Last updated at Fri, 10 May 2024 20:07:48 GMT

Who exactly owns cybersecurity in your organisation?

Authored by Sean Vogelenzang

Many would say the answer is obvious. It’s the chief information security officer (CISO) and his or her team, of course. However, it’s not that simple. Sure, the CISO and their team are responsible for setting the strategy and executing on the cyber plan. But, with a multitude of security challenges thrown at them each day, it requires a proactive and informed approach that goes beyond the core cyber team.

Cyber ownership can often be overlooked or misunderstood within an organization. Responsibility and accountability should not rest solely on the CISO's shoulders. And while the IT department will also have a role to play, security responsibilities must be ingrained in the culture of the entire organization. They should include each responsible asset owner, not forgetting that data is also an asset.

Cultivating a culture of cybersecurity ownership empowers security leaders, IT professionals, and decision-makers to navigate security challenges effectively. This approach not only strengthens your organisation's security posture but also positions security as an enabler of innovation and digitalisation. The more eyes there are on security within your business, the greater the ability of your cyber teams to strive for increasing levels of maturity and a stronger overall security posture.

Redefine Organisational Responsibility

While cybersecurity teams or IT departments maintain control, everyone in the organisation plays a role. Executives and management must take charge and set the tone by prioritising cybersecurity as a business objective. They should work from the top-down to develop policies and frameworks, with the cyber teams or IT department responsible for implementing and enforcing them. By allocating resources, establishing policies, and promoting a security-conscious culture, leadership sends a powerful message that cybersecurity is not just an IT concern, but a shared responsibility.

Security responsibilities should also align with specific business functions and the potential impact of a breach. For instance, when assessing supply chain risks, consider factors such as data access and systems integration. This enables you to identify critical suppliers and prioritise efforts to enhance your security posture.

Integrate Security Leaders into the Business at a Deeper Level

Security leaders are critical to ensuring cybersecurity is given the necessary focus and attention at all levels of your organisation. By involving experts in the overall risk conversation and decision-making forums, you can tap into valuable insights and expertise to effectively address evolving security challenges.

For example, many boards lack technical expertise and cybersecurity knowledge. This can hinder effective risk management and decision-making around cyber security challenges and strategy. Having a security leader at the board level will bridge this knowledge gap. It helps to facilitate communication, and ensure members grasp the importance of cybersecurity within the context of your organisation's digital landscape.

Employee Awareness Training

Employees are a critical part of preventing and mitigating security risks. Despite this very common understanding, only 34% of organizations (PwC Digital Trust Insights) globally have an employee security awareness training program. Without proper awareness and education, employees may unknowingly engage in risky behaviors or fall victim to social engineering attacks. This can lead to potential data breaches and significant financial and reputational impacts on your organization.

It’s a good idea to prioritise regular training initiatives that provide employees with up-to-date knowledge and skills to identify and respond effectively to security threats. These training programs should cover a range of topics, such as identifying phishing attempts, securing personal devices, and understanding the importance of strong passwords and data protection. Additionally, training should be tailored to each business unit's specific needs. It should also be delivered in a format that resonates, such as interactive modules, simulated phishing exercises, or workshops.

Consider providing additional training to individuals designated as security champions within your business. These champions will promote good security practices as well as encourage and help others, while also maintaining a security-conscious culture across the entire organization.

How Rapid7 Can Help: Managed Threat Complete

While everyone in the organisation can play a role in maintaining a good culture of cybersecurity, sometimes it helps to get a little additional outside support. Managed Threat Complete ensures your environment is monitored end-to-end, 24/7, by an elite SOC that works transparently with your in-house team, helping to further expand your resources.

Foster Transparency and Mutual Support

Data privacy and security regulations have become increasingly stringent in recent years. As such, the consequences of non-compliance can be severe, ranging from financial penalties to reputational damage –even legal action against boards and directors.

Organisations are now obligated to protect the personal and sensitive data they collect and process. Familiarising your organisation with required data privacy laws enables you to establish appropriate safeguards and avoid hefty penalties. For instance, sectors such as telecommunications, banking, healthcare, energy, and transportation are subject to specialised regulations, such as critical infrastructure policies.

While legal obligations are an important aspect of cybersecurity,  you must also strike a balance between compliance and business needs. Small businesses, in particular, may face challenges in meeting extensive legal requirements. However, by approaching compliance strategically and prioritising resources, small businesses can develop effective cybersecurity measures without compromising protection.

It’s everyone’s business

CISOs and their teams are responsible for setting the strategy, providing visibility and guidance on cyber risk, and working with the business to execute on the cyber plan. Embrace the opportunity to strengthen your cybersecurity posture by providing your workforce with the autonomy to be the guardians of your digital future. This in turn frees up the security team’s time to focus on advanced cyber measures that add even greater value to the business.