Don’t be shy—it’s no time to be quiet about security
October 5, 2020
Just five years ago, CISOs tended to be seen as one of two extremes—either as the hero of the hour or the weak link, depending on whether they were viewed as having saved their company from a cyber crisis or as having allowed it. Now, there is almost a competition among global cybersecurity leaders—who can be “the world’s quietest CISO.”
It helps that today, CISOs generally don’t need to shout as loud within their own organizations. Cybersecurity is fast becoming part of every workforce’s vocabulary, and now CISOs are better informed and prepared to manage current and future cyber business risks than they were in the past. And improved cybersecurity protection is helping them to make progress—our earlier research showed that direct attacks are down 11 percent from the previous year and security breaches have dropped by 27 percent as attackers are forced to look for weaker links in the supply chain.
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In an ever-changing world where threats are evolving, it’s not enough to build good defenses. Security teams must go further.
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Even so, in an ever-changing world where threats are evolving, it’s not enough to build good defenses. Security teams must go further, and that involves getting up close and personal with how they manage, communicate and engage—especially with the C-suite and Board—as they plan for and handle cyber incidents across the enterprise.
Naturally, the first steps during any incident are to resolve the matter, quickly and with minimal disruption to the business. But it is not always possible to restrict the damage to an organization’s four walls. The impact of an attack can cause far-reaching reputational damage and incur regulatory fines that can outweigh any internal costs.
Three factors are converging to put pressure on how CISOs respond to incidents:
The threat landscape and the defense surface are incredibly fluid. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of not only companies’ rapid transformations to work from home, but also remote employees’ susceptibility to new COVID-19 themed attacks. Threat actors are exploiting the often-weak security for remote workers.
Legislators are stepping up the pressure. Governments around the world are reacting to cyber incidents by introducing tougher regulations and new legislation around data security and privacy—increasing the complexity of the patchwork that is already in place.
Government enforcement actions are increasing. Where laws or regulations are already in place, regulators are stepping up enforcement. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has increased its focus on companies’ timely disclosure requirements; the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sharpened its typical guidance to companies where it opens cases; European Data Protection Authorities are flexing their muscles with more than €490 million fines to date; and the California Attorney General is just starting to enforce the California Consumer Privacy Act.
With these issues in mind, the latest Accenture Cybersecurity Forum (ACF) roundtable on September 3 called together Accenture Security subject-matter experts, legal advisors and industry peers from diverse companies to explore the actions CISOs should take to protect their enterprises, the public, and themselves.
The lively debate recognized that most CISOs are highly disciplined—focused on collaboration, preparation and documentation—which serves them well in managing legal risks. With this in mind, forum members agreed that, despite the media focus on charges brought against a high-profile CISO that allege obstruction of justice in a ransomware case, it does not appear that this is the beginning of a trend of United States Department of Justice (DOJ) actions against CISOs. Even so, it highlights the danger of revealing too little too late and is a wake-up call for any CISO.
CISOs have a highly specialized role and the buck generally stops at the CISO’s door when incidents occur. However, leading CISOs agree that they need to be almost attached at the hip to their legal counsel and business unit leadership when responding to an incident. For example, in the event of a cyber incident, a CISO should not be unilaterally deciding what information to share and not share externally, including with the government. Further, CISOs may need practice in storytelling and other aspects of conducting effective training—so they can communicate effectively with the C-suite, instill a culture of security in the workforce, and avoid the catastrophic: “We didn’t know what to do” reaction during an incident.
According to security leaders with deep cybersecurity experience, CISOs should adopt these five leading practices:
Our esteemed panel of CISOs highlighted three other considerations that are critical for effectively managing incidents:
CISOs who want to better manage legal, business and reputational risks should embrace greater collaboration, preparation and documentation—and there’s no need to be shy; your business knows that it’s too important to keep quiet about security.
Accenture Security is a leading provider of end-to-end cybersecurity services, including advanced cyber defense, applied cybersecurity solutions and managed security operations. We bring security innovation, coupled with global scale and a worldwide delivery capability through our network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Helped by our team of highly skilled professionals, we enable clients to innovate safely, build cyber resilience and grow with confidence. Follow us @AccentureSecure on Twitter or visit us at www.accenture.com/security.
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 Innovate for Cyber Resilience: lessons from leaders to master cybersecurity execution, Accenture 2020. https://www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/security/invest-cyber-resilience
 New and improved FTC data security orders: Better guidance for companies, better protection for consumers, Federal Trade Commission, January 2020. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2020/01/new-improved-ftc-data-security-orders-better-guidance