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Boardroom-CISO Communications Breakdown is Endemic

CISOs and the board of directors are missing the mark when it comes to cybersecurity reporting.

According to Osterman Research, only two in five IT and security executives feel that the information they provide to the board is actionable, and even fewer believe they are getting the help they need from the board to address cybersecurity threats.

Despite a general consensus that more automation can help address the security personnel staffing shortages, the report found that cybersecurity reporting still is dominated by manual methods: 81% of IT and security executives employ manually compiled spreadsheets to report data to the board. This process can lead to incorrect reporting and oversight of important data, whether it is due to intentional manipulation or human error.

One of those areas of oversight is security spending, interestingly enough. The most common type of information reported about cybersecurity issues is about known vulnerabilities within the organizational systems, followed by recommendations about cybersecurity program improvements and specific details on data-loss incidents. Information about the cost of cybersecurity programs and details about expenditures on specific projects or controls are not as commonly reported.

The research also uncovered that IT and security executives say they frequently report breaches, but admit they don’t know about all of them: Four out of five respondents say they report major data breaches to the board, yet more than a third report they do not know all of the data breaches that occurred during 2015.

Interestingly, this lack of accuracy and completeness appears to worry a minority of businesses. Only two in five IT and security executives said that they are pressured by the board to provide an accurate report about data breaches and attack attempts; in fact, even fewer say there are repercussions if they do not provide an accurate report to the board.

 “Overall, the report shows the board isn't doing its job when it comes to holding their CISOs accountable for providing actionable and accurate information about their cyber-risk and IT—and security executives are not doing their jobs and making sure the information they report is understandable, actionable and accurate,” said a spokesperson for Bay Dynamics, which sponsored the report.

Overall, only one-third of IT and security executives in the survey said that they believe that the board understands the information about cybersecurity threats that is provided to them. And fewer than two in five IT and security executives believe that risk is reduced as a result of their conversations and reports to the board.

“Arguably, the most important statistic noted in the figure below is that only 37% of IT and security executives agree or strongly agree that organizational risk is reduced as a result of their conversations with and reports to the board—in fact, 5% of those we surveyed either disagree or strongly disagree that risk is reduced,” the report concluded. “The point of IT and security executives presenting information to a board of directors should be informing the board about cybersecurity threats and what is being done to address them—at many organizations that clearly is not happening, and so boards are not helping to reduce risk.”

Photo © Scott Maxwell/LuMaxArt

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