Within the last week or so, we’ve seen reports of a couple of serious breaches that put the reputation of the target organizations in jeopardy but, more importantly, these breaches also constituted significant third-party risks to businesses and organizations that rely on the affected organizations. The first reported breach hit Microsoft Azure and impacted some users of its email services. The second reported breach targeted PwC and impacted some of its clients.
Sadly, cyber-attacks and cyber-incidents are nearly almost inevitable, it’s the nature of the beast.
However, whilst likelihood is almost nearly certain, severity and impact can be reduced, significantly. The adverse impacts of any such events on the operations of your organization can be mitigated and contained. And as a cybersecurity leader, one of the effective tools that can help you build resilience in the defence of your organization is effective cybersecurity governance.
To establish and maintain effective cybersecurity governance, leaders must develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. This entails identifying critical assets and vulnerabilities, implementing risk management frameworks, and ensuring robust governance structures to guide their decision-making, planning, implementation, and evaluation of cybersecurity initiatives.
In the previous article, we looked at the crucial role of leadership in establishing and maintaining robust cybersecurity governance. We explored the qualities and skills required for cybersecurity leaders to navigate the complexities of the evolving threat landscape, address the challenges posed by these emerging threats, satisfy regulatory compliance, foster a culture of security awareness, and drive organizational change.
This article is the second and final part in the series. In this article, we’ll delve into some practical hands-on strategies that can help cybersecurity leaders establish and maintain effective cybersecurity governance within their organizations. Some of these strategies include:
Define your vision and strategy for cybersecurity
As a cybersecurity leader, you should define your vision and strategy for cybersecurity that aligns with your organization’s mission, vision, and values. Your vision should describe what you want to achieve in terms of cybersecurity outcomes, such as security posture, resilience, compliance, reputation, etc.
Your strategy should outline how you plan to achieve your vision by setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals and objectives. You should also identify the key building blocks for your strategy i.e., drivers, enablers, and barriers.
Here are some examples of outlined key building blocks:
Vision: To be recognized as a leader in cybersecurity excellence by our customers, partners, regulators, and peers.
Strategy: To implement a comprehensive cybersecurity program that covers all aspects of our business operations, from strategy to execution.
Goal #1: To achieve ISO/IEC 27001 certification by Q4 2024.
Goal #2: To reduce the number of security incidents by 50% by Q2 2024.
Goal #3: To increase the level of security awareness among our employees by 80% by Q1 2025.
Driver: To protect our brand reputation; to comply with regulatory requirements.
Enabler #1: To allocate sufficient resources and budget for cybersecurity.
Enabler #2: To develop policies and standards for cybersecurity.
Enabler #3: To establish clear roles and responsibilities for cybersecurity.
Enabler #4: To monitor performance and compliance for cybersecurity.
Enabler #5: To engage stakeholders and partners for cybersecurity.
This bit is rather particularly important; you should align your vision and strategy with the overall vision and strategy of your organization, as well as ensure that they are consistent and coherent.
Once you have defined your vision and strategy for cybersecurity, you should communicate it to your team, your peers, and other relevant stakeholders. Also, you should review and update your vision and strategy regularly, based on the feedback, results, and changes in the environment.
Build your team and empower them
As a cybersecurity leader, you’d build a strong and diverse team that can support you in implementing your vision and strategy for cybersecurity. You should recruit, train, develop, and retain the best talent for cybersecurity, based on their skills, experience, knowledge, attitude, and potential. You should also leverage the existing capabilities and resources within your organization, such as IT, legal, compliance, audit, risk, etc.
You should also empower your team by delegating authority and responsibility for cybersecurity tasks and activities. You should provide them with clear expectations, guidance, support, feedback, and recognition. You should also encourage them to collaborate with each other and with other teams and stakeholders. You should also foster a culture of learning and improvement within your team by promoting continuous education, training, certification, mentoring, coaching, etc.
Develop policies, standards, and procedures for cybersecurity
You should develop policies, standards, and procedures for cybersecurity that define the rules, requirements, and best practices for securing your organization’s systems and information. You should base your policies and standards on recognized frameworks, such as ISO/IEC 27001, NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF), or COBIT.
You should ensure that the policies, standards, and procedures you develop are aligned with the values, principles, and objectives of your organization. Also, you should ensure that the policies and standards are documented, communicated, and enforced across the organization. You should also monitor compliance with your policies and standards, as well as take corrective actions when needed.
