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Cyber Security Risks are Business Risks

Modern life is dominated by technology. We interact with technology at nearly every point throughout our day, and we have become quite dependent on our online devices. We use devices for everything from communication to retail purchases, but most importantly, to make us more efficient and productive in our work lives. Businesses everywhere are becoming more digitized as both an operational improvement and a necessity to keep up with competitors; many organizations have everyone in their company armed with a corporate device, from CEO to sales rep. The increasing number of endpoints also increases the level of cyber risk and insider threats an organization must deal with. This risk used to be an issue the IT department dealt with, but our changing workplace dynamic forces business leaders to see cyber security risks as a business risk and not just an IT issue.

Cyber risk can affect the entire organization

Because of the interconnected nature of modern IT infrastructures, breaches, cyberattacks, and data loss can compromise an organization’s ability to operate normally, affecting business continuity throughout. For example, if a breach affects access and identity control, employees won’t be able to enter, retrieve, or process data. Entire teams will have to take additional steps to complete their tasks or may be unable to do so at all. Organizations that depend on real-time analytics to support their decision-making process may see that process hindered by downtime in their data centers. The most important factor, however, is how cyber risk can ultimately affect the supply chain, partner ecosystem, and clients. A business’ customer experience delivery is entirely dependent on its IT infrastructure’s performance. Being unable to deliver what clients expect can result in a financial loss for an organization, as well as damage its reputation.    

Cyber risk isn’t just a technical issue

Since cyber security risks affect an organization across all its divisions, it should not be viewed as strictly an IT issue. Cyber risk affects business continuity, operational performance, customer experience delivery, and can increase costs across the board, so it should be approached as a business risk and treated as such. Understanding and prioritizing risk management from business continuity and recovery perspective will help decision-makers evaluate ways to mitigate and respond to security threats more effectively. This can be a complex exercise, however, since its difficult to articulate cyber risk as a business risk through most available metrics, which are often rooted in technical measures. But cyber security transcends technical measures, incorporating social and organizational factors such as corporate culture and employee education.   

Going beyond IT

A recent Gartner research paper noted that existing and future cybersecurity risks will pressure CIOs to increase IoT security spending by up to 25%, possibly neutralizing business productivity profits. This is just an example of how shifting the task of dealing with cyber risk to the IT department can raise costs without necessarily solving the issue.  As few as 30% of organizations employ cross-organizational measures to approach cyber risk as a business risk. Cybersecurity needs to be permanently and proactively engaged as a strategy that involves every member of an organization instead of a downstream process focused on technical solutions. There are several steps that can be taken to arm an organization with a holistic risk management strategy:

Compliance

compliance frameworks such as NIST set a useful blueprint to build an end-to-end cyber security strategy. Standardizing your approach can help your organization define multiple layers of defense with a proactive approach that will also drive digital innovation. Compliance enables you to keep a high standard of cyber operational maturity that will ultimately help your organization evolve and become more resilient over time.

Processes

Establishing and following a reliable procedure for security events such as breaches and data loss is a critical step in mitigating consequences. Reaction, recovery, and analysis are all crucial towards strengthening an organization’s security posture. The more you can learn from each incident, the easier your organization can improve processes, plans, and risk scenario modeling.  

Employees

Every employee, from interns to C-levels, can represent an insider threat if they are ignoring security practices and policies. Employees are the first and strongest line of defense against cyber risk, so its imperative to build a corporate culture that embraces cyber-resiliency. This includes external stakeholders such as partners and service providers. Robust security policies, practices, and processes, along with ongoing training and cyber risk awareness, will take the pressure off the IT department to have to put out fires.

Technology

Cyber security technology is expensive, so it’s essential to spend wisely. An organization’s security solution should address it’s present and future challenges as effectively as possible. This can only be achieved through thorough assessments and roadmap building that identifies vulnerabilities and threats across the entire enterprise. Security solutions must be rooted in secure designs that take all these vulnerabilities into account at both a product and system level. Your technology should be working for your organization, not the other way around.

It’s impossible to build an impenetrable fortress that will never face cyber security incidents. Technology can only do so much, and human error is imminent no matter how strong corporate culture may be. This is why cyber security must be regarded as a business priority and have an ongoing conversation with all stakeholders, from CSO to partners.     

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Cyber Security Risks are Business Risks

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Claudia Smith

Claudia Smith

Marketing and communications experience in technology and finance. Graduated in 2010 with a master’s degree in public relations from Michigan State University.

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