Cybersecurity and Leadership: Is Your Board Minding the Technology Gap?

How confident are you in your company’s ability to withstand a cyber attack? If you hesitate to answer, you’re hardly alone. According to a 2023 Accenture report on the “Cyber-Resilient CEO,” even CEOs lack confidence when it comes to their technological infrastructure. 

The report reveals that while 96% of CEOs agree that cybersecurity is critical to their company’s growth and stability, 74% are concerned about their ability to mitigate the effects of an actual attack. A shocking 60% — nearly two-thirds — admit that their organization doesn’t incorporate cybersecurity into its business strategies.

These findings point to an ever-widening technology gap among corporate leadership teams. Hand-wringing inactivity is doing nothing to address the problem, and as today’s cyber criminals become more advanced, the gap continues to widen. Here are some tips that your organization can use to more confidently address your cybersecurity issues.

The Cost of Cybersecurity

According to a report from IBM, the cost of a data breach is $4.45 million dollars. That kind of damage can be devastating even to larger companies. But the true cost of a data breach is found in the company’s loss of reputation. A cyber attack can damage your brand and compromise your reputation in the minds of consumers and stakeholders. Rebuilding trust can be challenging in the wake of such an attack.

Closing the Gap Among Board Members

Given these risks, how can executive teams develop greater resilience and lead their organizations to do the same? The following strategies can help boards close the gap in their technology ability.

Know Your Enemy

First, it’s important to identify the specific cyber threats that your organization may be most vulnerable to. Common examples of cyber threats can include:

  • Social engineering attacks
  • Viruses and ransomware
  • Business email compromise
  • Unintentional disclosure
  • Compromise in your third-party vendors or supply chain

By understanding your vulnerabilities, you’ll be better prepared to devise strategies to address them. Additionally, you’ll be able to focus on cybersecurity training for your employees to minimize the risk of data breaches through unintentional disclosure, phishing scams, or other vulnerabilities.

Build Cybersecurity Into Your Business Strategy

Executive teams focus on their company’s financial strategy. But it’s equally important to make cybersecurity an essential part of your business strategy. The process of developing such a strategy may depend on your risk profile and your level of risk tolerance. 

You’ll also need to develop a cybersecurity strategy that aligns with your core business processes and develop solutions that provide comprehensive protection for each of your business tasks.

As you move forward, you can evaluate your cybersecurity preparedness with regular assessments. Doing so will help you identify new areas of vulnerability and provide touchpoints to remind staff members of the importance of cybersecurity preparedness in the workplace.

Avoid Siloing Among Board Members

One of the reasons that executive teams struggle with cybersecurity is due to the “silo effect,” where board member responsibilities remain in discrete categories, keeping board members from working together. For instance, your board may have a CISO, but that individual may have little to no contact with your CFO.

The key to a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy will be teamwork. Pursue collaboration and dialogue between board members, particularly your CISO and CFO. 

By working together, these individuals can ensure that your cybersecurity goals align with your budgetary considerations. They can also more easily identify new risks and opportunities that may come through expanding your supplier network or cloud-based platforms.

Integrate Cybersecurity Into Your Vendor Onboarding Process

Business partnerships can be an overlooked area of digital vulnerability. Executive teams should establish clear protocols for screening potential vendors, suppliers, or other third-party business relationships. For example, you might press these entities to provide answers to questions like:

  • What cybersecurity procedures do you have in place?
  • What is your response plan in the event of a breach?
  • How do you communicate cybersecurity threats to your clients?

These and other questions can give you a clearer picture of the company’s approach to cybersecurity issues. Asking these questions will likewise help you connect to vendors that align with your cybersecurity strategy and risk profile. 

Establish Organization-Wide Cybersecurity Training Standards

While board members may not directly oversee cybersecurity training procedures, executive boards can still establish organizational standards for cybersecurity training. This means developing training programs that align with your industry and risk profile as well as providing periodic refresher training to keep up with evolving cyber threats.

Training should include both preventive and corrective measures. That is, while your employees should be trained to recognize and avoid common cyber threats — such as phishing scams or social engineering attacks — they should also understand your response protocols and their individual areas of responsibility. 

Having an accountability plan will ensure that your workers respond to breaches quickly to minimize the damage of an actual cyber attack.

Use the Right Technology for Board Members

While many of the above protocols have focused on establishing professional standards for the company as a whole, board members should likewise take steps to avoid becoming the source of a data breach. Does your board currently use a secure board portal? If not, implementing this kind of technology can prevent compromise or the loss of intellectual property.

Board members should likewise be kept up to date about the latest security concerns. Having proper training and procedures will minimize the risk posed to board members directly. 

Additionally, board members can communicate — at least in a general way — their own security procedures to company stakeholders. Doing so can allay any fears surrounding the board’s ability to navigate today’s cybersecurity landscape.

Creating Sound Security Habits

Following the above tips won’t give you an airtight security strategy. But it will get your board started down the right path. Developing sound cybersecurity habits will safeguard your organization as well as create a trajectory to navigate today’s evolving cyber threats. 

As leaders, you set the tone for your entire organization. By closing the technology gap as a board, you’ll lead by example.