The Question Most Often Asked By the Board of Directors

July 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

boardroomWhat Question is Most Often Asked of the CISO, By The Board Of Directors?

And What Questions Should They Be Asking?

The big question being asked, according to Kim Nash, columnist for the WSJ, is; “Whether their company is vulnerable to breaches similar to those at Target Corp., Anthem Inc. and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)?” There’s two things to consider here – First, who can answer this question? Second, is it the right question?

According to Kim, it’s not the right question – but let’s go to my first concern which is, “Who can answer this question?”

Will We Be Hit Like Target, Home Depot, or OPM?

Most executives can’t answer this question honestly. And their security team doesn’t really have a clue either. If they did, we wouldn’t be reading these stories every day.  And, if you look at the stories being published, it’s the big guys – yet we know statistically, 60% of the breaches are hitting the SMB market.  Most of these breaches never make the news.  So the board can ask, but they’re not likely to get the real answer.

If you didn’t see my comments on OPM, you might want to take a look (Read about Donna Seymour and OPM’s failure to protect our nation’s critical personnel data.) The board is missing the mark here because they misunderstand risk.  In my book, The House & The Cloud (2nd Edition), i’ve given a lot more attention to the impact vs. likelihood graph than I did in the 2007 version – it’s a model I use to communicate risk to business leaders.

If you know security, the concept is pretty simple. The missing link in most assessments is a measure of likelihood.  And that’s what the board is really asking – although they are asking it incorrectly.  What they really need to know is, where’s our data, and what are the top 3 to 5 threats we are facing right now. Given these threats, what are the odds we’ll be hit over the next 12 months?  (More detail on how to figure this out, starting on page 194 in The House & The Cloud.) As I said in my latest speaker promo video, risk needs to be presented in simple business language – in terms everyone who uses and depends on data can understand.

One thing everyone must comes to grips with is, every company is vulnerable just like Target, JP Morgan, Home Depot, and most recently Ashley Madison.Check Point Training Ad

The question isn’t “Can they get in like they did at Target?” Rather, they should be asking, “Can we detect a breach in time to stop the damage?” Remember, like a house or bank physical robbery, hacking does take some time, and it does make noise – but you won’t hear it with your ears. You’ll need detection technology in place and the people with the skills and understanding to turn that data into intelligence.

So what’s the right question? Can we detect and respond before it’s too late?

Are You Getting To The Board?

Have you ever been invited to meet with or present to a board of directors? It’s a powerful moment in the sales cycle if you have something meaningful to say.  Yesterday I was working with a rep on some strategy, as part of the SVLC Security Mastery Sales Program. We were discussing strategies to get a CEO or Board level meeting.

Most are still working at the IT Director Level. Remember, the IT Director is low on the liability list for security. They might lose their job – but getting a new one, if they know security, won’t be hard. In fact, they may take a pay raise.  On the other hand, people like Donna Seymour of OPM are in trouble. (Again, read my post and consider Donna’s situation – is it her fault, or is there something bigger going on here?)

Now is the time to move up – company leaders need more security insight right now and the WSJ is backing you on this. The CISO cannot possibly figure all of this out in a vacuum. And aside from some of the largest accounts out there, their people won’t have the experience to do it either. Managed services (with a security focus), backed by skilled security experts is needed to collect and analyze the data, repackaging it into something business leaders can use – intelligence.

What About SMB Companies?

Don’t let the Board of Directors thing keep you from your SMB accounts. The SMB is under fire right now – and the owner of that business is similar to the Board. They need to know the same things, they just have less resources to figure it out.

© David Stelzl, 2015

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