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Why all companies should have a cyber leader

Peter Barnsley, director of cyber security at 6point6 talks to UMi about the importance of employing a professional to safeguard your company from harmful cyber attacks. 

Cyber security is an important part of any business; however, this is something that companies, especially SMEs, tend to overlook; even larger companies’ boards often don’t hire cyber security professionals who understand the risks or the technology as CTO’s and CIO’s. Instead, companies often hire business managers or accountants to fill these roles, who may not understand the intricacies of the technology and associated risks. A cyber leader sets the tone for an organisation and having a good one can help safeguard an organisation’s finances and reputation.

Reputation protection and enhancement

With the reporting of data breaches now on what feels like a weekly basis, a big data breach for an SME can be a major issue, especially when it comes to reputation. The reputational damage from cyber-attacks can be huge, especially if customer information, such as credit card and passport details, are leaked. Having a cyber leader within the organisation who has the responsibility for managing day to day security concerns and the plan of action if a breach does occur, helps to protect a company’s reputation and make customers feel at ease with handing over private information. A company with a proactive cyber security policy will benefit from a positive reputation for customer care and responsible data handling.

Risk Management

Risk management is one of the most important attributes of a strong cyber leader. With strong technical understanding of risk management and current threats that face the business, big or small, they can advise the board effectively. Companies that are trying to mitigate risk will always have a better chance of doing so if the cyber leader can predict what is going to happen and communicate the costs as being investments rather than outgoings.

Often a new system or approach will incur costs that may be seen as excessive to an organisation’s executives. However, the cyber leader looks beyond this to the long-term benefits and makes an informed decision based on risk versus reward. This decision making is made easier as the cyber leader will likely have experience in the field, and so can make an informed decision about the long-term benefits opposed to shorter-term financial decision for the benefit of the company.

Retention of important staff

It is important to recognise that technical staff are hard to come by and so keeping hold of good employees is very important. For most companies, retention among technical staff is notoriously bad, often because they are poorly managed. Having a cyber leader who has strong experience in the industry will make sure all technical staff have a respected leader to combat this. It is a candidate’s market in the cyber field, so, having a strong cyber leader means as a business technical staff’s morale and satisfaction will be closely monitored and satisfied.

Long term costs savings

Cyber security is a costly exercise to implement but a good cyber leader can reduce these costs and in the long run make the system profitable. To do this, they will embed Information Assurance (IA) and cyber security at every level of an organisation, making security the responsibility of every person within the organisation, be it large or small. This will result in a force multiplier increasing the overall security of the company. Further, introducing a patchwork of cyber security measures that aren’t fully integrated not only leaves the company at a greater risk of an attack infiltrating the company but is also more expensive. Building in a solution from the ground up will save the company money in the longer term rather than retrofitting a cheaper solution.

With this considered, everyone in an organisation needs to understand the key risks they have to manage on a day-to-day basis and also how that affects the organisation. One of the key attributes of a cyber leader is the ability to communicate with their technical staff on their own level. Furthermore, they must be able to create a culture of security within the organisation by making IA and cyber security part of the “DNA” of the organisation.

Organisations also need good cyber leaders to say no when a decision may put the organisation at risk. In doing so they will help stakeholders understand what needs to change in order for the company’s security to improve. The role of a cyber leader is as much about education as it is about protecting the company.

As an expert in their field, a strong cyber leader knows the importance of a well thought out strategy that has buy-in from all key stakeholders throughout the business. Being aware and proactive as well as reactive to cyber threats is important for companies, both large and small. By employing a knowledgeable cyber leader, companies can save money and improve their reputation. The risk to SMEs tends to be lower than the risk to larger companies but it is something that needs to be considered from the outset and built into the company so as to effectively protect it as it scales in the future.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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