How to Justify Your Cybersecurity Budget

By Todd Graber

Posted on Sep 14, 2020

Looking towards 2021, cybersecurity will continue to remain an organizational priority. Research from Cyber Defense Magazine estimates cumulative cybersecurity spending between 2017 and 2021 will be more than $1 trillion. Organizations know they need cybersecurity, but cybersecurity leaders still struggle to get the funding necessary. CISOs looking to justify their cybersecurity budgets need ways to prove return on investment, provide metrics for measuring success, and ensure continued year-over-year value.

Proving Return on Investment (ROI)

Suggesting that a CISO prove ROI prior to implementing a tool, may seem premature. However, when the executive team looks to spending, they need to know that the investment will have a worthwhile impact.

A primary metric for measuring the ROI of a security solution is ability to automate manual tasks. While no one wants to reduce headcount in cybersecurity, no one wants to increase headcount either. CISOs need to choose the automation tools that reduce operational cost the most.

For example, an organization's security operations center (SOC) is integral to its cybersecurity. However, the operating costs associated with prioritizing and responding to alerts increases annually. According to an article in Infosecurity Magazine, a poll of C-level security executives noted that 37% said they received more than 10,000 alerts each month with 52% of those alerts identified as false positives.

To prove ROI prior to implementing an automated solution, you can gauge how much time a security analyst in your organization spends on a single alert, multiple that by the 10,000 alerts each month, and align that to hourly “salary.” Proving that an automation will reduce false alerts and the time spent investigating them can be a powerful justification for purchasing a tool.

Provide metrics for measuring success

Another strategy for justifying your cybersecurity budget involves presenting clear, key performance indicators (KPIs). Making KPIs relevant to the business goals can make it easier for the rest of the senior executive team to buy into the budget.

Traditional security metrics include:

  • Number of known vulnerabilities
  • Mean time between security patch release and installation
  • Mean time to respond to a security incident
  • Mean time to investigate a security incident

As part of presenting your budget to the executive team or Board of Directors, you need to understand the metrics most important to your organization. Focusing on the primary security issues faced in the last fiscal year, you can locate the gaps in your cybersecurity program to find ways that eliminate them.

For example, if your organization consistently failed to apply security patches within 30 days, you can leverage that metric as part of your justification. If the tools you want to incorporate provide visibility into how many systems, networks, devices, and applications were up-to-date, then you can show the value of the project clearly.

As part of the justification, leverage the proposed change in unpatched assets and apply the change in data breach risk. Providing visibility into how you make the decisions increases leadership buy-in for your budget.

Looking at year-over-year value

Year-over-year (YoY) value may be one of the most important metrics to help justify your budget request. As organizations accelerate their digital transformation strategies, you need to align your budget proposal to the organization’s business goals.

One of the primary business drivers for digital transformation is the YoY value associated with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription models. Rather than looking for a one-time purchase that comes with heavy up-front fees, focus on the subscription models. Not only does this reduce your current ask, it also helps you budget for the following year and gives you the option to pivot if the choice does not fulfill your needs.

Reducing technology debt with a subscription-based SaaS security solution also reduces manual costs, upgrade costs, software costs, and maintenance costs. With cyber criminals continuously evolving their threat methodologies, SaaS services enhance your security posture not just because they can more effectively protect your IT stack but also because they can pivot more rapidly to address new threats and lack the end-of-life replacement needs.

Meanwhile, they reduce the operational costs associated with servicing and maintenance. With a SaaS cybersecurity solution, organizations reduce data breach costs by securing their data more effectively and reduce operational costs associated with manually updating services or housing hardware. While the subscription itself is a capital outlay, it can be more cost effective from a YoY perspective in the long term.

Bringing a solution to the table that reduces these long-term ownership level costs can give senior leadership and the Board of Directors visibility into your long term goals for both cybersecurity and cost optimization.

SecurityScorecard enables budget conscious cybersecurity

SecurityScorecard’s security ratings platform offers cybersecurity executives a SaaS-delivered, continuous monitoring solution that reduces operational costs, offers KPIs for success, and leverages a subscription model for YoY cost reduction.

Our platform provides at-a-glance security visibility with an A-F scoring system across ten risk groups, including IP reputation, endpoint security, network security, web application security, patching cadence, DNS health, hacker chatter, information leak, and social engineering.

SecurityScorecard continuously monitors an organization’s IT ecosystem, including vendors’ security controls, to give an outside-in view of the controls’ effectiveness. Our platform alerts cybersecurity teams to new threats and enables response prioritization to reduce operational costs while increasing security posture.

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