What is Cyber Security Governance & How to Achieve it?

Date: 7 July 2023

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Cyber Security governance refers to the overall approach that you use to direct and manage your organisation’s cyber security. This includes a methodical approach to processes and practices that help identify cyber risks, and assess and manage them effectively. 

The primary goal of cyber security risk governance is to provide a structured approach to securing your digital infrastructure and critical assets. 

In this blog, we cover some of these basics of cyber security governance: 

  1. What is Cyber Risk Governance? 
  2. How should you Approach Cybersecurity Governance for your Organisation? 
  3. What does Good Governance look like? 

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What exactly is Governance in Cyber Security? 

We often hear the terms ‘Governance, Risk and Compliance’ used generously in any discourse on cyber security. Yet in our discussions with businesses and clients over the years, we’ve noticed that not everyone understands the ‘governance’ component fully. 

Thus, we decided to simplify the concept in this blog. The idea is to show you what Cyber Governance entails and how you can achieve it. Because, the most essential aspect of governance in cybersecurity is to have a systematic action-based approach to security.  

Cyber Risk Governance is the process of putting together policies and frameworks that integrate with organisational operations. It ensures that cyber attacks cause least possible disruptions.  

Here is a look at some of the key steps in establishing a good governance programme: 

  1. Identifying organisational risks and risk appetite in the existing threat landscape.  
  2. Clearly defining the most critical business assets and operations that need maximum protection to ensure business continuity.
  3. Creating clear accountability frameworks - ensuring roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and communicated to all stakeholders.
  4. Having a well-established Cyber Security Risk Management Framework.
  5. Having a crisp, to-the-point Cyber Incident Response Plan, Cybersecurity Policy and Incident Response Playbook. This helps in better overall risk management and incident response.
  6. Ensuring that cybersecurity is a part of the business culture. All departments including the Executive and the Board should be well-versed with their cybersecurity-related responsibilities.
  7. Defining how regularly the cybersecurity documents, plans, processes and policies will be reviewed and revised. Treating cyber risk governance as an ongoing, continuous process rather than a one-time or annual activity.

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How should you Approach Cybersecurity Governance for your Organisation?

When it comes to Cyber Risk Governance, it’s important to remember that no ‘one size fits all’ approach will ever work. This is simply because the risks and threats that your business faces will always be different from anyone else, including those in the same industry as you. 

Further, your critical assets or most important operations will also always be unique. How you manage your information systems will be unique to your business. How you assign cybersecurity accountability to different departments and the leadership will also be unique. 

Therefore, it’s imperative to understand that what Governance looks like for you, may be very different from how it looks for your closest competitor. 

This is where we suggest bringing in external expertise such as that of our Virtual Cyber Assistants. Our cybersecurity experts can help you implement a Governance strategy that fits your business needs specifically. They can also guide you through the following: 

  1. Creating and implementing effective cybersecurity Policies & Procedures
  2. Measuring the effectiveness of your Security Risk Management programme
  3. Achieving compliance to your organisational framework
  4. Audit plans & Assessment reports
  5. Formulating and implementing an Information Security strategy that’s right for you 

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What does Good Cyber Governance look like?

Like we said earlier, good cybersecurity governance will look different for everyone. However, there are some key components of risk governance that are essential. We’ve summed them up as below: 

  1. Investing in Risk management

    Governance is all about taking a systematic-approach to how critical information systems and business operations are managed and protected against cybersecurity risks. Investing in Risk Management doesn't only mean making technology investments.

    It refers to taking a comprehensive control over risks and creating a detailed action-oriented plan for maintaining the organisational cybersecurity posture. Of course, cybersecurity governance also involves identifying, assessing, and managing risks related to information security. It includes conducting risk assessments, implementing controls to mitigate identified risks, and regularly monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of these measures.

  2. Delegating decision-making and trusting the decision-makers

    Governance frameworks define roles and responsibilities for cybersecurity within the organisation.

