Cybersecurity and resilience: board-level issues

May 5, 2022  |  Bindu Sundaresan

Resilience means more than bouncing back from a fall at a moment of significantly increased threats. When addressing resilience, it’s vital to focus on long-term goals instead of short-term benefits. Resilience in the cybersecurity context should resist, absorb, recover, and adapt to business disruptions.

Cyber resiliency can’t be accomplished overnight. For the longest time, the conversation around getting the cybersecurity message across at the board level has revolved around the business language. Businesses cannot afford to treat cybersecurity as anything but a systemic issue. While the board tends to strategize about managing business risks, cybersecurity professionals tend to concentrate their efforts at the technical, organizational, and operational levels. The languages used to manage the business and manage cybersecurity are different. This might obscure both the understanding of the real risk and the best approach to address the risk. Early on in my career, I was told to think of how to transform geek to CEO speak. That piece of advice still holds true.

Why? The argument for board-level cybersecurity understanding

The reality today is that cybersecurity is a critical business issue that must be a priority for every organization. As business operations become increasingly digitized, data has become one of the most valuable assets of any organization. This has resulted in increased expectations from customers, employees, regulators, and other stakeholders that an organization has developed appropriate resilience measures to protect against the evolving cyber threat landscape. The failure to do so presents substantial risks, including loss of consumer confidence, reputational damage, litigation, and regulatory consequences.

How? Changing the narrative away from the ‘team of no.'

The ‘how’ equation comes in two distinct yet equally important parts. One is levelling-up of the board’s cybersecurity knowledge. The other ensures that security teams get board-level support. The second of these requires those teams to help change the narrative: instead of being the 'team of no,' security teams need to be seen as influencers. Enablers and not enforcers, in other words.

It's time to stop repeating how things can't be done (on security grounds). Rather, we need to preach from the business transformation book and explain how they can be. We must stop operating out of silos and build out relationships with all business players, embedding 'scenario thinking' and responsiveness into organizational cyber functioning. But just as importantly, to address the first part, the board needs to proactively plan and prepare for a cyber-crisis; only by understanding the risks can the business be in the right strategic place to combat them successfully.

Cybersecurity teams should equip the board with the following as a starting point. 

  • A clear articulation of the current cyber risks facing all aspects of the business (not just IT); and
  • A summary of recent cyber incidents, how they were handled, and lessons learned.
  • Short- and long-term road maps outlining how the company will continue to evolve its cyber capabilities to address new and expanded threats, including the related accountabilities in place to ensure progress; and
  • Meaningful metrics that provide supporting essential performance and risk indicators of successful management of top-priority cyber risks that are being managed today

Business and cybersecurity success go hand in hand

As the board’s role in cyber-risk oversight evolves, the importance of having a robust dialogue with the cyber influencers within an organization cannot be overestimated. Without close communication between boards and the cyber/risk team, the organization could be at even greater risk.

If this sounds like a cybersecurity grooming exercise, that's because it is. Preparing cybersecurity practitioners with business acumen for the board to act as the voice of educated reason isn't such a bad idea, is it? The best businesses thrive because they have people at the very top who can exert control based on informed decision-making when a crisis looms. Leaving cybersecurity out of this success equation in 2022 is a very risky game.

Share this with others

Get price Free trial