For True Cybersecurity, Executives Must Become Hands-On

April 21, 2017
By: Special Guest
Chris Riley, President of U.S. Operations, SSH Communications Security

Of course cybersecurity is critical today – yet many organizations view it as a huge expenditure that slows the flow of business and frustrates employees, users and customers alike. C-level executives need to be aware of how their organizations’ security measures affect the flow of business. At its best, cybersecurity infrastructure runs quietly in the background, unnoticed. Rather than being considered a cost center,

cybersecurity can be re-envisioned as a growth enabler or differentiator, enabling enterprises to make innovative investments that spur growth.

Data security is so important that mishandling it can spell disaster for an enterprise. It is a potentially ruinous mistake for executives with non-technical backgrounds to simply assign responsibility for cybersecurity to the chief security officer, chief information security officer or IT team. C-suite executives might see the iceberg ahead, but do they really understand the size of the problem below the surface?

Taking Responsibility

Cybersecurity leadership must come from the top down if it is to successfully involve everyone. If the top executives are not involved directly, it can give the impression that cybersecurity is not a No. 1 priority; employees can do it tomorrow or whenever they have time. When the board or CEO starts asking the management team about what measures the company has in place to avoid becoming a headline, then there’s a much bigger chance of real change taking place.

Members of the C-suite who are not tracking with current events may be in for a rude awakening. The boardroom is placing the responsibility for cybersecurity squarely on the C-suite’s shoulders. As we have seen in recent headlines, a particularly bad public data breach can ruin a CEO’s career. As enterprises and government agencies are required to follow NIST and other cybersecurity guidelines, more than just the CEO will be targeted for replacement.

Cybersecurity Awareness Best Practices

For the sake of the enterprise—and their careers—those in the C-suite must become intimately familiar with the company’s cybersecurity efforts. The following best practices are a good place to start:

Maintaining Business Trust

Clearly, these best practices require significant time and attention, but the rewards are real. There are measurable business benefits for greater involvement in cybersecurity – and measureable downsides if you don’t. For instance, if your network gets infected and your servers go down, that downtime will have a disastrous effect on your company’s bottom line, not to mention the sustained operational costs and damage to reputation.

Without trust, business doesn’t happen. Your company’s solutions, products and services must be trustworthy. By leading from the top down, the C-suite can help ensure that the organization is protected appropriately while maintaining performance and ensuring that security measures do not disrupt operations in any way. Once the C-suite has established a security game plan for the organization and is confident that the team is performing on the right level, you can trust in your critical information flow and sleep better at night.

Cybersecurity from the C-suite

Trust has become a precious commodity in this era of mega breaches. Once lost, trust is difficult if not impossible to regain. C-level executives have a responsible and opportunity to maintain and even expand the trustworthiness of their enterprises. This means that they cannot delegate cybersecurity responsibility to someone else; they must take the issue up themselves and get hands-on experience and information on safeguarding critical data. If not, loss of trust, share prices and even careers are possible.

About the Author

Chris Riley has worked in IT and information security for more than 20 years. His experience in markets for identity assurance, data security, governance and risk management is extensive. At SSH, Chris is responsible for all U.S. business operations, including customer success and marketing. Chris is passionate about the work being done by SSH customers and associates regarding governance for trusted access and how that makes the world a safer place given the evolving threat landscape. Prior to joining SSH, Chris spent more than 10 years at RSA Security (News - Alert) in various leadership roles around enterprise sales and customer success. Chris is a graduate of Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, where he majored in finance and minored in economics. He also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Northeastern University (News - Alert) in Boston.

Edited by Alicia Young