winnings during a 15-year career. She tells GlobalData’s technology deputy editor Robert Scammell why businesses should think more like poker players when making cybersecurity decisions.

Scammell says: “Liv Boeree contributed to a report from secure messaging and collaboration platform Wire, titled ‘Odds of a Bad Bet’. According to Wire, the odds of a business avoiding a malware attack in the next year are as ‘unlikely as pulling the ace of spades from a shuffled deck on one try’ – or 2%.

“In 2019, a spate of ransomware attacks crippled numerous US cities, including Baltimore, Maryland; Greenville, North Carolina and Texas. The estimated cost of these attacks spiralled into the tens of millions and has likely exceeded $100m.

“According to Wire, the odds of your business suffering a ‘costly ransomware attack are the same as a hurricane hitting Florida next year’. Similarly, a business is ‘over ten times more likely to suffer a week-long downtime from a ransomware attack than you are to suffer a house fire’.

“By failing to make the necessary cybersecurity investments, in addition to upholding a robust cybersecurity culture, businesses are gambling with their very survival.”

Boeree tells GlobalData: “I think poker is a great proxy for many things in life. The willingness to think in a quantified way is the mark of a good decision maker – whatever you’re doing.

“People often use intuition as an excuse to be intellectually lazy and avoid properly weighing up the outcomes and carrying out a cost-benefit analysis.

“The general rule of thumb these days seems to be – at least if the internet is anything to go by – is that your intuition is this magical thing, that if in doubt, you should just always trust it. And poker has shown me very clearly that that’s not necessarily the case.

“It’s very, very rare – particularly in the day and age of data science [where] we have so much information and data at our fingertips and analytical tools – it’s very unlikely that your intuitions are going to be able to outperform those. “The point is that you can’t expect your instincts to be better calibrated than what the data actually says.”

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