As a refresher, what is the problem in a nutshell?
Security risks now have board-level attention and CISOs struggle to present information about their security program in ways decision-makers can understand.
They need a single solution that allows them to programmatically plan, execute and measure their programs, and the means to show their boards and executive peers the relevant metrics to justify plans and investments.
The challenge, however, has always been creating a centralized view and providing meaningful information that non-technical professionals, such as business leaders and boards of directors, find meaningful.
What is the solution?
The solution is to have a central place for all the relevant data, including plans, priorities, maturity metrics, risks and more. From there you can get a comprehensive view of the whole security program or target individual areas to present just the information of interest to the organization’s leaders.
This would provide the platform for CISOs to track investments, measure and articulate risk, track progress, and translate comprehensive technical information into something that is meaningful and actionable by business leaders.
What does Secure Blueprint look like?
Secure Blueprint is a unique SaaS solution that utilizes the most common maturity and control frameworks and provides the technical depth to manage that goes above and beyond traditional executive cyber reporting.
The software has been designed to give the user a one-of-a-kind experience, delivering business-focused analytics, initiative tracking and dashboards that keep track of your defined key performance indicators. With just a click, you’ll have all the information you need to assess risk, potential risk, set maturity and goals for all aspects of your program.
Secure Blueprint is a way for CISOs to drive continuous improvement with the end goal of being able to clearly communicate business-focused priorities and outcomes. The platform automatically generates dashboards to track specifics and used during presentations to boards and committees to show your program state and goal. We are able to clearly show the past, present, and future of your program maturity based on control frameworks. This includes analytics integrated with cyber business maturity benchmarking to ensure the CISO can not only identify program gaps but also guide investments.
No more manually created charts, no more multi-tabbed Excel sheets, Secure Blueprint is intuitive and easy to use so that you can be confident in showing your program to the board.
What are some key attributes to the program?
According to Gartner, CISOs need dashboards that cover a wide range of aspects. Secure Blueprint is a comprehensive program management platform that includes dashboards. It provides easy visibility into program maturity, program roadmap, initiatives management, investment management, cybersecurity program component heatmap and component management dashboards. Currently, CISOs are forced to build those out manually. Secure Blueprint does all this for them.
The integrated dashboards allow visualization of all these aspects and more. With just a click of the mouse, they can see every relevant detail in a manner that is easy for anyone in the organization to understand, therefore justifying the costs associated with their cyber program.
What else should we know about Secure Blueprint?
You can learn more about Secure Blueprint by clicking here.
Interview by Maxfield Barker, Sr Marketing Coordinator, Kudelski Security
Pressures facing security leaders continue to increase. More frequently industry leaders are focusing on the role of CISO as a risk management business executive, not solely a security leader. CISOs need to drive and communicate on a program that is aligned with the overarching business objectives and risk appetite. With the myriad, ever-evolving elements of a comprehensive security program and associated risks, this is a tall order. Modern CISOs need new software to facilitate these challenges. Thus, the invention of Secure Blueprint, a cyber business management platform for cyber leadership.
The following discussion with John Hellickson, vice president of US services at Kudelski Security, describes the driving need and rationale for this new category of security product.
What is Secure Blueprint and where did the idea come from?
Secure Blueprint is a new innovative approach to designing comprehensive, agile, and business-aligned security programs by Kudelski Security. It includes software that enables the CISO’s plan, execute and improve programs, keeping alignment with business objectives. It delivers metrics that demonstrate program maturity, areas of priority and risk, so smarter investment decisions can be made, and creates dashboards to enable risk-based story-telling conversations with boards and executive peers.
It’s a well-known fact that boards are being asked to know more about cyber issues, while CISOs are challenged discussing those needs with the board in a way that instills confidence in their security program.
CISOs must now think more like a CEO than ever before, as cybersecurity treated as another IT function has proven to be limiting when combating today’s advanced threat landscape. Cybersecurity is a critical concern for business and executive leaders at the highest level of all organizations and governments, therefore, bridging the gap between business objectives and prioritizing security investments is essential.
Recently, C-suite and boards are expecting more of their cyber leadership in communicating the value of selected security investments by progress improvements and reduction in business risk as outcomes. This trend is indicative of the desire by the C-suite to learn and increase support for the CISO role to prevent a cyber attack. Therefore, CISOs need to develop executive presence, change their mindset and approach, demonstrate decisiveness and agility and speak in a language that C-suite understands.
What is the biggest challenge you are addressing?
