As Cybersecurity Awareness Increases, Information Sharing Lags, Survey Shows

Interest in security is growing among business professionals. More than three-quarters (79 percent) of company directors who responded to the “2017 BDO Cyber Governance Survey” reported a rise in cybersecurity awareness during the past year. In addition, 78 percent of executives said they had matched their investment in time with a commensurate cash injection to help defend their businesses from cyberattacks during the past 12 months.

The survey, which polled 140 corporate directors of public company boards, calculated an average rise of 19 percent in security budgets. While this boost in investment is good news, many businesses remain reticent to share vital information that can help reduce the risk of attack. Instead, organizations should look to create strong cross-business partnerships, particularly between board directors and chief information security officers (CISOs).

Building Cybersecurity Awareness

While board members have increased their time and cash investments in cybersecurity on an annual basis, 18 percent of directors said that their business has suffered a breach during the past two years. When it comes to incident response, 61 percent of survey participants said their company had some form of incident response strategy.

While 16 percent still have no plan at all, the number of businesses that now have a strategy in place is significantly higher than just two years ago, when only 45 percent of firms had an agreed-upon approach to incident response.

Meanwhile, 91 percent of board members said they received cybersecurity briefings at least annually. Just over one-fourth (28 percent) of these individuals are informed on a quarterly basis. Unfortunately, 9 percent of directors said they are still not updated on information security affairs at all.

The BDO survey also asked directors about the WannaCry cyberattacks. About 60 percent of board members said their business had implemented measures to help reduce the risk of ransomware. Key strategies here include an increased emphasis on patch management (58 percent), a rise in the frequency of data backups (58 percent) and the ability to restore data more quickly (46 percent).

The Importance of Information Sharing

In the report, John Riggi, managing director of cybersecurity and financial crimes at BDO, stated that too many executives are still reticent to reveal insights that could help organizations around the world reduce the risk of a security incident. In fact, only one-quarter of company directors share information about cyberattacks with other organizations. Another 24 percent said their business did not share insights with anyone else, while more than half (51 percent) were uncertain whether their organization shared information.

Of the companies that do share information, the significant majority (86 percent) communicate knowledge with government agencies, such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While almost half (47 percent) pass insights to Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), only 8 percent communicate with rival firms.

Creating Strong Executive Partnerships

The results of the BDO survey support the notion that board directors should become more involved with cyber risk governance. Board directors are under significant pressure, but their trusted executive partners can help fill risk awareness gaps and achieve compliance with a growing number of regulations.

Companies must focus on building strong relationships between board directors and key executives, namely the CISO. Potential tactics for strengthening this partnership include mandating the role of the CISO, understanding his or her network of influence and actively reviewing the state of organizational cybersecurity.

Mark Samuels

Tech Journalist

Mark Samuels is an experienced business technology journalist with an outstanding track record in research. He...