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Opinion: Cybersecurity as a service answer to urgent change

15 Feb 2019

Article by GRC International plc, parent company IT Governance, chief executive Alan Calder

Cybersecurity becomes more complex, more expensive and more frustrating year on year. The threat landscape is changing too fast.

The data management and privacy compliance demands are onerous and expensive. The business risks are too high. Companies can simply no longer place the burden of cyber security and cyber resilience on an IT Manager; yet few can afford the high level and high cost of skills associated with a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).

Indeed, how many CISOs can truly offer the depth and breadth of skills and expertise required, from technical and management system qualifications to practical cybersecurity business experience around people, process and technology, as well as the legal understanding required to ensure breaches are managed according to compliance processes?

With a now urgent requirement to reconsider cybersecurity, to evolve towards a cyber resilience model and effectively map cybersecurity to a business’ risk appetite, a process that requires close and continued board level discussion and evaluation, a change is required. Insourcing this critical cybersecurity skill set through a Cyber Security as a Service (CSaaS) model can enable a company to build a cyber resilience strategy in a coherent and consistent manner.

Board level concern

The complexity associated with cybersecurity and the escalating cyber threat is outstripping the abilities of most organisations. It is no longer enough to know how to deploy security technology; in today’s data compliance dominated world, the legal complexities associated with data security and protection are far outside the remit and understanding of any IT expert. Just ask Morrison’s, a company deemed vicariously liable for the exposure of personal employee data which was accessed by a senior internal auditor as part of his job and then released onto the Internet.

To public shame companies can now add punitive fines associated with regulations including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR); while regulatory bodies – most notably the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – are prioritising cybersecurity, raising both the cost and risk associated with data management and protection.

And while many board members are aghast at the speed with which security spending has escalated over recent years, cybercriminals are radically outspending those protecting against cyber attacks. When an individual with no expertise can rent very sophisticated attack software and deploy it against a range of targets on the Internet on a fee share basis, there is little barrier to entry for an embryonic cyber criminal.

Elusive CISO skills

While the financial fall out associated with a cybersecurity breach is now catastrophic, few companies have any idea how to fix the problem. Few Chief Information Officers (CIO) will have the required cybersecurity knowledge or expertise to address the very specific challenges created by this intersection of technical, process and data protection compliance, nor the ability to match cybersecurity threat to the business’ risk appetite.

Clearly, however, companies require an individual with these skills; someone who is up to speed with the current and evolving cybersecurity threats as well as data protection issues and can advise the board on how to assess and address the risk. In theory, firms require a CISO – but few can afford or even find one.  Even then, will that individual truly have the skill set to encompass the entire range of issues?

And, while it may be a tempting thought, this is not a problem that can be outsourced. Of course, elements of the technical security solution – from firewalls to VPNs – can be managed by a third party. But it is the business that retains liability for the cybersecurity model; the business which will be hauled over the coals by the regulator, media and public in the result of a devastating and badly handled data breach. What is required is a model that enables these skills to be insourced, to leverage a CISO as a Service or Cyber Security as a Service (CSaaS) model to gain rapid access to a team of individuals on a part-time basis to deliver a relevant and risk-appropriate strategy.

As a Service

In addition to the speed with which an organisation can gain access to the CSaaS model – in direct contrast to the time it takes to find and recruit a CISO - it is the depth and breadth of skills provided by a team, as opposed to an individual, that is incredibly valuable. Comprising technical and management system qualifications as well as practical business experience around cybersecurity, a CSaaS team can provide expertise and experience across people, process and technology, even encompassing a legal team with the expertise required to manage a breach from a compliance perspective.

The CSaaS model can be tailored to each organisation’s requirements, from a strategic overview to full deployment. Starting with a gap analysis, the CSaaS solution compares the current cybersecurity model to the threat environment specific to the organisation and the company’s risk appetite. Following this assessment, which will take days or a couple of weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the business, the CSaaS will provide a plan with in-built cyber resilience and a clear view of both cost and benefits.

The multi-layered, defence in depth model, will include not only technology but also process and people, including on-going auditing and staff training, to ensure the cybersecurity continues to be appropriate for the organisation within a changing threat environment.

Board level commitment

A fundamental aspect of this CSaaS is the ability to engage with the board and the business plan, to identify and prioritise the specific cybersecurity risks, especially those that could derail the organisation. This is not about locking down every possible area of business risk; about banning the use of all USB sticks or blocking all emails. It is about gaining a detailed view of the business to understand what is required to operate successfully whilst managing cyber risk in a way that maps the business’ risk appetite.

Indeed, the goal is to ensure cybersecurity risk assessments become as embedded within business thinking as every other area of operational risk – a process aided by providing a board level dashboard of incidents, how they have been managed and the requirements for ongoing improvements. This shift in thinking is key: while boards are incredibly frustrated by the cost and risk created by the cybersecurity threat, managing this threat is a fundamental and essential component of business operation. Cybersecurity and resilience cannot be outsourced; this is not an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ option.

Quite the opposite: it is about finding a way to rapidly and cost-effectively insource the diverse skills and experience required to mitigate risk in today’s incredibly complex and data sensitive operating environments. With a CSaaS model, companies can begin to take back control, address spiralling costs and make cybersecurity a proven, workable and trusted business as usual process.

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