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How To Talk To Your CEO

New report offers tips to help security pros talk to top management
If you want to get your security message across to your CEOs and top managers, then you need to speak in a language they can understand, according to a new report issued today.

The report, published by RSA, suggests some methods for bridging the gap between the technically oriented security staff and the business-oriented CEO.

To survive in a difficult economy, many companies are taking steps -- like using new technologies and global business models -- to drive efficiencies, but they may be both innovative and risky, the report notes. Security pros can help companies manage this risk, but first they must gain the confidence of the CEO, RSA says.

Some of the report's key recommendations to help security pros gain CEO support are:

  • Establish security champions within the CEO's circle of trust: Win over those who influence or interact with the CEO on a regular basis.

  • Set up a clear organizational structure: The security organization should have an absolutely crystal clear organizational structure. It must be clearly articulated, socialized, and institutionalized across the whole enterprise so people "get" what security does.

  • Make it real: To help CEO understand the risk, make it real. As much as possible, CISOs should quantify the risks. Don't just give vague explanations; instead describe realistic scenarios with actual numbers for probability, impact, and financial losses.

"You have to be able to understand risk analysis as the premise," said Michael Capellas, chairman and CEO of First Data, who contributed to the report. "That's where you start. This is about risk. The language of business is about risk. And if you sit in a CISO position, and you can't meaningfully talk about measures of risk and layers of risk, you're probably not going to be successful."

The full report is available here.

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