Board-level cyber-resilience must look far and wide – and right up to the top

Growing pressure on companies to get cyber security right is putting new pressure on board members and executives. When those executives aren't sure how to translate cybersecurity objectives into actionable change, however, the results can be problematic – especially when it comes to board members policing themselves.

Recognising that cybersecurity still represents a significant learning curve for many executives, cybersecurity peak body ISACA has become the latest to offer guidance for executives eager to bolster their capabilities in this area.

The firm's guide, entitled ' The Cyberresilient Enterprise: What the Board of Directors Needs to Ask', promotes a movement from standalone risk protection approaches to enterprise-wide risk management frameworks that unify responses to information security, business continuity, and incident response.

Building these frameworks requires executives to use “nimble, innovative operations” to link protection and recovery programs to the organisation's overall mission and goals, the guide notes while recommending that companies implement integrated programs to ensure the sustainability of essential services no matter the threats they face.

Executives, the guide advises, should ask themselves questions whether sufficient attention has been given to the ability to defend against intrusions as well as the ability to recover and restore essential functions and services; whether the board is routinely informed about the potential material operational risk and risk mitigation strategies as well as incidents that could impact the brand; and to what extent essential services and functions have been identified, and programs implemented to provide for their resilience in the event of a disruption or cyberincident.

ISACA is only one of many organisations promoting the idea of cyber-resilience; security giant Symantec has also been engaging customers around the idea, and other consulting firms are steadily reinforcing the need for high-level involvement and guidance when shaping cybersecurity mandates.

Little wonder: with recent estimates suggesting that just 1 percent of employees are responsible for 75 percent of cloud-related enterprise security risk – and poor security shown even by users who should be security-concerned, such as those compromised in the recent Ashley Madison hack – security skills are now recognised as being just part of a larger threat response that extends from the bottom of the organisation all the way to the boardroom.

Designing appropriate board-level security can also be tricky given the need to address what RSM Bird Cameron national head of fraud and forensic services Roger Darvall-Stevens recently warned is a “dirty little fraud secret”.

Citing a recent Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Global Fraud Survey, Darvall-Stevens warned that higher-level executives represented a higher financial exposure – accounting for 19 percent of frauds but causing a median loss of $500,000 per event – than employees, who committed 42 percent of frauds with a median loss of $75,000 per event.

Boards need to “address what can be don to mitigate the risk and provide confidence that blind trust should never be a control,” he said in a statement, advising controls including executive interviews around fraud awareness, due-diligence background checks, understanding C-suite executives' systems-access profile; and undergoing forensic IT analysis as required.

“Everyone should be accountable,” he said, “and subject to appropriate and proportionate checks and balances. If a C-suite executive objects to forensics or fraud detection procedures, this may be a red flag in itself and should cause concern.”

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Tags information securityISACACSO AustraliaRoger Darvall-StevensThe Cyberresilient Enterprisecyber-resilience

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