    This ensures that appropriate teams and individuals are accountable for implementing and maintaining effective security controls, monitoring compliance, and responding to incidents. 

    It is also necessary that the C-suite trust the appointed decision-makers for Risk Management. No matter how involved the senior management and the C-suite is in cybersecurity, they are rarely the ones taking day-to-day decisions for governance and risk management. Training CIPR-Jul-02-2023-10-10-13-1402-AM-1-1-3-1-4

    Therefore, it’s crucial that they delegate and trust the ones who have been assigned the task of managing cybersecurity risk. It goes without saying that these individuals will be those with the right technical, business and security experience and knowledge to handle the task at hand. 

    Clearly defined responsibilities and lines of communication go a long way in ensuring good governance in cybersecurity. 

  3. Staying focussed on Compliance and regulatory requirements

    Ensuring compliance with applicable laws, cybersecurity regulations, and industry standards is of course a mandatory requirement for good governance. 

    Risk governance includes monitoring regulatory changes, maintaining compliance with standards such as the GDPR, PCI DSS, or ISO 27001, and implementing necessary controls to meet legal obligations.  

  4. Communication and reporting

    We discussed communication channels briefly earlier. Effective risk governance involves clear communication and reporting mechanisms. This includes sharing risk information with relevant stakeholders, such as executives, board members, and employees, to facilitate informed decision-making. 

    Regular reporting on risk management activities and incidents helps ensure transparency and accountability.

  5. Incident Response Planning

    Having a well-defined roadmap for incident response and ransomware response is of paramount importance today. 

    You must establish cybersecurity policies and procedures that outline guidelines, rules, and best practices for securing information and technology assets. These documents define acceptable use of IT resources, data classification and handling, and other security-related guidelines. 

    Incident ResponseBut it’s very important to have a solid incident response strategy. Cybersecurity risk governance includes establishing incident response plans and procedures to handle security incidents effectively. These plans and playbooks should help you in timely detection and response to incidents, and in containing the impact, and initiating the recovery processes to minimise downtime and restore normal operations. 

  6. Creating a cyber-aware culture

    Governance efforts must include educating employees about cybersecurity risks, threats, and best practices. Regular training programmes to raise awareness promote a security-conscious culture. They also empower individuals to make informed decisions regarding information security. 

    Such programmes can help employees better understand the criticality of data protection and privacy laws. They can also better appreciate how damaging a cybersecurity incident can be to their function and the overall viability of the business.  

    For those more intrinsically attached to the Incident Response process, we recommend regular Cyber Crisis Tabletop Exercises. These exercises not only help rehearse the incident response plans. They also help the participants better understand their role in a crisis situation. They help develop muscle memory which can really be a life-saver in times of chaos.

  7. Continuous improvement

    Cybersecurity governance is anything but a one-time project. It requires regular evaluation and improvement of security measures.

    It includes conducting audits, assessments, and implementing feedback mechanisms to identify weaknesses, address gaps, and enhance overall security posture. One must also account for constant uncertainty in the cybersecurity landscape. 

    A plan, policy or tech solution that was relevant and effective yesterday may not be so today. Continuous improvement focuses on staying on top of the organisational threat context. It calls for ongoing adjustments to policies and strategies to address the constant change.

    It also means never feeling too complacent and overprepared and regularly investing in staff training and reorientation. 

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By establishing a robust governance program, you can effectively manage and address cybersecurity risks, protect your sensitive data, and maintain the trust of your stakeholders.

Cybersecurity risk governance is an ongoing process that requires a proactive and holistic approach. By integrating risk governance practices into your cybersecurity strategies, you can enhance your overall security posture and safeguard critical assets.

Ultimately, good governance helps you to identify and address potential vulnerabilities, protect against threats, and reduce the likelihood and impact of cybersecurity incidents - which really is the end goal for any cybersecurity endeavour today.  

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