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12 Cyber Security questions to ask your ‘person in charge’ of Cyber



At Edge we encounter organisations of all sizes, in many different sectors, and differing levels of Cyber appreciation/maturity. Some have CISO’s, some have made pseudo security managers, most throw the responsibility at IT; sadly few are totally committed, even those who are, are technology lead, not policy, people and process disciplined, leaving the back-door open by poor knowledge transfer and Cyber housekeeping.

Every director should have a general understanding of Cyber security risk and what it means for their oversight responsibilities.

Regulatory pressures; most notably the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) Cyber security Regulation, and other federal and state data security laws and regulations, an increasing reliance on technology and big data, and the evolving threat environment each place significant obligations on organisations to reduce their Cyber risks.

Cyber security is relevant to companies of all sizes in every sector. Threats are serious and evolving, and legal and regulatory requirements are growing. Regular communication between management and the board on cybersecurity is critical, to protect company interests and ensure accountability.

No longer a responsibility relegated solely to the CIO, Cybersecurity has become a front and centre concern in the boardroom.

Despite this, The Global State of Information Security® Survey 2018 reveals that out of respondents surveyed, only 44% of corporate boards actively participate in their overall security strategy.

Although a Board of directors and CEO may not need to know why a certain type of malware can penetrate a firewall, they do need to know what their organisation is doing to address those threats.

Discussions at the Board level should include identifying which risks to avoid, accept, mitigate or transfer (through Cyber insurance), as well as reviewing specific plans associated with each approach.

The Board must also ensure that the CISO is reporting at the appropriate levels within the organisation. Sometimes the agenda of the CIO is in conflict with the CISO. As a result, some CISOs now report directly to the CEO, COO or CRO.

Effective Cyber security is an ongoing process. Armed with the right information, the board can play an essential role in preventing problems before they arise and rectifying data breach events.

Governance, compliance and data breach risks

It is evident that breaches can have enormous legal, financial and reputational consequences. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and NYDFS Cyber security Regulation will place even greater obligations on boards to address information governance and data privacy, or face staggering financial penalties.

Cyber security and compliance are ongoing processes that must regularly be tested, maintained and updated. Failure to implement and maintain essential security practices can significantly change to your organisation’s legal defensibility in the event of a data breach incident.

The value of achieving third-party compliance certifications

Obtaining certification to a recognised security standard provides an external, expert assessment of the effectiveness of the organisation’s security posture, and presents evidence that the organisation has taken reasonable measures to mitigate data security risks.

12 pertinent questions the Board should be asking the CISO about Cyber risk management:

  1. 1). What are the  top risks our organisation facesAccording to Gartner, by 2020 30% of Global 2000 companies will have been directly compromised by an independent group of cyber activists or Cyber criminals.

    Organisations need to prioritise the real risks by identifying security gaps and their impact on business and ensure the budget to manage these risks is allocated accordingly.The Board should also be asking themselves whether they have a solid understanding of the impact of applicable (and emerging) legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements related to cybersecurity top risks our organisation faces?

    2). Are we testing our systems before there’s a problem?

    There are many tests that can assess the vulnerability of systems, networks, and applications.

    An important element of any security regime should be regular penetration tests. Penetration tests are simulated attacks on a computer system with the intent of finding security weaknesses that could be exploited. They help establish whether critical processes—such as patching and configuration management.

    Many companies fail to conduct regular penetration tests, falsely assuming the company is safe. But new vulnerabilities and threats arise on a daily basis, requiring the company to continually test its defences against emerging threats.

    3). Are we conducting comprehensive and regular information security risk assessments?

    A risk assessment should provide the Board with the assurance that all relevant risks have been taken into account, and that there is a commonly defined, understood means of communicating and acting on the results of the risk assessment.

    Without determining the risk associated with vulnerabilities, organisations often misalign remediation efforts and resources. This approach not only wastes time and money, but also extends the window of opportunity for hackers to exploit critical vulnerabilities.

    Since a threat (known or unknown) is the agent that exploits a vulnerability (such as outdated software), this relationship must be a key factor in the risk assessment process. Advanced security operations teams use threat intelligence to understand potential threat actors’ capabilities, and current activities and plans; also, to anticipate current and future threats.

    Information security or cybersecurity?

    Information security and cybersecurity are closely related. Cybersecurity is defined as the protection of information from cyber-attacks. Information security on the other hand is a broader term that describes the protection of information and information systems from unauthorised access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide its confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA). Cybersecurity is usually seen as a sub-component of information security.

    What is ISO 27001?

    ISO/IEC 27001:2013 (ISO 27001) is the international standard that describes best practice for an ISMS (information security management system).

    An ISMS is a system of processes, documents, technology and people that helps to manage, monitor, audit and improve your organisation’s information security, all in one place.

    Achieving accredited certification to ISO 27001 demonstrates that your company is following information security best practice, and delivers an independent, expert assessment of whether your data is adequately protected.  ISO 27001 certification provides compelling evidence to stakeholders, clients and regulators that your organisation has taken the necessary measures to protect itself from a data breach.

    4). How do we demonstrate compliance with our cybersecurity controls?

    An audit can support the board’s need to understand the effectiveness of its Cyber security controls. If the organisation has chosen to comply with an information security standard such as ISO 27001, an independent review of the organisation’s information security controls can be conducted by a certification body. The audit can be used to provide evidence of the organisation’s commitment to information security.

    The review, in turn, be used as a competitive advantage when bidding for new business, as is the case with companies certified to ISO 27001.

    5). Do we have an effective information security awareness program?

