CSOs must take initiative to boost CEOs' security buyin: survey

Despite growing recognition of their importance in mounting an effective cybersecurity defence, industry research has suggested that fully one-third of CEOs and 43 percent of management teams are not regularly briefed on cybersecurity.

While 60 percent of respondents to the Dimensional Research survey, conducted on behalf of security firm CyberArk, said their organisation could be breached, a similar percentage of respondents said their CEOs weren't well informed enough about security and 69 percent said that security is too technical of an issue for their CEO.

Some 53 percent of the 304 surveyed IT-security professionals believe that CEOs make business decisions without considering security issues, while 44 percent said their CEOs simply do not understand the severity of today's security risks.

The findings highlight the importance of educating CEOs about security issues – and the initiative that CSOs need to take to make sure their CEOs are more cyber savvy, particularly since many tend to approach security from a compliance perspective that ignores the rapidly changing nature of today's threats.

“Compliance does not equal security,” CyberArk chief marketing officer John Worrall said in a statement. “It can lull a CEO into a state of complacency because all it demonstrates is a simple checking of a box without context for responsible levels of information protection.”

Compliance-focused security regimens can also create budget constraints where executives feel they have provided adequate resources – but CSOs generally didn't agree, with 75 percent of respondents saying budgeting issues were the primary barrier to improving cybersecurity.

Skills were also an issue, with 53 percent of CSOs citing the lack of expertise as a primary barrier to improving cybersecurity. This was in line with recent comments from academics and industry figures that Australia is struggling to keep up with security training and skills availability.

The blame shifting represents a change from other recent CyberArk research, which found that CEOs and CEOs blamed user behaviour for security breaches and said that companies needed to adopt new cybersecurity risk postures based on the idea that breaches are inevitable.

Changing this perception begins with CSOs, who need to take a more progressive approach to their CEO engagement by deriving meaningful metrics with which to have more broadly-focused discussions that also – if the latest survey results are an indication – reflect the need for more proactive executive education.

Read more: Google distrusts “widely trusted” Symantec root certificate

“Security professionals are briefing executives on the wrong information,” Worrall added. “They need to arm their CEOs and executive teams with information that matters, such as threat detection and risk metrics versus compliance and system availability.”

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