A new global study compares the management of privacy and cyber risks across different sectors, citing a definite lack of cyber-focus in critical infrastructure sectors, according to an article on Forbes.com from the study's author, Jody Westby.  

The report, The Governance of Enterprise Security: CyLab 2012 Report,examines how boards of directors and senior management are managing these risks.

Seventy-five percent of the 2012 survey respondents were from critical infrastructure industry sectors, primarily financial, energy/utilities, IT/Telecom and industrial sectors. The survey aimed to discover whether senior executives and board members were undertaking basic cyber-governance activities, such as reviewing privacy and security budgets and top-level policies, establishing key roles and responsibilities for privacy and security, and reviewing security program assessments, the article says. It also asked whether boards were receiving information critical to cyber risk management, such as regular reports on breaches and data loss. 

The energy/utilities sector had the poorest governance practices, the report says. It ranked last in four of the six best practices and next-to-last for the other two. Energy/utilities respondents indicated that:

  • 71 percent of their boards rarely or never review privacy and security budgets
  • 79 percent of boards rarely or never review roles or responsibilities
  • 64 percent of boards rarely or never review top-level policies
  • 57 percent of boards rarely or never review security program assessments.

For issues their boards were actively addressing, the energy/utilities sector had the lowest percentages for IT operations (14 percent) and vendor management (zero percent). And although 57 percent of respondents said that their boards were not reviewing insurance coverage for cyber risks, the respondents said that 79 percent of boards were not consulting cyber insurance reviews. 

This sector's boards also placed the least value on IT experience when recruiting board members (seven percent).

Westby finds it disturbing that these numbers are so dismal while the energy/utilities sector is one of the most regulated industry sectors and one of the most important to business continuity. Also, the heavy concentration of industrial control systems (SCADA systems) is troublesome, as most of them were not designed for security and have no logging functions to enable forensic investigations of attacks, Westby writes.

“Control systems should have the highest degree of oversight because attacks on these systems can cause irrecoverable consequences, such as extended electric outages or even death,” noted Joe Weiss, Managing Partner of Applied Control Solutions in Cupertino, CA. “However, most of the industrial control systems were designed for reliability and safety, not security. These systems are often connected to the Internet and are vulnerable to ordinary attacks,” he said. Weiss also pointed out in the article that attacks are possible even when not connected to the Internet, which was the case with the Stuxnet attack on the Iranian nuclear system.

The industrial sector did only slightly better than energy/utilities, but every sector had its gaps.

  • 52 percent of financial sector respondents said that their boards do not review cyber insurance coverage, and only 44 percent of them actively address computer and information security.
  • 42 percent of financial sector respondents indicated that their boards rarely or never review annual privacy and security budgets, and 39 percent rarely or never review roles and responsibilities. 
  • The financial sector had the highest percentages of CSOs (63 percent) and CISOs (76 percent) who were assigned responsibility for both privacy and security, creating segregation of duties issues.