Tackling Cyber Threats from the C-Suite: How to Understand and Address Cybersecurity Challenges
Typically, business leaders aren't cybersecurity experts. With a dedication to growth, strategy, and profit, the C-Suite commonly strayed away from what was considered an IT issue. It's hardly surprising, as the complexity and variability of cyber threats are mind-boggling. Every few years, a new threat landscape materialises.
In the early 2000s, there were worms, and by 2005, spam and phishing had taken over. Today, we are at the height of the ransomware era, but new dangers are constantly emerging.
In response, IT security has grown in importance, and CISOs are commonplace in medium to large organisations. However, there is often a disconnect between the CISO and the rest of the executive team, with business leaders relying on experts to deal with cybersecurity issues.
The trouble is that cyber threats have become so widespread, with the proliferation of IoT devices and the increasing importance of extensive data analysis, that it's no longer possible to leave them to IT. The climate dictates that every business executive is aware of the impending dangers, understands how to address them, and dedicates a budget accordingly.
Cybercrime is on the Rise—Every Executive Must Act
Before diving into a strategy for understanding and combating cyber threats, we must outline the problem and potential fallout. According to the UK Government's Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022, 39% of UK businesses report cyber-attacks annually.
And these aren't just one-off occurrences; 31% of the affected companies experienced weekly attacks. Most interestingly, 82% of UK boards and senior executives consider cybersecurity a high priority. However, many business leaders still feel underprepared to address it.
In this article, we'll present a three-pronged strategy that will provide you with the knowledge and tools to develop and support cybersecurity prevention efforts in your organisation. Stage one is understanding.
As necessary as it is to recognise the potential threat and financial fallout from an attack, you must understand the threats and who is undertaking them to best prepare your organisation. The most persistent dangers to your company's digital infrastructure include malware, phishing, and Denial of Service (DoS). However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
You don't need to be an expert to realise the danger cyber threats pose to your organisation. You don't even need to know the technical processes that enable cyber-attacks to succeed, but you need to be aware of what the threats are and how to counteract them, so doing your research into common threats is essential.
Know your Enemy
Perhaps even more important than knowing what the threats are is knowing who's behind them. The phrase 'know your enemy' is becoming increasingly popular in cybersecurity, particularly regarding educating the C-Suite.
While many business leaders know that attacks are imminent, they don't always know where they originate. While criminal gangs are responsible for the lion's share of attacks, there are other sources, such as governments, business insiders, and malicious staff. Understanding who might attack your organisation and why goes a long way to helping you develop a strategy to avoid it.
Stage two is about communication. Once you have a solid understanding of the threat to your business and who might carry it out, you need to start developing a defence plan. Cybersecurity is business-critical, and your input is vital, but so is that of your colleagues.
Collaborating is the most effective way to develop and implement an airtight strategy, but who should you collaborate with? The following is a good starting point for developing an effective, well-communicated strategy:
CISO: Work alongside the CISO and their team to learn about the measures available to counteract the viable threats you've become aware of. IT security teams are best placed to advise you on the types of measures available, the kind of threats they address, and the various options within these technologies.
Head of HR: Your HR department is critical when it comes to implementing cybersecurity provisions in your organisation. Working alongside the Head of HR, you can strategise on how best to spread awareness about healthy cybersecurity practices, flag up known threats, and communicate your roadmap.
CFO: Finance must be at the heart of the decision-making process. Work closely with your CFO to understand the ROI of your cybersecurity investments so you can present your strategy to the rest of the board and shareholders with clear benefits.
Head of IT: It's not just your IT Security team that needs to be on board with your company's cybersecurity plan, the wider IT team need to be involved too. Communicate and collaborate with the Head of IT to better understand what your company's IT infrastructure is (on-prem and in the cloud), where there may be vulnerabilities, where your most valuable data is stored, and which controls the most critical business processes.
Executive buy-in has been a stumbling block for IT security teams since their inception, and this hurdle has caused many strategies to fail from the get-go simply because the funding required to support a full-fledged defence has been withheld.
In many ways, stage three is the simplest. Don't hold back. Once you are informed about the threats, have communicated effectively with your team to establish a defence strategy, commit to it and execute it.
The most important thing to remember is that the threat landscape is forever shifting, so you must stay ahead of the curve. At the upcoming UK Cyber Week conference, we're inviting business leaders to join hundreds of other attendees to hear from industry experts.
You'll learn about the latest threats and, more importantly, how to counteract them. Find out more on the UK Cyber Week - Expo & Conference website.