Good news for security pros out there, as industry numbers show that security leadership is no longer relegated to the proverbial kiddie table. In the past three years the domain of cybersecurity has nearly doubled its exposure as a boardroom issue, and executives at Forbes Global 2000 companies are taking steps to better govern cybersecurity risk management, according to a new study out last week.
Developed by the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) and sponsored by Forbes, the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR), and Palo Alto Networks, the Governance of Cybersecurity: 2015 Report examines cybersecurity risk governance practices and attitudes of executives at these top companies from four surveys over the course of seven years. Unlike a lot of security studies out there lately, this one shows a lot of promise. In spite of breach statistics today—or perhaps because of them—this study shows that enterprises are finally taking security seriously.
"This report shows that, for the first time, directors and officers understand they have a fiduciary duty to protect the digital assets of their companies and are paying more than cursory attention to cyber risks; it is a welcome change that will help protect shareholders and customers,” says Jody Westby, author of the series of survey reports and CEO of Global Cyber Risk, LLC and adjunct professor at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Here are five signs that show how cybersecurity risk management is maturing.
Security Is Top Of Mind With The Board
Just three years ago, only about one-third of executives and directors reported that infosec was a top issue in the boardroom. Today, close to 63 percent of respondents say they're actively addressing computer and information security.
Boards Reviewing Risk Assessments
Not only are boards considering security a major concern, but they're also doing their due diligence with regard to risk assessments. An overwhelming 93 percent of respondents said that their boards review risk assessment reports. And over half hire outside experts to help advise them on the implications of these reports.
Risk Committees Past The Tipping Point
Back in 2008, a measly 8 percent of organizations had established a Risk Committee separate from the Audit Committee. Today, that number has jumped to just over half—53 percent to be specific. Even more good news, those Risk Committees are gaining true autonomy of oversight. For the first time, the Risk Committee surpassed all other committees for the primary oversight of risk. Prior to now, the Audit Committee ruled the roost in that regard.
Boards Asking For Cyber Risk Experience From New Directors
As a part of that newfound emphasis on cybersecurity awareness, boards are increasingly looking at the security and risk management chops of incoming directors. Past surveys showed that boards were mostly looking for experience in finance, management and legal skills. Now 64 percent of boards say they look for risk and security experience. There's still room to grow—only about a quarter of boards report having directors with cybersecurity expertise.
Overwhelming Majority of Organizations Have Full-time CISOs
The first time this survey was done, under a third of organizations retained a full-time CISO. Now that number has reached 73 percent, while half have a full-time CSO. Unfortunately, reporting structures are still lending themselves to separation of duties issues, with 40 percent of organizations still having their CISO/CSO function report to the CIO.
Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading. View Full Bio