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Businesses Struggle to Build 'Security-First' Culture

New Accenture study finds half of businesses provide cybersecurity training for new hires and only 40% of CISOs prioritize building or expanding insider threat programs.

More than half of businesses base their cybersecurity investments solely on today's known risks and security needs. That's a good move for defending against modern cyberattacks but won't help much with attacks on the horizon, experts say.

Businesses who want to fully defend against these future threats need to let security influence the entire organization and stop letting the CISO and their team operate in silos.

"Companies today are waging war with outdated, backward-looking battle plans," researchers report in a new Accenture study entitled "Securing the Future Enterprise Today – 2018." The study polled 1,400 C-suite executives, including CISOs, to learn about current and future cyber risks and what companies are doing to prepare for cyberattacks they know will happen.

Consider the insider threat. Accidental and malicious insiders pose a growing risk to enterprise security, yet only 40% of experts polled say building or expanding an insider threat program is a high priority. It's imperative for CISOs and the C-suite to get on the same page when it comes to infosec, says Kelly Bissell, Accenture managing director and security global lead.

"[They] can see bad things occurring in their organization faster than before … the time from detection to eradication is getting better," he explains, adding that for many, this timeframe has gone from months to days.

In most organizations, security is a separate function dedicated to protecting core IT systems and data. Security strategies are more focused on detecting threats and decreasing damage rather than building products and processes to be more secure by design, researchers say.

CISOs of the future need to have business savvy, Bissell continues. They should know how the business makes money, where the enterprise "crown jewels" are located, including those used by third parties, and they should understand who their largest clients are.

The Danger of Siloed CISOs

Most companies are not governed, organized, and managed to handle risks of the future, Accenture reports. Security is left to the CISO and security team; business leaders are rarely asked to build security into product design or take responsibility for cybersecurity.

Only 22% of experts surveyed report business-unit leaders are held accountable for security. About 40% of security teams don't confer with business leaders to understand their goals before implementing a new security approach. Sometimes this is because the security team thinks they know the answer, says Bissell. Sometimes it's because security employees are under IT and politically separate from the business unit, which he says is still fairly common.

"If they don't collaborate well with the business unit they may not always have a shared vision for how to solve the problem, and that's what they've got to get to," he emphasizes.

A poor relationship between security and business teams leads to worse behavior, Bissell says. Mistakes are swept under the rug and go unreported, and the two blame one another when problems occur. Positive relationships make things easier but both teams have to contribute.

"The best CISOs are the ones who work with a business unit leader, and go to the audit committee together as one team to solve the problem," he explains. "Better alignment is critical … it's a two-way street." Security teams should proactively reach out to understand the business goals, and vice versa, for the relationship to work.

Breaking Down Silos, Building Bridges

An important step toward breaking security out of its silo is to embed security employees within business units, says Bissell. While this is more feasible for larger companies than smaller ones, it can help the two teams better understand one another.

Security pros of the future will require business risk skills and consultant skills, on top of technical expertise, and this strategy can help them learn how they can better protect the business. Some leading CISOs are hiring security employees who used to be mortgage processors or insurance claims adjusters because they have business backgrounds.

"That can really help shorten the learning curve of how the business works and where the risks are," he explains.

It's also important for security experts to be business-savvy so they can provide awareness training tailored to each business unit. For example, Bissell says, financial experts are educated on wire transfer fraud and other cyber risks specific to finance. The same goes for operations.

"Regular awareness around security risk to that particular business unit is key," he adds. "This is why it's so critical for the security group to understand the business in a very deep way."

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Strategist
7/16/2018 | 3:30:59 PM
Security culture should start upon hire
You story is on point but missing a vital detail. Security culture in the workplace should begin with the employees that are likely to be on the front line of a phishing or social engineering attack. Yes, CISO are part of the equation but good security culture should include those below the management level. Most employees are ignorant of exactly how social engineerng works and as result it is management that must respond and that is where your article starts. Everything you said is correct but it seems to me that far too many companies are preparing management for cyber incidents but not employees. Management needs to get into the grass roots of the company and focus on teaching good cyber security skills to employees as part of the corporate culture from the the first day aa worker goes into new employee orientation. A responsible CISO should step down a notch or two and begin to develop programs and training that create an alert workforce. Developing policies and technical tools to fight cyber attacks is fine but teaching employees to recognize the threat needs to be part of the program. The curret trend in employee training is the gamification of cyber security training. I feel this is a good step. But also teaching employees to help one another by practicing cyber security as a team is vital.
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