It’s hard to effectively plan, budget and justify investments if you can’t measure the maturity of your programs and the progress made. And if you don’t have this knowledge, how can you gain the necessary visibility for achieving your strategic goals? And with no ability to understand where ongoing gaps exist and demonstrate progress, how can you instill confidence in your security program and strategy with business leaders?
What does the board need to know?
Well, let’s start with what they don’t need to know. Overly detailed answers that delve into day-to-day security operations may overwhelm or frustrate the board. Unfortunately, this is what CISOs have traditionally provided due to technical backgrounds.
What boards actually need, is for the CISO to articulate relevant security threats to the organization and industry. Boards want a clear sense of cyber program target maturity and how the CISO is closing the gap. In order for CISOs to deliver this kind of information, they need to convey and be ready to communicate the following information:
- State of cyber program maturity and roadmap
- Top Industry Threats & Trending
- Priority 1 Initiatives & business outcomes
- High-Level Business Oriented Cyber Risks
- Timely related incidents and organization impact
…which is exactly what our Secure Blueprint platform provides
So, Secure Blueprint goes beyond just board reporting to helping the CISO with a structurally different approach to building and executing their security agenda.
Board reporting is crucial, though, and can be one of the most difficult aspects to master, for any CISO. But more importantly, you need to both run your cybersecurity program as a business and articulate this in the framework and language that business leaders understand.
Gartner summarizes it nicely in this article, by stating: “Organizations need to develop a strategic planning capability that enables the organization to develop and refine a roadmap of investments that recognizes a continuous change in the business, technology and threat environments.”
Cybersecurity is still a relatively young field, where evolving threats keep best practices fluid; where the intense pressure to deliver grows constantly and where company culture and industry context matter greatly. With so many variables, how can cyber leaders chart a path to success in today’s CISO role?
The solution is to run cyber programs like you run a business. Think of your cyber portfolio more as a business portfolio. Your board will want to know if your cybersecurity initiatives align with the enterprise’s objectives. The CISO needs to measure cyber security program’s success. You can do this by blending and measuring qualitative and quantitative risk along with program maturity. The CISO also needs to know what the best investments are that make the most of the cybersecurity program. These are some of the things that every CISO should have on their mind and be able to communicate on a regular basis.
Put simply, the outcome should be the ability to present a cybersecurity program strategy and progress status to C-suite in a communication method that resonates with an executive audience.
So, what does that solution look like?
Stay tuned for part two to find out!
In the first part of this series, I introduced the research Kudelski Security did on the subject of board communications and metrics in collaboration with our Client Advisory Council. The report is available in full here, but as with all meaty reports there’s a lot of content, so this article seeks to cover some interesting insight that didn’t make the final cut.
There were a few questions we explored in depth, based on a response from an initial survey on frequent questions CISOs are asked by the board.
The full list of questions that formed the basis of our research is listed below:
The broad consensus from our Council Members was that this question: “Are we secure? How do we know” was the most challenging and frequent question that boards ask CISOs. As with all strategies, there was not a one-size-fits-all approach, so the report ends up offering a range of strategies that need to be evaluated and implemented based on your unique organizational profile and board requirements. Worth noting that CISOs spend an average of 10-20 hours preparing their response to this question, so in the interests of saving time, it’s a useful question to consider.
Here are five key takeaways:
- One fortune 500 CISO suggests this is not a simple black or white answer as there is no such thing as 100% secure; we are always going to have more vulnerabilities, as the threats constantly change. He prefers to talk about security as a journey using a maturity model, a framework to measure progress.
- It was commonly agreed that this question needs to be bridged to an industry framework; the board needs to understand that you are measuring and aligning the maturity of your company’s capabilities to what the industry norm is.
- Start by presenting the cybersecurity maturity model – a best practice framework for your industry (like NIST CSF, ISO etc.) you are aligned to – and show where you’re at today on that journey, ultimately according to company’s maturity goals.
- Continue by presenting where you want to get to and pivot your answer to a risk management discussion by showing the level of current risk. You should be able to explain the board if this level is above, at or below the company’s risk profile, risk tolerance, or risk acceptance levels.
- Next, show the board how you reduced risk of compromise to critical assets using metrics that attest to improvement trends, as it is key to validate your state of security. Provide direct, fact-based answers that you can validate with metrics, such as event monitoring results, or with third-party audits. One of our CAC members, a CISO in the Computer Hardware industry said:
“Always have data to back up your recommendations. Stay away from opinions”
What was a particularly interesting outcome from our discussion with the Client Advisory Council CISOs was that a key metric and focus for the CISO must be the ability to respond and recover from attacks, and not just any attack, but the more targeted attacks.
