To many boards, cybersecurity can get lost in the shuffle or lose prioritization amidst a packed docket of other high-level priorities. 

However, in the wake of increasingly elusive cyber threats, security challenges brought on by the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and ever-changing compliance requirements, this is a critical mistake. 

No longer is it acceptable for data protection to be left out, minimized, or pushed down the list when it comes to board-level conversations. On the contrary, prioritizing security at the executive table is essential for any business looking to operate without disruption in an evolving tech landscape. 

But what benefits does a cyber-focused board provide to its business? Below, here are three ways that getting the board involved in data protection processes sets a proper tone at the top regarding this important and growing issue. 

Ensuring compliance with SEC filing requirements: 

For boards today, understanding potential cyber threats is more than just a smart business practice. 

In fact, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently passed legislation that will require companies to report “material” cybersecurity incidents within four business days of it being determined to be material. What’s more, the SEC legislation will force companies to disclose cybersecurity governance from the perspective of board management — or risk the prospect of infringement. 

From a compliance perspective, these new standards underscore the need for cybersecurity to be seen as an investment in the company’s bottom line. With investors (and regulators) watching, data protection isn’t just about preventing avoidable data breaches, it’s also about reaffirming public confidence in a company’s ability to manage them. 

Expanding security literacy: 

Of course, to implement meaningful cybersecurity measures, companies first have to understand them. 

Unfortunately, according to a report by Harvard Business Review, fewer than half (47%) of board members report interacting with their chief security officers (CISOs) regularly — perpetuating knowledge gaps that only make board involvement more challenging. 

Without security literacy, it’s near impossible for board members to recognize the urgent cyber risks facing their company and the steps needed to help address them. 

To overcome these hurdles, it’s critical that concurrent with any investments in data protection and management, board members also prioritize cybersecurity education and training. By making smart cybersecurity hires and elevating those voices across the organization, board members can create a clear roadmap whereby employees from the top down can contribute to an impregnable security apparatus. 

Building a robust incident response plan:

The key to success for any incidence response plan is preparedness, ensuring that employees across the business understand how to proceed should an unexpected data breach occur. Building the plan, however, is half the battle. Here, having board involvement can be critically important in positioning cybersecurity experts with the tools needed to be successful. 

Considering  that 63% of C-level executives say they do not have an incident response plan of their own, according to a report by Shred-It, it’s clear that this process has been overlooked by far too many and for far too long. By getting the board’s buy-in, however, security leaders can bring attention to this critical issue and change cybersecurity preparedness for the better. 

Thankfully, there has never been a better time for companies to adopt a data protection plan of their own. In fact, with the advent of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), incident response processes are getting highly sophisticated, allowing cybersecurity experts to predict and manage incoming threats before they happen. 

In the face of a rapidly evolving threat landscape and increasing regulatory attention, boards can no longer simply delegate cybersecurity away, leaving the bulk of the responsibility to the CTO or CIO. 

Rather, data protection and management must be seen as a top-level corporate priority to guarantee strategic alignment across an organization. By addressing potential risk mitigation strategies and training initiatives at the highest levels of corporate leadership, the board can ensure the right resources — and the right talent — are devoted to protecting company data both now and in the future.