According to the NCSCs Annual Review, this year saw a 64% increase in cyber incident reports, with a higher number of those being top-level damaging incidents. The need to invest more into security strategies is clear, but it also highlights an underlying problem. CISOs are relying on reactive strategies post-breach rather than proactive measures that better prepare the whole team before an incident strikes.
The time has come for a shift: a truly proactive approach starts at the top, building C-suite awareness and fostering trust with security leaders. By educating boardroom executives on the importance of robust security strategies, CISOs will be able to receive the resources they desperately need to move beyond firefighting. Developing a proactive security strategy not only ensures better preparedness across the whole organisation but also saves the organisation a lot of money by reducing damage once a breach occurs.
Boardroom engagement is key
In the up-and-coming threat landscape, business leaders should actively participate in developing strategic action plans. These conversations should be tailored to the risk appetite and posture of the specific organisation and its industry – what attacks are most likely, and what data or asset needs the most protection? Prioritising risk prevention through rigorous and ongoing security protocols and opening a dialogue between boardrooms and security teams reduce the pressure on CISOs and build security into the culture of the business. However, it is in the hands of security leaders to educate and collaborate with their C-suite.
This year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) highlighted the significance of the boardroom in cybersecurity by adding a new pillar – Govern – to its cybersecurity framework. By adding this pillar, NIST has created a guideline for CISOs to engage their boards in conversations about cybersecurity. This will become a prominent trend for 2024, and those organisations that can achieve collaboration will reap the benefits.
CISOs must prioritise preparedness above all
Effective cybersecurity defence requires a multifaceted approach that goes beyond traditional reactionary security measures. While many business leaders prioritise strengthening their defences to prevent breaches, cybersecurity incidents should be treated as an inevitable conclusion. The most effective strategy lies in conducting a thorough risk assessment at the board level, followed by the development of regularly tested attack playbooks. Embracing frameworks such as NIST or ISO 27001 could be a helpful guideline for network and data protection and could help with rapid recovery in the event of an attack.
The NIST framework provides incident response scenarios that are based on common attack vectors. Organisations can leverage this framework when developing their own strategies, creating well-established playbooks that clearly define escalation protocols and empower organisations to effectively respond to common cyber incidents.
It is also important to understand that creating a playbook alone is not sufficient. Regular testing and rehearsals are essential in preparing all stakeholders for the possibility of a breach. Incident response can be challenging even for the most prepared organisations, so participating in simulated exercises is invaluable for identifying potential weaknesses in the playbook and ensuring all personnel, new and old, are well-versed in the protocol.
Cultivating a security-centric culture
A staggering 88% of data breaches can be attributed to human error, making organisation-wide security awareness an essential component of any proactive cybersecurity strategy. Any device connected to the company's network could serve as a gateway for bad actors, meaning that the security of the organisation rests on the shoulders of each individual.
Comprehensive cybersecurity training mitigates this risk, but it must be implemented as part of fostering a culture of security. In this scenario, employees are not just equipped with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about their online behaviour; they are also empowered to report attempted breaches and even security missteps themselves to the right person. A culture of cybersecurity that doesn't punish employees for inadvertently clicking on phishing links but instead encourages them to seek guidance from designated escalation channels and continually learn from their interactions with the digital world.
Training should cover topics such as phishing scams, malware prevention, social engineering tactics, password security guidelines, and data protection best practices. When regularly conducted and reinforced within daily workflows, this training creates a strong security mindset among their employees, but boardroom engagement is needed to allot the necessary time and budget to these programs.
By initiating these programs from the top, organisations can create an environment that empowers employees, minimises the risk of human error, and strengthens the overall cybersecurity posture of the company.
Thoughtful investment is essential
As the cost of an average data breach hits over $4.4 million, it is more important than ever for CISOs to communicate the importance of proper cybersecurity investment to their executives. The established behaviour of only investing in security after a breach has time and time again been proven ineffective, ultimately costing more than if they had invested in proactive strategies.
Outsourcing cybersecurity services, such as through a Security Operations Centre (SOC), enables businesses to have 24/7 monitoring and threat detection while taking the strain off their in-house IT departments, allowing them to focus on other critical tasks. Equipped with advanced tools and a comprehensive view of threat landscapes, SOCs can collect, analyse, and respond to potential attacks on a massive scale, often surpassing the capabilities of in-house security teams. Aside from large, global enterprises, many organisations lack the resources and personnel to maintain an effective SOC on their own.
Developing a proactive cybersecurity strategy doesn’t only involve financial investment, but rather requires a holistic approach that encompasses strategic partnerships between security leaders and C-suite executives, efficient resource allocation, adoption of industry-recognised frameworks and security certifications. When CISOs succeed in implementing a proactive cybersecurity strategy, it translates into business success. By effectively managing security risks, organisations can dedicate more time to innovation and growth, fostering greater trust among customers, partners, and investors alike.