Everyday operations require ever-increasing protection as more businesses embrace digital transformation. Everyone, regardless of their role, department, or level of responsibility, must understand the critical role that cybersecurity plays in the success of their organization.
Businesses that are breached continue to face immediate and evident consequences, such as data loss, downtime, reputational damage, financial loss, and regulatory fines. However, the stakes are now higher. Investors, consumers, and other impacted parties are increasingly filing class-action lawsuits alleging that businesses — and their boards of directors – should have done more to protect sensitive information.
Of course, almost every organization has taken steps to improve its cybersecurity practices in recent years. Recent high-profile breaches have raised awareness and driven IT decision-makers to strengthen company networks and policies.
But the breaches and lawsuits keep coming. The problem is that many businesses have yet to elevate cybersecurity to a meaningful organizational priority. Most companies still rely on back-office IT managers to devise and implement security plans. Many companies have not sufficiently included business leaders in cybersecurity strategy or made cyber threats a crucial issue on the board’s agenda.
Here are four crucial actions that businesses can take to prioritize cybersecurity at the board level.
Enhance the Cyber Skills of the Board
The board must actively participate in cybersecurity readiness. However, first directors must ensure that they are capable. This goes beyond having members carry out remedial conversations with IT and business leaders. To face the ongoing cybersecurity threat, board members must educate themselves.
Boards can begin by examining the cyber skill levels of their members and hiring one or more members with cyber experience. These cyber experts can chair subcommittees and work more closely with business and IT leaders to develop cyber plans.
In addition, the entire board should receive annual or biennial training to keep up with the ever-changing cybersecurity situation. A board with a strong understanding of cyber concerns can better address the risks, technological difficulties, and liabilities that influence strategic decisions.
Ensure Constant Communication
After the board is up to speed, management must design a structure that fosters constant communication regarding cyber threats and strategies. Managers should set out time for in-depth discussions about ongoing cybersecurity issues, plans, and processes.
The process must include stakeholders from various departments, including business, IT, legal, HR, and marketing. While IT will continue to be in charge of cybersecurity technologies, planning and implementation will span other departments and extend to the top.
Managers should serve as facilitators and educators, and interactions should become an ongoing component of the board’s responsibilities.
Establish an Executive Sponsor
While participation in cybersecurity spans across departments, it’s critical to delegate the creation of a response plan to a single person. The person in charge doesn’t have to create the entire strategy, but they should be a leader with authority to drive change and achieve organizational alignment. The CIO, CSO, or the CISO should be well-positioned for this role.
It’s more practical for an organization to choose a business leader for this position, someone whose work is more closely tied to revenue-generating activities or operations than technology. The person should interact with technology leaders while also focusing on business strategy. While technology is essential, the best response plans focus on how operations can be best prepared for and sustained in the event of a breach.