In Shakespeare’s tragic play “Julius Caesar,” a soothsayer’s ominous warning about the Ides of March was dismissed by Caesar, ultimately leading to his downfall. This cautionary tale holds relevance for modern cyber leadership, as many corporate directors remain unclear about their organization’s cyber risk due to vague and low-level cybersecurity reports. Despite growing awareness of cyber risk, only 47% of corporate directors feel they receive adequate cybersecurity information.Drawing from my experience presenting cyber risk to boards and training cyber leaders, I’ve identified ten strategies for chief information security officers (CISOs) to enhance their board reports and bridge the gap in expectations:Understand Your Board: Tailor your reports by understanding the board’s fears, priorities, and expertise. Provide actionable insights that align with their concerns and empower them with relevant guidance.Embrace Transparency: Communicate bad news honestly and transparently. Avoid sugar-coating high-rated risks, as this could backfire later. Transparency and courage are crucial for effective communication.Strike a Balance: Avoid fearmongering or portraying your organization as a victim. Instead, assure the board that you’ve identified key risks and established a robust remediation program.Focus on Meaningful Metrics: Share metrics that drive meaningful change. Avoid vanity metrics that only arouse emotions. Use metrics tied to critical business processes and potential impacts.Get to the Point: Recognize that cybersecurity is one item on the board agenda. Write concisely and avoid fluff. Captivate the board’s limited attention with clear and impactful messaging.Peer Review: Have a fellow executive review your draft reports for clarity. If they struggle to understand a section, rewrite it. First impressions matter, so ensure flawless and accurate reports.Speak Their Language: Avoid excessive technical jargon. Tie risks and strategies to business goals and corporate values. Highlight the “why” instead of delving into technical details.Strike the Right Balance: Avoid information overload without oversimplifying. Corporate directors are competent; focus on relevant details and avoid patronizing clichés.Address Critical Risks: Explain critical risks beyond the risk appetite in a concise manner. Articulate likely business impacts, risk drivers, and mitigation strategies.Anticipate Board Questions: Preemptively address board members’ likely questions and concerns. Anticipate queries related to recent breaches, cybersecurity investments, control validation, and more.To effectively close the gap in cybersecurity reporting, CISOs must transform from technical experts to skilled storytellers. By crafting clear, relevant, and impactful narratives, CISOs can enhance board understanding of cyber risks and foster informed decision-making.
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October 20, 2023
October 20, 2023