Everyone enjoys the positive recognition that comes from winning an award for a job well done. To security professionals seeking to advance their career, there is value in being recognized for achievements like this within your organization.

This is also true for being recognized as a noteworthy contributor who has positively impacted the profession. Awards that are external to your organization can impact your career, and some of these security industry awards are more universally recognized than others.

Award schemes have exploded in the past five years, though. The number of trophies one can win seems endless. Substantially more awards across many more categories are finding their way onto security professionals’ resumes and social media profiles. As a result, it is becoming more difficult to track those that are meaningful, significant and descriptive of someone’s skills, capabilities and achievements.

We wanted to better understand the agenda of these some of these newcomers to the security awards business. We started with a 30,000-foot view and then took an in-depth look at several that are trying hard to create buzz in the security community.

We learned that many of these programs are simply monetizing the awards circuit. They are aggressive promoters of their own business interests and target award winners who they perceive are security industry influencers. The goal is to appear to have an affiliation with the individual and the individual’s organization in the hope it lends an air of legitimacy to their awards business. This practice takes unfair advantage of security professionals who are seeking credible differentiators for their resume or social media profile.

This is a global problem not only for individuals, but for companies of all sizes. We receive at least one solicitation each week claiming we have been selected, nominated or chosen for some sort of award — sometimes asking for money in exchange for being featured.

Candidates we talked to report being solicited for money in exchange for an award, to be put on a ranked list or gain exposure via newsletters claiming thousands of readers or subscribers. Also common is the use of highly respected or high-profile public figures in the name of the award or recognition, regardless of whether that individual is actually affiliated with the program or even has knowledge that their name is being used in marketing.

While some of these may well fall into the scam category, they may not cross the line into criminality, tort or statutory issues. However, adding them to your resume or internet public persona in the hope they will advance your career may not achieve the results you are seeking. Consider your audience, even for recognition given to you by well-known and respected organizations in the security field.

If you or your organization is approached and the award is not widely known, respected or admired, consider due diligence steps such as:

  • Check the URL, ownership, registration, country location, length of time in business and any company involvement.
  • If you do not know exactly who they are and what their business is, research public filings as well as the principals.
  • Research them on social media platforms and do not ignore watchdogs such as the Better Business Bureau.
  • Ask specific questions about the award. How long has it been in existence, what is the scope of the award and why is it being given out? Why you were selected and who nominated you? Is there a fee to be recognized for the award?
  • Find out who else has been given the award/recognition. Consider any potential association issues from a reputational perspective.
  • Look into your organization’s internal practices and policies to ensure they allow this. You may be able to accept personally, but not use your organizational affiliation.

On another note, it’s worth considering that there are businesses that troll legitimate award lists and recognition programs and contact recipients aiming to resell plaques or reprints of the award. In many cases, they make it appear that they are affiliated with the original organization. When in doubt, always ask the original notifier of the recognition if this is a sanctioned company or affiliate.

All security practitioners appreciate being noticed for hard work and professional and volunteer achievements. There are, indeed, a number of legitimate programs that aim to recognize and elevate the security industry and security professionals doing great things. It is unfortunate that what was once just a small number of well-respected acknowledgements has grown exponentially to a level that ensures everyone gets a trophy.