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How much does a CEO or business leader need to know about cybersecurity?

As a business leader or a CEO of your company, you play a key role in influencing the right work culture. Creating a work culture and norm that aligns with cybersecurity goals is crucial and possibly the best defense against cybercrime adversaries, to begin with.

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Cybersecurity, CEO, CISO

The magnitude and severity of growing incidents of cybercrime is a huge cause of concern for businesses around the globe. Business leaders and CEOs have now come to realize how vital it is for them to consider building a strong cybersecurity program within the organization. Setting a strong foundation of cybersecurity in the work culture is today the need of the hour. As a business leader or a CEO of your company, you play a key role in influencing the right work culture. Creating a work culture and norm that aligns with cybersecurity goals is crucial and possibly the best defense against cybercrime adversaries, to begin with.

By Narendra Sahoo, Founder, and Director, VISTA InfoSec

It is the classic blend of people and technology that contributes to building a close-knitted and secure work culture in the organization. So, with that said, an organization’s security should start with the CEO and business leaders personally getting involved in the program and setting an example for their people. Covering more on this, we have discussed some of the roles and responsibilities of business leaders and CEOs in an organization’s cybersecurity program and what must they know about the evolving cybersecurity industry.

Things CEOs should know about Cybersecurity

1. Understanding that Cybersecurity is important for Business

Understanding the implications of cybercrime on business is paramount. That said, business leaders or CEOs can no longer be ignorant of the cybersecurity measures implemented by their team and simply rely on them for building a strong cybersecurity program for the organization. CEOs should be actively involved in all the security programs and inspect all the work to gauge the relative health of an organization and the competency of individuals handling the cyber defense programs. Understanding every aspect of the program is crucial for it has a direct impact on your business legally, financially, in terms of reputation, brand image.

2. Learn about the evolving threats and current security landscape

Knowing where your business stands in terms of security especially in the current threat landscape is essential. Business leaders and CEOs must spend time with experts (CISO, CFO, CIO, and DPO) to learn more about cybersecurity requirements. They must be aware of the evolving regulatory frameworks in their industry and the international standards and best practices applicable globally.

3. Cybersecurity is not the sole responsibility of the IT team

More than often CEOs take a step back while entrusting the entire security measure initiative to the IT and Cybersecurity team for building and implementing effective measures. However, on the contrary, the CEOs should be playing an active role in introducing the cybersecurity work culture within the organization. For this, the CEO must regularly have meetings with CISO, CIO, and DPO to understand the kind of activities undertaken for securing the organization against various threats.

4. Work with CISO and CIO for Policies and Procedures

Cybersecurity-related policies and procedures must be drafted in consultation with the top management including the CEO or the Business leaders. The policy and procedures have a direct impact on business operational, financial, and security areas. This is because cybersecurity in general is a broader concept touching various aspects and areas of business. It has a direct impact on the job profiles, roles, and responsibilities set for the CISO, the cybersecurity team, third-party vendors, or anyone involved with the company for business. So setting the right policy and procedure is crucial as it facilitates enforcement of various regulatory frameworks and requirements within the organization and its work culture.

5. Investing money in advanced security tools is not the only solution

The effective way of going about implementing cybersecurity measures is not just by investing money on expensive tools and software. There must be strong cybersecurity work culture implemented with the organization and allocation of roles and responsibilities with proper validation of their competency in it.  Providing training and conducting cybersecurity awareness programs should be a must for top management, key employees, and staff working in the organization. For this, having a CEO or the Business leader backing the initiative and proactively involved in the program is equally essential.

6. Stay updated with the latest regulatory frameworks

CEO must be updated about the latest regulatory frameworks and standards of best practices in the industry. This is crucial for formulating plans and taking decisions pertaining to implementing security measures and developing policies and procedures for enforcement. Not just that they must even be aware of all the cybersecurity-related issues that are prevalent in the industry. CEOs must keep up with trends by staying updated with the latest happenings in the cybersecurity industry.

7. Roles and Responsibility of a CEO in Cybersecurity

As the rate of cybercrimes is rapidly increasing in almost every industry, the overall responsibility of ensuring the security of the organization lies in the hands of the CEO and the top management of the organization. Understanding the impact of threats, and taking appropriate action to protect the business is what a CEO should be looking at. For this, the CEO needs to be proactively involved in all the security programs concerning the organization. CEOs are in a position to influence employees and give them the right direction towards their cybersecurity goals while also aligning their business objectives. So, below given are certain roles and responsibilities of a CEO that must be considered to help the employees in their effort to protect the organization against cyberthreats.