This is a good way to confirm the defenses are operating well. As Pete Naumovski, VP and CISO, BCBSA states: “in a perfect world, the absolute metric for a CISO to have is the MTTD / MTTR of a more targeted attack”. Or as Ginny Davis, CIO and CSO Technicolor puts it: “Your ability to respond and recover is equally important to how secure you are”.
And while we are on presentations, here is a summary of the top-5 presentation tips:
- Keep the same format for each board presentation, a focused message on each slide and leave plenty of white space
- Use a heatmap to demonstrate risk drivers or a spider graph to show multiple data points
- Keep the message on each slide focused and leave plenty of white space
- Show progress over time, including trends, outcomes, and risk reduction
- Show improvements in ability to respond and recover from an attack with examples of dwell time reduction for threat actors like phishing or malware.
Read the full report and get Enterprise CISOs perspectives, examples, meaningful metrics and a range of strategies to prepare CISOs for the challenging questions from the Boardroom. Look out for part 3 of this series for a more detailed focus on peer comparison.
Cybersecurity incidents are increasing, and with it, the pressure on CISOs to get cybersecurity right. At the heart of this challenge is getting the full support of the board of directors. The board sets the tone for the organization, gives the green light for adequate resources, ensures alignment of investments to company business objectives, and provides leadership at the organizational level on the importance of cybersecurity.
CISOs have found themselves having to hone a new set of skills around board communication and in articulating the cybersecurity program in a way that resonates with board members. Recognizing that this may be a knowledge gap for many CISOs, especially those coming up through the technical ranks, Kudelski Security conducted a research project together with members of its Client Advisory Council. The research, titled Cyber Board Communications & Metrics, seeks to help CISOs facilitate those conversations and can be accessed here.
For this project, Kudelski Security surveyed around 80 CISOs about matters relating to board communication, such as the most common and challenging questions the board asks them. Their collective responses provide insight into what interests boards the most, what keeps them up at night, and what questions are toughest for CISOs to answer. We ended up focusing on a total of five questions in depth, covering the different paths and strategies to answer them, but here are a few highlights.
Four Key Takeaways
Across the responses we received for each question, we identified a few key takeaways. Here is a peek into best practices advice to improve CISO communication with boards and instill their confidence in the security program.
1. Get to know your board
In the long run, you’ll want to get to know your board members, their backgrounds etc. The more you understand the board members, the better you’ll be able to communicate, engage with them and get their support. As Robert Drawer, Global Director of IS, Mayer Brown LLP suggests, CISOs should have onboarding conversations with new board members, preferably face-to-face, to share the latest board presentation and metrics. Another Council member suggests discovering board members’ preferences to consume information, as some boards like visuals and others prefer dialogue. CISOs need to create a presentation that will resonate with their board.
2. Think Context
When preparing your board presentation, always provide context relating to the bigger picture, and focus on strategic elements with relevant business-centric metrics that enable to tell a story. Create a story that shows how you have aligned security program and investments to business priorities, how your controls are effective, how your strategies, investments, and outcomes make the company secure and enable business and demonstrate how your strategic plan is aligned to a framework and a maturity model and backed up by data. For example, one of our council members from the media and entertainment industry chose a spider graph to communicate the journey towards target maturity. This enabled him to provide the board with a quick view of previous maturity, current maturity, target into this year’s roadmap and goal.
3. Fail to prepare – prepare to fail (yes, that cliché)
Among the most important tasks to complete about a week before the board presentation are:
- prepare for as many questions as possible and get as much data as you can to show that you are informed,
- be prepared to talk only about the highlights of the presentation in case the board meeting is shorter in time than planned initially,
- and review and update your presentation with other senior executives to get feedback on the data points and plan to make adjustments that will improve your message. Always have data to back you up. “Before presenting to the board, get buy-in from one person in the meeting who will support what you are presenting” – Robert A. Drawer, Global Director of IS, Mayer Brown LLP
4. Tell the story the board would like to hear
And finally, during the board presentation, tell the board the story the way they want to hear it, a story that demonstrates control effectiveness and results, with related business outcomes. The most productive board interactions happen when presentations become conversations.
This is just a peek inside one part of the research. For a complete look at the research and recommended board communication strategies, click here to read our Cyber Business Executive Research: Cyber Board Communications & Metrics or look out for part 2 of this 3-part series for a more detailed focus on the top questions.