A new report published by cybersecurity firm Savanti, argues that cybersecurity leadership is broken and failing to deliver cyber success for businesses.
The report argues that the combination of home working (which now means there are far more entry points into company networks than before), ballooning threats from rogue states and criminal groups, and low understanding of what companies actually need to defend themselves has created a ‘perfect storm’ in cybersecurity.
The report lays bare the rapidly growing threat environment in which attacks from nation-state actors have increased and are now more likely to target private companies than government agencies. 90% of organisations believe they have been targeted by a nation state threat actor, with 39% citing Russia and 44% China.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime is predicted to increase globally by 15% per year, reaching more than £12 trillion annually by 2025 – which would make it the world’s third-largest economy behind China and the US.
Savanti’s report outlines how low levels of understanding about cybersecurity among company leaders results in isolated, technically-focused approaches that fail to deliver holistic security and risk management.
The report finds that, most crucially, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) are hired, managed and evaluated as technical experts rather than business leaders – a skills gap that is leaving companies increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats.
The skills gap is also creating unsustainable job churn. The average tenure of a CISO is 2.3 years – compared to 6.9 years for a CEO, 4.7 years for a CFO, 4.6 years for a CIO – and the average CEO will cycle through three CISOs in their tenure, stunting the company’s ability to build a long-term strategy. Analysis of recruitment and cyber investments by Savanti estimates the cost of a bad CISO hire to be at least £7.6 million.
The report contains a number of recommendations, including:
CISOs should be hired, managed and measured as business leaders rather than technical experts;
Recruitment should priotise communication skills for CISOs;
Cyber risk should be owned by the board, embedded in organisational processes and led with sufficient budget and staffing to drive organisation-wide change;
Cyber leaders need to achieve change through influence rather than control;
Boards need independent trusted cyber advisors, including ex-CISOs, to help them effectively interrogate all aspects of cyber leadership and strategy;
CISOs should be integrated into all forward-looking aspects of business growth.
Richard Brinson, CEO of Savanti, said, “Our report is a wake-up call for business leaders to stop treating cybersecurity as a compliance exercise – those days are gone.
“Businesses simply cannot ‘farm out’ cybersecurity to technical experts without fundamentally changing the way they operate.
“We need a new model of leadership for the cyber age that unites security and business goals and utilises cybersecurity to enable and grow businesses as well as protect them.”
Recent attacks on NHS supplier software, the Russian attack on Ukrainian military through ViaSat and the historically devastating NotPetya attack that nearly folded the global giant Maersk are just some examples of the damage wrought by cyberattacks.