Fidelis Cybersecurity Survey Shows Lack of Trust, Limited Visibility and Knowledge Gap between the Board and IT Security Professionals

New survey from Ponemon Institute and Fidelis underscores how the divide adds risk against advanced threats

June 25, 2015

5 Min Read


WALTHAM, Mass. – There are significant gaps in cybersecurity knowledge, shared visibility and mutual trust between those who serve on organizations’ board of directors and IT security professionals. These gaps between those responsible for corporate and cyber governance and those responsible for the day-to-day defense against threats could have damaging impacts on organizations’ cybersecurity posture, leaving them more vulnerable to attack and breaches. This data comes from a new survey, Defining the Gap: The Cybersecurity Governance Survey, conducted by the Ponemon Institute and commissioned by Fidelis Cybersecurity, a leading provider of advanced threat defense solutions and services.  

Cybersecurity is a critical issue for boards, but many members lack the necessary knowledge to properly address the challenges and are even unaware when breaches occur. Further widening the gap, IT security professionals lack confidence in the board’s understanding of the cyber risks their organizations face, leading to a breakdown of trust and communication between the two groups.

The survey asked more than 650 board members and IT security professionals (mainly CIOs, CTOs and CISOs) for their perspectives regarding board member knowledge and involvement in cybersecurity governance. Key findings include:

Lack of Critical Cybersecurity Knowledge at the Top
76 percent of boards review or approve security strategy and incident response plans, but 41 percent of board members admitted they lacked expertise in cybersecurity. An additional 26 percent said they had minimal or no knowledge of cybersecurity – making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to understand whether the practices being discussed adequately address the unique risks faced by their organization. This renders their review of strategy and plans largely ineffective.

Limited Visibility into Breach Activity
59 percent of board members believe their organizations’ cybersecurity governance practices are very effective, while only 18 percent of IT security professionals believe the same. This large gap is likely the result of the board’s lack of information about threat activity. Although cybersecurity governance is on 65 percent of boards’ agendas, most members are remarkably unaware if their organizations had been breached in the recent past. Specifically, 54 percent of IT security professionals reported a breach involving the theft of high-value information such as intellectual property within the last two years, but only 23 percent of board members reported the same, with 18 percent unsure if their organizations were breached at all.

“As the breadth and severity of breaches continues to escalate, cybersecurity has increasingly become a board level issue,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “The data shows that board members are very aware of cybersecurity, but there is still a lot of uncertainty and confusion. Many lack knowledge not only about security issues and risks, but even about what has transpired within their own companies, which is shocking to me. Without an understanding of the issues, it’s impossible to reasonably evaluate if strategies and response plans are effectively addressing the problem.”

Absence of Trust Between Boards and IT Security Professionals
The board’s lack of knowledge has created a further divide. Nearly 60 percent of IT security professionals believe that the board does notunderstand the cybersecurity risks of the organization, compared to 70 percent of board members who believe that they do understand the risks.

“The gap in knowledge and limited visibility into breach activity means board members don’t have the information they need to make smart cybersecurity governance decisions, and IT security professionals don’t have the support – monetary or otherwise – to maintain a strong security posture,” said retired Brig. Gen. Jim Jaeger, chief cyber services strategist at Fidelis. “Board members don’t need to be cyber experts, but they should have a thorough knowledge of the risks their organization faces and be able to provide the support needed for the security teams to protect against those risks.”

Additional Key Findings Include:

·         Target breach was a watershed moment. 65 percent of board members and 67 percent of IT security professionals reported that the Target data breach had a significant impact on the board’s involvement in cybersecurity governance, while previous high profile breaches were reported to have nominal or no impact.

·         The SEC will drive drastically increased board involvement. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) Guidelines requiring the disclosure of material security information had a significant impact in boards’ involvement, according to 46 percent of board members and 44 percent of IT security professionals. However, only five percent of board members and two percent of IT security professionals say they followed the SEC guidelines and disclosed a material security breach to shareholders. Moving forward, 72 percent of board members believe the SEC will make the guidelines a mandate, and 81 percent believe that this will increase the board’s involvement in cybersecurity governance.

To learn more about this survey and for specific guidance on how organizations can address the critical gaps putting them at further risk, please read the Bridging the Gap white paper. Additionally, the results of the survey will be discussed in a webinar hosted by Jim Jaeger of Fidelis Cybersecurity and Dr. Larry Ponemon of the Ponemon Institute on July 14 at 1:00 pm ET. To get more information or to register, visit


Tweet this(link is external): Survey from @Ponemon & @FidSecSys shows divide between the board and #IT pros around #infosec is external)#ExposeTheGap


Supporting Resources:

·         Ponemon Report

·         Microsite

·         Bridging the Gap White Paper

·         Infographic

·         Threat Geek(link is external)

·         Twitter(link is external)

·         LinkedIn(link is external)


About Fidelis Cybersecurity
In today's world of continuous compromise, Fidelis Cybersecurity helps many of the world's largest enterprises and government entities effectively and efficiently defend themselves against advanced threats, protecting their most valuable information by stopping data theft and business disruption. Second in market share in a market estimated to reach more than $1 billion in 2016*, Fidelis offers full lifecycle advanced threat defense solutions, operational threat intelligence, and security services to help our customers rapidly detect, respond to and remediate malicious activity and risks across their networks and endpoints. To learn more about Fidelis Cybersecurity, please


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