When it is time to talk to your senior management about information security, what is the most effective way to do so? That question was recently posed on this LinkedIn forum of IT security managers. The answers were thoughtful and varied, and can serve as good examples for your own strategy.

Discussing Security in Business Terms

One of the first comments was very specific and prescriptive: “Put the issues in business terms.” This is a common suggestion, especially when talking to executives.

“Try to shift [management’s] thinking away from it being an IT issue,” said another commenter. That way, you can create a business-based discussion and focus on the overall enterprise risk management objectives.

It’s important to relate to the particular risk appetite that your firm finds acceptable and understand how to mitigate that risk with the proper security investments. There needs to be a match — otherwise, your message won’t have the necessary impact.

Speak the Language of Management

One participant emphasized the importance of knowing your audience and conversing with executives in terms they understand. “Never talk down to them, [or] try to confuse them with buzzwords or lingo,” the security manager advised. IT professionals often get caught up in this jargon and can’t see the forest through the trees.

Another commenter said that IT managers should lead by example and share their experiences dealing with security breaches. They could explain any lessons they learned and discuss strategies to avoid breaches in the future.

It’s also crucial, an IT manager pointed out, to “speak to the social business benefits.” Some professionals place too much emphasis on business profit and loss numbers, and as such they fail to consider the many intangible factors that influence customers to buy their products and services.

Know Your Audience

Finally, IT managers should study their subjects and know their motivations. “Spend a little time upfront trying to find out what keeps your CEO and board of directors awake at night relative to information protection,” one commenter advised. “You might be surprised at the responses.”

These kinds of interviews can help set the appropriate tone for your conversation. I have often attended meetings in which several speakers repeatedly refer to acronyms, only for a participant eventually speak up to ask what it means. That can be embarrassing for everyone.

Listen to the six-part podcast series: A CISO’s Guide to Obtaining Budget

More from CISO

Who Carries the Weight of a Cyberattack?

Almost immediately after a company discovers a data breach, the finger-pointing begins. Who is to blame? Most often, it is the chief information security officer (CISO) or chief security officer (CSO) because protecting the network infrastructure is their job. Heck, it is even in their job title: they are the security officer. Security is their responsibility. But is that fair – or even right? After all, the most common sources of data breaches and other cyber incidents are situations caused…

Transitioning to Quantum-Safe Encryption

With their vast increase in computing power, quantum computers promise to revolutionize many fields. Artificial intelligence, medicine and space exploration all benefit from this technological leap — but that power is also a double-edged sword. The risk is that threat actors could abuse quantum computers to break the key cryptographic algorithms we depend upon for the safety of our digital world. This poses a threat to a wide range of critical areas. Fortunately, alternate cryptographic algorithms that are safe against…

How Do You Plan to Celebrate National Computer Security Day?

In October 2022, the world marked the 19th Cybersecurity Awareness Month. October might be over, but employers can still talk about awareness of digital threats. We all have another chance before then: National Computer Security Day. The History of National Computer Security Day The origins of National Computer Security Day trace back to 1988 and the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control. As noted by National Today, those in…

Emotional Blowback: Dealing With Post-Incident Stress

Cyberattacks are on the rise as adversaries find new ways of creating chaos and increasing profits. Attacks evolve constantly and often involve real-world consequences. The growing criminal Software-as-a-Service enterprise puts ready-made tools in the hands of threat actors who can use them against the software supply chain and other critical systems. And then there's the threat of nation-state attacks, with major incidents reported every month and no sign of them slowing. Amidst these growing concerns, cybersecurity professionals continue to report…