How Organizations Can Work to Close the Gap
Cybersecurity is now a top business concern, as major business disruptions, compromised customer data, bank heists and even state-sponsored hacks have prompted boards and CEOs to action. A recent report has revealed a sizable gap between C-Suite executives and IT decision-makers when it comes to cybersecurity, yet alignment in their priorities and strategic visions is critical.
By: Colin McKinty
Cybersecurity is now a C-Suite concern. Major business disruptions, compromised customer data, bank heists and even state-sponsored hacks have prompted boards and CEOs to action.
In the past few years, organizations have been scrambling to recruit Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs). Accountability for cyber risk has risen as the number and magnitude of attacks has climbed well past the nuisance level into the sphere of major business risk.
How effective this management strategy will be in arresting the modern plague of cybercrime remains to be seen. A recently published global survey of C-Suite level executives and IT decision-makers1 (ITDMs) revealed a large gap in assessments of cyberthreats, costs and areas of responsibilities. Here are three of the most significant disconnects:
- C-Suite executives estimated that on average a cyber breach would cost their organization $5.9 million. But ITDMs put that figure at $27.2 million – more than $20 million higher.
- 80 percent of the executives surveyed in the U.S. believe cybersecurity to be a significant challenge facing their business, but only 50 percent of ITDMs agree.
- 50 percent of the executives surveyed believe the reason an attack on their organization would succeed would be due to human error of employees, compared to 31 percent of ITDMs.
Lack of Understanding on Cost
There is a significant lack of understanding when it comes to the cost of a successful breach, which many underestimate. Yes, cyber thieves can steal money and data. But a successful cyberattack can have more far-reaching implications – think market value, business cancellations and regulatory fines – even the failure of a strategic investment or merger.
It is no surprise to find differences between the strategic visions of the C-Suite and the real-world experiences of IT specialists. Because of their roles and responsibilities, they tend to think differently about risks and how threats affect business and technology. The priorities of the two groups are askew – C-Suite executives are charged with minimizing business risk; IT is responsible for delivering the optimum technological support for the business.
The research clearly showed that when it comes to cybersecurity, the two groups could do a better job at harmonizing their disparate views in the interest of protecting their organizations. They both agreed on this – 60 percent of C-Suite executives and 66 percent of ITDMs fear their businesses will be targeted for a cyberattack in the next 12 months, and each group believes the frequency and severity of attacks will increase.
How to Get Everyone on the Same Page
What best practices can an organization implement to get on the same page and ensure effective cyber risk management?
First, the C-Suite should participate in incident response exercises. Top executives, not just IT personnel, need to fully understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the full costs of an attack, which they tend to underestimate. Seeing what an attack looks like, even if simulated, can give the C-Suite vital awareness to help drive a top-down security culture.
All employees should be involved in education exercises to develop understanding of their organization’s cyber exposure and how attackers can exploit the information they gather. These exercises should use real-world examples of what can be found within the organization.
Organizations should explore using more automated processes, which are constantly being updated and perfected by cybersecurity professionals, to scan for threat intelligence as well as to triage breaches efficiently. With the proliferation of ransomware attacks recently, data needs to be backed up and stored in protected locations to ensure it isn’t encrypted during an attack.
It should be assumed that every organization will be attacked and likely breached at some point. New security initiatives should focus on reducing the time it takes to discover and then contain and remediate unwanted activity. Taking a collaborative, proactive approach and working to understand new, unknown cyber threats should be high priorities for both C-Suite and IT decision-makers.