Historically, cybersecurity leaders have experienced challenges when trying to accurately convey the many cyber risks facing their organization to other members of their executive management teams. Given that the industry typically relies on rating systems and theoretical models that are nearly meaningless to those without a formal cyber background, cyber leaders often have to rely on providing a qualitative assessment of the risks based on their interpretations of the metrics.

With more than 13% of all Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) receiving a severity score between 9.0 and 10.0 (which is the highest end of the spectrum), how are security leaders expected to translate the appropriate risk levels to senior management? If all of the risks are receiving similar severity scores, it is virtually impossible to prioritize the cyber risks that are most relevant to your business and ensure that resources are allocated appropriately.

However, we now know there is a better way to communicate cyber risks to the entire c-suite, and that is through risk quantification and crisis scenario planning. Cyber risk quantification allows for security leaders to measure what cyber risks are the most important to a business or organization based on financial and operational impact. This means that risks are assigned a specific dollar value commensurate with their potential impact, should the attack be successful. Beyond simply providing a way to communicate the most pressing cyber risks for an organization, risk quantification offers many benefits to cyber leaders.

First, this approach provides an easy way of prioritizing and addressing the most critical risks facing an organization. By looking at the risks in terms of their potential financial impact on the business, security leaders can assign security resources to work on vulnerabilities and exposures in the order that would cause the largest monetary impact. Rather than spending time drowning in daily alerts and subjectively ranking threats that all are receiving the same severity score, and potentially misinterpreting some to be more likely to happen or more significant of an attack than others, security leaders can target their approach to those that are most critical.

Cyber risk quantification can also be a valuable exercise for determining how capable, or more importantly, how incapable, a company’s security controls are for the biggest cyber risks facing their business. Understanding which attacks are likely to do the most damage allows a team to review their security processes and protocols for how they would respond to such an event. This approach identifies gaps in an organization’s cyber strategy and allows for proactive course correction and an increase in resource allocation, which could help in preventing future attacks.

For security leaders, cyber risk quantification also allows easy measurement of ROI for their initiatives. The entire C-Suite is able to see how much certain risks could cost, and how likely they are to occur, which gives them insight into how they could affect the organization’s bottom line. Thus, this provides a way to demonstrate the value and ROI of new initiatives or resources needed to combat those risks specifically. Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) can literally show how much risk particular security investments would buy down.

As cybercriminals continue to elevate their attacks – both in terms of an increase in volume and sophistication – security leaders can no longer rely on their old ways of evaluating risk. Organizations and companies are facing more cyber risks today than ever before and must enhance their approaches to keep up with the ever-increasing threats. This is particularly relevant as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, with much of the workforce still working from home and cybercriminals seek to leverage the security risks that accompany remote work environments.

As cyber risks continue to be a constant threat and a top-ranked risk facing companies and organizations today, cyber leaders need to deploy all available resources at their disposal, including cyber risk quantification, to protect their organizations from devastating financial and operational harm.