    According to the 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study, 25% of data breaches were due to negligent employees or contractors (human factor). Social engineering remains a common tactic whereby criminals can break into a network through underhanded methods, by exploiting deceptive or deceitful employees (e.g. distributing malware through malicious links).

    The critical importance of an effective staff awareness program cannot be emphasised enough. Research shows that traditional Cyber security awareness measures can be greatly enhanced by a multi-faceted security program that creates a total culture change and tackles persistent incorrect employee behaviours

    6). In the event of a data breach, what is our response plan?

    Cyber security experts will agree that it is no longer a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ you will be breached. The critical difference between organisations that will survive a data breach and those that won’t is the implementation of a cyber resilience strategy, which takes into account incident response planning, business continuity management (BCM) and disaster recovery strategies to bounce back from a Cyber-attack with minimal business disruption.

    The Board should also be aware of the laws governing its duties to disclose a data breach. The NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation and GDPR are both examples of legislation that will introduce corporate breach notification obligations.

    7). Are we adequately insured?

    Recent reports reveal that Cyber insurance is not adequate to protect companies from a full-scale cyber-attack. Although it is difficult to quantify how expensive a data breach can be, information about other data breaches in your industry should provide an indication of the potential damages your organisation might face.The IBM Cost of Data Breaches Report 2017 shows that the global average cost of a data breach is $144 per record, and the average overall cost to organisations was $3.62 million. Many organisations don’t realise that they are liable for a data breach even if the data is stored in the Cloud, or if a third party with which it shares information is breached.

    8). Do we comply with leading information security frameworks or standards?

    Examples include the leading international information security management standard, ISO 27001, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or the Cyber Essentials scheme (which provides basic cyber security protection against 80% of Cyber-attacks).Certifying to leading international standards such as ISO 27001 is a strong indicator that the company employs proven best practice in cybersecurity, and presents a holistic approach to protecting not only information online, but also risks related to people and processes. The organisation may also opt for independent certification to verify that the controls it the implemented controls are working as intended.

    9). Is our information security budget being spent appropriately?

    Less than half of companies surveyed, 45%, say they have the board involved in setting security budgets, compared to a global average of 39%, according to the Global State of Information Security Survey.

    Setting the information security budget is not just about having enough budget to buy more technology to patch cybersecurity holes.

    The key is to take a strategic approach to budget allocation to make a real impact on the organisation’s information security posture. Increased security does not translate to increased technology. In fact, technology alone won’t protect your business from the ever-present threat.

    10). Do we have visibility into the network?

    Poor network behaviour visibility can wreak havoc in an organisation. The IBM Cost of Data Breach Study 2017 revealed that the average time to detect a data breach is 191 days.

    Many administrators do not have access to the network that is deep enough to paint an accurate picture of what’s really going on inside the network. They also lack the tools that can quickly identify, interpret and act on threats.

    11). Are supplier and supply chain risks part of our risk register?

    Cyber threats may reach the organisation through any number of vulnerable points along the supply chain. The Cyber security of any one organisation within the chain is potentially only as strong as that of the weakest link in the supply chain.It is often the smaller organisations within a supply chain that, due to more limited resources, have the weakest Cyber security arrangement. Dealing with supplier risks requires a broad, inclusive approach that allows organisations to identify their place within the supply chain, and map their cybersecurity dependencies and vulnerabilities.

    Organisations should implement a multi-stakeholder supply chain risk assessment process that engages as many members of the supply chain as possible.

    12). When did we last test our recovery procedures?

    Ponemon Institute’s 2017 Cost of  Data Breach Study: Impact of  Business Continuity Management revealed that BCM programs significantly reduced the time to  identify and contain data breaches.

    Effective BCM helped save companies 43 days in the identifying a breach and 35 days in containing it. BCM and disaster recovery plans must be tested regularly to establish whether the business can recover rapidly following an attack. Some of the “what if” thinking should be devoted to establishing how vulnerable designated fallback options are to Cyber-attacks. For example, a malicious assault on your data may not be detected for some time and backup data may have been compromised.

How Edge 2020 can help your organisation improve its Cyber defences

What we can do, and how will you benefit:

  • Determine your current information security processes and the Standard’s requirements
    • Gap analysis – the analysis will identify the resources and capabilities you need in order to close the gap
  • Deliver a total security staff awareness solution tailored to your organisation’s unique needs and culture
    • Security awareness program – with a multi-faceted security awareness program, we can help you create a total culture change and tackle persistent undesirable employee behaviours
  • Implement a Cyber security risk assessment and management process
    • Implement Risk Assessment Software e.g. Essential 8 ‘scorecard’, and/or Black Swan Keys & Certificate management – automating elements of the risk assessment process helps you save time, effort and expense with a quick and easy Cyber security risk assessment tool
  • Assess your systems and networks for any potential weaknesses due to system configuration issues, hardware or software flaws, and operational weaknesses
    • Penetration Testing – accurately evaluate your organisation’s ability to protect its networks, applications, endpoints and users from determined attackers, get detailed information on actual, exploitable security threats, prioritise remediation, apply necessary security patches and allocate security resources
  • Implement a business continuity management process
    • Business Continuity Management Consultancy – save hours of uncertainty, trial and error about how to go about implementing an effective business continuity management system that helps you to achieve cyber resilience
  • Help you to implement an information security management system (ISMS) that protects all your organisation’s information, not just digital information
    • Information Security/ ISO 27001 Consultancy – achieve organisation-wide protection, protect the confidentiality, availability and integrity of your data, reduce costs and improve your Cyber resilience posture.

Andrew Krauze
Co-founder & CEO, Edge IT Group

If you would like to understand how you can improve your cybersecurity strategy, find out more or get in touch with us today.