Top 5 Security Actions Every CEO Should Take
Keeping ahead of ever-evolving cyberattacks can be tough. Here are five steps any CEO can take to strengthen the cybersecurity preparedness of an organization.
- By Anas Baig
- October 6, 2022
It may sound a bit clichéd, but the business world has transformed dramatically over the last decade. New tools, dynamics, obligations, responsibilities, opportunities, and of course, new approaches have contributed significantly to how the “way things are done” has evolved.
Some notable examples include the enactment of several data protection laws globally that require organizations to manage their data processing activities more responsibly. Similarly, the proliferation of new social media tools such as Tik Tok and Instagram means businesses can now interact and connect more closely with their target audiences.
Cybersecurity is another area that has seen a transformation in how organizations utilize it and how businesses approach it. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that an organization’s cybersecurity was considered something to be handled by the information security department. That’s no longer the case. A combination of threats posed by potential cyberattacks and their overall impact on an organization’s reputation means that most businesses have adopted a more proactive and protracted approach.
This new approach starts from the top itself -- the CEO.
However, it can often be complex and puzzling for CEOs to know exactly where to start and what steps to take to kick-start a healthy cybersecurity culture within an organization. To make things easier, here are five steps any CEO can take to strengthen the cybersecurity preparedness of their organization.
Implement Automated Solutions
The nature of cybercrimes is evolving principally because the criminal elements are consistently applying new methods to find deficiencies in the cybersecurity solutions adopted by most organizations. Mechanisms and measures that may be foolproof today may have gaping vulnerabilities within a few weeks.
Organizations must learn to adapt accordingly -- not only to keep pace with the cybercriminals but to stay a step ahead of them in every possible way. An effective way of doing this is to become more open and affirmative in implementing automated solutions that, for example, assess and evaluate an organization’s internal and external data storage to identify potential vulnerabilities.
Remedial measures (perhaps manual though increasingly automated) can then be put in place to mitigate any lapses in the organization’s cybersecurity framework.
Adopt and Demonstrate a Proactive Mindset
At first, this may seem like an obvious reiteration of an accepted business practice. However, organizations take this lightly far too often. A CEO’s direct involvement with cybersecurity practices must herald noticeable changes. This should be most evident in an organization's mindset towards implementing any proposed transformations.
All policies enacted should reflect an active privacy and security governance model that adopts a proactive approach to resolving and mitigating all security challenges rather than relying on a reactive response.
By doing so, organizations can maximize productivity and increase their chances of successfully countering potential cyberattacks more effectively and efficiently.
Conduct Rigorous Assessments
A critical practice that most organizations often shy away from is implementing a consistent assessment regime that thoroughly evaluates systems and mechanisms to ensure cybersecurity standards are up to par.
Yes, it’s a monotonous job, which may be why most organizations often overlook the simple fact that it is not enough just to have sufficient measures and mechanisms in place. It is equally important to ensure that these measures are cross-checked and regularly run through assessments validating their effectiveness.
As mentioned, cyberthreats are a continuously evolving issue. Cybercriminals consistently devise new and innovative ways to dodge the often generic mechanisms organizations employ to counter such threats.
A CEO must take a proactive interest in ensuring that all assessments are done, keeping the most modern standards in mind. Additionally, the personnel responsible for carrying out these assessments must themselves be adequately informed and equipped with the knowledge to understand the evolving cybersecurity landscape and make the required changes in the assessment process to reflect this.
Increase Internal Security Awareness
It is often said that a CEO must take a personal interest in the intellectual and technical growth of those that work under him. The same principle holds for cybersecurity. This is where things become less technical and more about the people at the organization themselves.
Most organizations have begun taking cybersecurity training and privacy certifications seriously, requiring all employees to complete courses and orientation sessions that properly train them for some of the common cybersecurity risks they may be subjected to.
However, this serves only as a starting point for embedding within the company a comprehensive and detailed cybersecurity culture. This includes raising awareness about potential threats employees might face online and properly guiding and educating them about how to avoid them.
Regular workshops, training sessions, and specialized courses for those employees whose jobs expose them to the most numerous or most dangerous cybersecurity threats would go a long way in establishing the kind of employee awareness that could save your organization from a potential security threat due to internal negligence.
The CEO must, of course, take an active approach towards initiating steps that ensure such a culture sticks. It may not need to be in the form of permanent oversight. Hiring a specialized cybersecurity awareness officer or existing personnel to take on this additional responsibility could also be possible later.
Instill Internal Security Practices
Properly educating, training, and preparing employees in the best cybersecurity practices is in itself a part of instilling reliable and effective internal cybersecurity practices. It’s a simple fact that employees come and go within an organization. What stays is the culture that an organization allows to prosper internally. Sound cybersecurity practices must become a part of that culture.
The only effective way to ensure that is to have a strict set of practices that are adhered to by employees -- including top leadership itself. These practices will require a complete overhaul in some cases and a minor revamp in others.
For example, organizations across the world have begun embracing a “bring your own device” (BYOD) culture. Although BYOD does allow employees to retain a degree of flexibility in their work, it comes with the pitfall of leaving devices vulnerable to exploits.
An organization may instill the strictest internal network policies that prevent malicious files from being accessed from within. However, employees using their device outside this network are just as vulnerable. If the device is compromised, the very next time the employee reconnects to the organization’s network can lead to a potential security incident.
In another case, a device can just as easily be stolen when it’s outside the organization’s premises. It may seem like a bit of a stretch, but it only needs one such instance for your organization’s network and any crucial offline information on the device to be left completely vulnerable.
The solution in such cases is fairly simple. The adaptation of mobile device management (MDM) solutions is a highly effective way to guarantee that lost devices can be remotely reset to avoid any of the sensitive resources on them being compromised while ensuring no one gets unauthorized access to the organization’s internal networks or resources.
The recommendations mentioned above will go a long way in ensuring a CEO establishes the right mindset and practices, but employees themselves need to be open to these changes. After all, a CEO can only initiate such processes. It is up to the employees to ensure the success and effectiveness of these steps.
By playing their parts to the best of their abilities, employees and the CEO can expect a better cybersecurity culture and mindset within the organization -- which goes a long way toward guaranteeing that the chances of a cybersecurity incident are minimized drastically.