Posted on Aug 19, 2021
In most companies today, there is a critical divide between the Chief of Information Security (CISO) and their board of directors.
Our new book, The Perfect Scorecard: Getting an ‘A’ in Cybersecurity from your Board of Directors, is an attempt to close that gap. The Perfect Scorecard features insights from 17 leading CISOs and executives known for their leadership skills and their ability to communicate across roles and sectors.
“CISOs are responsible for keeping their organization safe from bad actors, but if they cannot articulate their strategy, what their biggest risks are and why it makes business sense to invest in cybersecurity measures, they almost certainly will not be successful,” said Aleksandr Yampolskiy, CEO and co-founder of SecurityScorecard. “I’ve been on both sides of the coin — as both a top security executive and CEO, and have experienced the communications gap. That is why we were compelled to bring together the best and brightest minds in security to help all corporate stakeholders speak the same language, overcome obstacles and achieve success together.”
The book features submissions from the best and brightest in cybersecurity today — CEOs, CISOs, board of director members, and business leaders — to offer actionable advice and best practices on effectively closing the communication gap between CISOs and Boards to accelerate organizational success. They include:
Intended as a primer for corporate boards, other chapters address topics ranging from the practical — like “Do we have the right CISO” and “How Much to Spend on Cyber Insurance” to thought leadership, such as “The Evolving Role of the CISO,” and “Operating in a ‘WarTime’ Mentality.”
While assembling this book, we found that most CISOs want the same thing: a clear and honest channel with the directors.
“As much as CISOs need to be the right partner for their boards, directors need to be the right partner for their CISOs,” writes Deaner in, “How to Test Your CISO.”
Deaner’s offers a list of meaningful questions directors can ask a CISO to ensure a productive working relationship, such as “What’s your philosophy on measuring risk?”, “What does agility mean to you?” and “How do you measure compliance in the context of security?”
To be successful, CISOs and the board must work together and hold one another accountable, and to do that each must understand the other’s role and be able to ask the right questions, writes Brian Stafford, Chief Executive Officer at Diligent Corporation. His chapter focuses on the importance of communication between CISOs and directors, which is an increasingly important two-straight in light of rapidly-changing technology and evolving threats.
“The relationship between a board and a CISO is incredibly important at a time when technology is ubiquitous,” writes Stafford, “To protect data and ensure continued organizational success, CISOs need to communicate effectively, put threats in perspective, foster collaboration, and drive accountability.”
In, “The Cyber Landscape is Shifting,” Adam Bishop, CEO for security research firm Cyber R&D Lab, offers up the 5 personality traits of a successful CISO, including some unexpected ones, like being a good salesperson and realizing that no company should have what he calls “sacred cows.”
“Take the example of a board member who is allowed to bring his personal, unsecure iPad into an organization that doesn’t allow employees to bring tablets onto the premises. No tablets are allowed, but this iPad isn’t questioned because it belongs to a board member,” writes Bishop. “A good CISO doesn’t blindly buy into any company culture that might prove risky from a security standpoint. Instead, they question everything — even if it ruffles feathers at the highest levels.”
The divide between CISO and senior leadership is something we at SecurityScorecard have often seen as we’ve worked with CISOs who are attempting to implement new security solutions within their organizations.
The CISO often feels unsupported; their board of directors don’t understand cybersecurity and the CISO has to fight for the budget or resources to do their jobs. Meanwhile, the board understands the bottom line and business goals of their organization but doesn’t understand cyber hygiene well enough to know if their CISO is adequately protecting the company from cyberattacks.
Despite this broken channel between the CISO and the board, CISOs are often asked to create presentations for board meetings; messages that are later edited by whichever senior executive manages board-level presentations. The trouble with this approach is that board directors get a rosy approach to cybersecurity; they hear about what worked, the attacks that have been repelled, the new tools being used – but not vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. This partial view of cybersecurity leads to more misunderstandings and an exacerbated gap between the board and CISO.
In the wake of massive cyberattacks, like the ones that recently targeted SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange, the role of the CISO has become increasingly important. However, cybersecurity spending isn’t what it could be.
According to Gartner, over the last five years, the range of cybersecurity spending has been between 1.7% to 11.5% of IT budgets. Additionally, as of 2020, 15% of CISOs still aren’t talking directly to their boards.
If boards aren’t communicating well with their CISOs, the expertise of good security executives may be wasted while poor CISOs will go undetected.
Boards and CISOs often misunderstand each other, writes Mark Weatherford, Chief Strategy Officer at the National Cybersecurity Center in “Do We Have the Right Cybersecurity Leader. “Boards have a broad and diverse set of responsibilities, most of which the CISO has never been exposed to. This is a blind spot for many CISOs and they are often so focused on their cybersecurity responsibilities that they forget they are simply a supporting component of the overall business. Boards, on the other hand, need to acknowledge that cybersecurity is not just a feature but a business imperative, and they need to become more well-versed in the cyber threat and vulnerability world that CISOs live in.”
Having the ability to quickly and easily understand your organization’s security posture is vital when CISOs are talking with the board about cybersecurity risk. Directors need to understand how any unknown cybersecurity vulnerabilities can affect their company’s business goals.
Our security ratings are based on an A-F scoring scale making it easy to explain to executive leadership where vulnerabilities have been detected and which need to be prioritized first. In addition, our board reporting documentation can be used to prove governance compliance, as evidence with auditors and insurance underwriters, and that your company is effectively managing risk across the entire organization. SecurityScorcard’s board reporting tool will allow you to answer questions about what was done to mitigate the possibility of a breach, your company’s current risk status, and your risk score versus those of your competitors.
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