Today, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) are under increasing pressure to do more with less. Companies have continued to consolidate their workforces and tech stacks through this year.
Unfortunately, as many learned during the 2008 financial crisis, reducing cybersecurity processes in favor of cost efficiency limits a CISO’s ability to keep up with a constantly evolving cybersecurity landscape – which ultimately makes it more challenging to manage cybersecurity risk.
Compounded with rising geopolitical tensions and additional regulations, the message is clear to CISOs about navigating the road ahead: It’s time to take a seat at the table. Below is an overview of why it’s time for CISOs to advocate for their position within the executive team, and how they can work to become better trusted partners to the CEO, the CFO, and the board.
Understanding what business leaders care about:
To truly change mindsets and behaviors surrounding cybersecurity, CISOs must start by first understanding what their business leaders care about. This will allow them, in turn, to tailor their strategy and communication to better align with their stakeholders’ priorities and build mutual trust.
Take CEOs, for example. One of the biggest factors that define a CEO’s success is how they safeguard their company’s market reputation – a task that is increasingly impacted by the pervasive threat of cyberattacks. Breached companies will fall under scrutiny from the SEC, and typically experience a -8.6% drop in stock price on average one year after the initial breach. Cybersecurity has no longer become just a financial or infrastructural risk, but a reputational one as well. By better educating CEOs about this correlation, CISOs not only advocate for the importance of robust data protection practices, but also elevate their voice as strategic advisors to the C-suite.
Alternatively, while the CEO may be focused on reputation, CFOs are often squarely focused on safeguarding the organization’s financial stability and minimizing potential financial losses. Accordingly, by demonstrating the need for cybersecurity through the lens of financial risk, CISOs are more likely to get – and keep – the CFO’s attention, especially as IBM just found the average cost of a data breach to be $4.45M. By communicating the value of cybersecurity with these priorities in mind, quantified in dollar terms, CISOs can make the importance of data protection digestible to non-technical stakeholders, consequently ensuring that it stays a business priority for the foreseeable future.
Becoming an indispensable partner across the organization:
Getting the attention of the C-suite is only half the battle. Once a CISO has received the greenlight to invest in their cybersecurity infrastructure, the question becomes: What’s first on the priority list? As the pace of cyberattacks and threats accelerates, it is more important than ever for CISOs to carefully consider and select strategies and tools to discover and mitigate risks efficiently. In this environment, relying on traditional manual analysis of cyber risk scenarios to drive strategy and execution is no longer viable. CISOs need to embrace technologies that can automatically and continuously handle large amounts of changing attack surface data, and control effectiveness and business impact information to evaluate cyber risks.
Fortunately, there are new AI-based automated cybersecurity tools that deliver on this promise, offering continuous and real-time cyber risk calculations using the data from existing tools, risk-based vulnerability management, and proactive control of breaches. These new tools equip CISOs with clear visibility into their overall cybersecurity posture and enable operational cybersecurity teams to identify the risk associated with each vulnerability instance, establish and prioritize mitigation actions, and scorecard and benchmark risk owners. This targeted use of AI and automation quickly adds up to millions of dollars of cost savings and frees up the valuable time of scarce cybersecurity resources.
Armed with this information, CISOs can take a more strategic approach to cyber risk management – thus elevating their presence as a high-level advisor responsible for aligning cybersecurity goals with the organization’s overall business strategy.
Given the challenging economic conditions today, it’s understandable that many CISOs might feel intimidated by the prospect of getting the highest level, business-minded executives to both understand and buy-into a complete revamp of their cybersecurity infrastructure. However, fear not: You don’t need to completely rebuild the car to drive it effectively. Rather, by embracing this opportunity to strategically partner with the CEO and other key stakeholders, CISOs can identify the most critical security pain-points and outline a plan to address them that resonates.