How to Boost Executive Buy-In for Security Investments

How to Boost Executive Buy-In for Security Investments
Linking security budgets to breach-protection outcomes helps executives balance spending against risk and earns CISOs greater respect in the C-suite.

It's no secret that there is a tenuous relationship between most chief information security officers (CISOs) and their executive suite and board. The CISO is caught between a rock (cause) and a hard place (effect).

CISO-led enterprise security programs are intended to protect against security breaches. Executives have a duty to protect a business from unacceptable impacts, but they are rarely (if ever) presented with quantifiable and data-driven security strategies and action plans that link control of specific security breach outcomes — and associated impacts — with specific budgets. 

This exposes executives to external challengers — including investors, insurers, opposing legal counsel, regulators, and customers — regarding enterprise cyber-risk exposure. But these are not the only challengers. Internally, CISOs compete for limited funds against the rest of the business in an opportunity-cost war, and they are in battle with functions that deliver a much more obvious return on investment. 

Setting Cyber-Risk ExpectationsTo better handle these challenges, a security plan should set an expectation of the level of cyber-risk outcomes per given budget. This would not only set expectations for a given spend, but should a business cut or increase budget, the CISO can demonstrate the resulting change in cyber-risk exposure. 

The purpose of a security program is to have a degree of confidence in protection against security breaches. It is less that the executives believe that the business should be protected from breaches by advanced threats (like nation states); rather, they do not have credible information to know if less sophisticated threats, which are vastly more numerous, can breach and cause unacceptabl ..