8. Integrate Cybersecurity in Work Culture

CyberSecurity is an ongoing process that needs to be re-visited and reviewed every once a year. However, it is important to note that Business leaders and CEOs should proactively be a part of the process and work towards building a cyber-secure work culture in the organization. Cybersecurity should be considered in all business decisions, operations, and practices that shall be enforced across the organization and maintained by all employees. This is to ensure and encourage a holistic implementation of cybersecurity measures within your organization’s work process and norms.  That said, below given are certain fundamental responsibilities of a CEO listed below for a better understanding:

  • Regularly interact and communicate with the CISO, CIO, CFO, and other people accountable for managing cyber risks.
  • In consultation with the security team and other departmental heads, draft cybersecurity policies and procedures for enforcing it across organization verticals and departments.
  • Ensure regular training programs for all the employees of the organization, especially to those on-boarding.
  • Consider cybersecurity evaluation for all potential vendors, third parties, and especially when considering mergers and acquisitions.

9. Establish Strong Security and Risk Governance

The organization’s cybersecurity and risk governance depend a lot on the highest level of management including the CEOs, and the board of directors. They must understand the level of risk exposure and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the organization’s cybersecurity activities and personnel. So, here are a few ways in which a CEO plays a key role in cybersecurity risk and governance-

  • Appoint a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for assuming all the key roles and responsibilities of the organization’s Cybersecurity initiative.
  • Work with the CISO and other experts to establish a strong cybersecurity framework implementing industry best practices and international standards guidelines.
  • Conduct meetings with the CISO to get a regular briefing about the activities and measures implemented to secure the organization’s network and infrastructure, tailored to the organization’s specific cybersecurity requirements.
  • Establish strong security policies, standards, enforcement mechanisms, and procedures and ensure uniformity across all departments and lines of business operation.
  • Define clear roles and responsibilities for personnel implementing and managing the organization’s cybersecurity and access rights for all levels of staff.
  • Establish a clear and direct line of communication with CISO to discuss the evolving threats from time to time.

Risk Assessment and Management

Risk Assessment and Management are critical for businesses to set a strong defense against evolving threats. The Top Management and the CEO must essentially be involved in this process to set the industry’s best risk management practices in the company. Further, to adapt to the evolving threat and improve the organization’s cybersecurity measures, the CEO must regularly undertake the following activities:

  • Establish strong cybersecurity Risk Assessment and Management processes on priority.
  • Work with the CISO to understand the level of risk exposure and its implications on business based on the results of risk assessment.
  • Validate the effectiveness of technology implemented for securing against threats.
  • Learn about the organization’s maturity and the inherent risks associated with critical business assets and technology dependencies.
  • Understand the various cyberthreats and prioritize risks based on priority in consultation with CISO.
  • Develop a strategic plan with the Board, CISO, and other key members to attain maturity and sustain security measures for the long run.
  • Earmark funds to invest in security deployments for addressing the existing gaps.
  • Ensure implementation of Incident Response Plan and ensure that the organization is prepared to respond and recover from a cyberattack.
  • Constantly re-evaluate the organization’s cybersecurity measures, risks, and goals.
  • Give direction to CISO and other key members in implementing strong security controls across the organization and provide timely responses for the same.
  • Monitor the ongoing performance and accordingly re-budget for achieving security goals and to improve the overall cybersecurity measures.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity threats continue to be a major issue for most businesses. It is a matter of serious concern that definitely needs the attention of the top management and CEO of the organization. While securing business is a huge challenge, but the responsibility of it greatly weighs on the CEO. The top management and CEOs need to be actively involved in guiding their organization through the digital transformation securely. They are required to participate in building an effective cybersecurity strategy, increase cyber literacy and lead the organization through all kinds of cyberthreat challenges.

The CEO and top management need to be updated about the latest industry trends and “know-how’s” of the cybersecurity industry. This will help them in taking appropriate decisions and guide the employees in the right direction.  While there is no “single size fits all solution” for such a massive and diverse problem, but following a few basic rules and guidelines will surely help. CEOs can even consult experts to understand the grey area of the industry and learn about the various cyber risks. With such industry insights, they can accordingly work with their team to reduce the probability and/or impact of a cyber breach in their organizations.


About the Author

Narendra SahooNarendra Sahoo (PCI QSA, PCI QPA, CISSP, CISA, and CRISC) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the U.S., Singapore and India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, and Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting, and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance and Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance and Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.

Disclaimer

Views expressed in this article are personal. The facts, opinions, and language in the article do not reflect the views of CISO MAG and CISO MAG does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.