Trends Column / Columns / Cyber Safety

Elevating Cybersecurity to the C-Suite Before a Breach

Leading organizations are moving to the single office of the CSO and incorporating all aspects of security under a single leader, mission and plan.

What a week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco! More than 25,000 people gathered to attend nearly 300 educational sessions, learn from high-profile speakers and visit about 400 vendors on the show floor in an effort to protect their enterprise’s brands and assets. As industry analyst Steve Hunt noted, “All of this to mitigate cyber crimes being perpetrated by about 3,000 people worldwide.” Throw in a few protests against the NSA, and you have yourself a show.

And for Security magazine, we put our stake in the ground to cover cyber as the business risk management issue it must become and not the IT game of Whack-A-Mole at which businesses have been losing, badly. Whenever I find siloed physical, IT and/or cybersecurity departments during a visit with an enterprise, I know the game is over for that organization. The criminals are not siloed and not relying on a quarterly committee meeting to steal. Once I hear, “We have a great relationship with the other department….” I know that the game is lost.

Leading organizations are moving to the single office of the CSO and incorporating all aspects of security under a single leader, mission and plan. That model has a fighting chance against the hackers who are highly sophisticated and motivated. We are witnessing significant structural change to organizations to eliminate weak links and stop giving the bad guys an advantage.

The cyber threat is greater to your organization today than it has ever been, especially on the heels of the massive retail breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and others. The annual cost of cybercrime passed the cost of physical crime about two years ago. While cyber is a different dimension, it is not a different discussion.

Similar to the security one would expect in your office, school, mall or airport, the discussion is: What should your stakeholders expect regarding their privacy in your database? Right now, the answer is not much. One recent study by ComputerWeekly of more than 10,000 people in nine countries identified that 75 percent are concerned about their privacy online. Currently, the marketers are winning over the security and privacy advocates in any organization. Target is an example of where the marketing stakes greatly outweighed the stakeholder’s identity security. 

Thus, cybersecurity will move to a board-level risk discussion because consumers, employees, students, parents, etc., will learn and adapt to say “No” to those requests for emails, phone numbers and zip codes. How deep the damage to Target’s brand reputation, foot traffic, revenue and bottom line waits to be seen. But it appears that the silo managing cybersecurity, wasn’t, and a different organizational structure will be necessary to better prepare, predict and prevent future breaches.

While businesses will have to address cyber as a serious business risk, the U.S. government might consider doing so as well. Currently, 46 states have cybersecurity and privacy legislation. There is no federal law regarding cybersecurity or crime. And the complexity to find a single way forward with one national law is unlikely anytime soon during what is considered a “do nothing Congress.”  Thus, the problem will grow and the USA, as a democracy, will eventually “vote” to solve a growing and costly problem. Enterprises, large and small, are on their own.

When we researched and launched Securityin 2005-2006, you told us that you wanted to protect your stakeholders and ensure the comfort and security of your guests. More recently, you, our readers, have stated that your role now includes cybersecurity risk management and mitigation. The Security 500 Survey has identified that nearly 30 percent of CSOs manage cyber risk, double the percentage just three years ago. And as a result, you are seeking business- and board-level discussions on best practices, trends and management case studies, as well as an overview on technology’s role (but not deep technology reviews). We hear you, and we have made some powerful additions to our editorial line-up.

During the prior year, Steve Chabinsky’s “Cyber Tactics” has addressed the critical issues for developing a successful program including common mistakes organizations are making, CSO blind spots, the government’s role or lack thereof and more. Highly regarded and an outstanding thought leader and voice in our profession, Steve serves as General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer for cybersecurity at CrowdStrike. Previously, he served as the Deputy Assistant Director at the FBI’s Cyber Division. Be sure to attend Steve’s webinar, “Cybersecurity: A CEO and Director Issue,” on April 23. 

Editor-in-Chief Diane Ritchey has built a great line-up of print and online features including interviews, case studies, research reports and technology and service overviews to help you create a platform for understanding and discussing what a cyber-attack would mean to your brand, your business and possibly your career.

So, what is the net on the “Net”?

It’s about your organizational culture, set by the CEO, to decide how aggressively to protect your stakeholders’ information, similar to how you set reasonable levels in the physical world. For example, one university might care deeply about protecting electronically stored student information, while a similar organization might not. Just as walking across one campus will have less risk than another, because the risks were identified and eliminated. A safe campus might have an unsafe cyber program, and vice versa. It will rise to you as the same risk and business management skills and expertise that have proven successful in the physical world will be applied to cyber; moving the discussion where it belongs – in the C-suite. 

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