Implement controls and measures for cybersecurity
As a cybersecurity leader, you should implement controls and measures for cybersecurity that protect your organization’s systems and information from cyber threats and attacks. You should base your controls and measures on recognized models, such as CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity, & Availability), AAA (Authentication, Authorization, & Accountability), or PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act).
You should ensure that the controls and measures you implement align with the risk appetite, business needs, and stakeholder expectations within your organization.
Also, you should ensure that your controls and measures are effective, efficient, and economical. You should also measure (and report on) the performance of your controls and measures using relevant metrics, such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Key Risk Indicators (KRIs), or Key Control Indicators (KCIs). You should also improve your controls and measures regularly, based on the feedback, results, and changes in the environment.
Companies that are leveraging technologies the best, leveraging the best practices in order to mitigate their risk, they should see that reflected in the terms and conditions that they are offered by the market…
Review risks and opportunities for cybersecurity
You should review risks and opportunities for cybersecurity to ensure that your organization is prepared for the current and future cyber threat landscape. You should use various tools and techniques to identify, analyse, evaluate, and treat risks and opportunities related to cybersecurity. Some of these tools and techniques include:
Risk identification: To recognize sources, events, or causes of potential or actual harm or loss related to cybersecurity.
Risk analysis: To estimate the likelihood and impact of potential or actual harm or loss related to cybersecurity.
Risk evaluation: To compare the level of risk with the organization’s risk appetite or tolerance related to cybersecurity.
Risk treatment: To select and implement options to avoid, reduce, transfer, or accept risk related to cybersecurity.
Opportunity identification: To recognize sources, events, or causes of potential or actual benefit or gain related to cybersecurity.
Opportunity analysis: To estimate the likelihood and impact of potential or actual benefit or gain related to cybersecurity.
Opportunity evaluation: To compare the level of opportunity with the organization’s opportunity appetite or criteria related to cybersecurity.
Opportunity treatment: To select and implement options to exploit, enhance, share, or ignore opportunities related to cybersecurity.
As always, you should ensure that your review activities are proactive, comprehensive, systematic, and consistent. Also, you should communicate your review results to relevant stakeholders using appropriate formats and channels. You should also act on your review results by taking preventive or corrective actions when needed.
Engage stakeholders and partners for cybersecurity
You should engage stakeholders and partners for cybersecurity to ensure that your organization has the support and collaboration it needs to achieve its security goals and objectives. You should identify who your stakeholders and partners are, what their interests and expectations are, and how you can communicate and interact with them effectively. Some of your stakeholders and partners may include:
Internal stakeholders: Such as senior executives, board members, managers, employees, etc., who have a direct or indirect interest in the organization’s security performance or compliance.
External stakeholders: Such as customers, suppliers, regulators, auditors, investors, media, etc., who have a direct or indirect influence on the organization’s security performance or compliance.
Partners: Such as peers, competitors, industry associations, professional bodies, academic institutions, research organizations, etc., who have a common interest or goal in enhancing security performance or compliance.
You’d expect to use various tools and techniques to engage stakeholders and partners including Stakeholder analysis, Stakeholder engagement plan, communication plan, etc. You’d communicate your engagement results to relevant stakeholders and partners using appropriate formats and channels.
Other elements that you would cover in your overarching cybersecurity governance include:
Monitor performance and compliance for cybersecurity.
Promote awareness and education for cybersecurity.
Establish vendor and third-party risk management.
Establish and monitor business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
Establish asset inventory and management.
Drive innovation and improvement for cybersecurity.
Integrate with the enterprise architecture.
Fix the basics, protect first what matters for your business and be ready to react properly to pertinent threats. Think data, but also business services integrity, awareness, customer experience, compliance, and reputation.
Cybersecurity governance is a strategic imperative that affects every aspect of an organization’s operations, performance, reputation, and resilience. It requires strong leadership from the top down and across all levels of the organization. Effective cybersecurity leaders possess a combination of qualities and skills that enable them to lead by example, inspire others, and deliver results. They also employ various strategies that can help them establish and maintain effective cybersecurity governance within their organizations. By following these strategies, cybersecurity leaders can bridge the gap between their vision and reality for cybersecurity and create a robust security culture within their organizations.
I hope that this set of articles has empowered you, as a cybersecurity leader, to champion cybersecurity initiatives and create a robust security culture within your organization. I also hope that these articles have inspired further research or practice on cybersecurity governance.
Au revoir; take care, until we meet again.