CEOs Responsible for Data Breaches: Cyber Security Professionals

Whose neck is most on the line if a company has a data breach?

The past year has seen attacks like Wannacry and Petya cause worldwide disruption, with countless data breaches harming household names like Yahoo, Wonga and Zomato.

The damage to reputation, and increased public scrutiny, coupled with the fact that a global cyber attack could cost on average $53 billion, could severely cripple a business to the brink of bankruptcy.

So, if a data breach occurs, who is to blame? Tripwire, a leading global provider of security and compliance solutions for enterprises and industrial organizations, conducted a survey at Infosecurity Europe 2017 to ask security professionals whose neck is most on the line if a company has a data breach.

Of the respondents, 40 percent believed that the CEOs were the first to be in the firing line if a company was compromised by a data breach, followed by CISO (21 percent), “other” (15 percent) and CIO (14 percent).

Based on these results, CEOs must be aware of the basic principles of security. We have already seen CEOs accept responsibility for data breaches. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, forfeited her cash bonus following a breach under her tenure.

However, the responsibility of understanding and implementing security should not solely fall on the CEO’s shoulders. Foundational security controls should be demonstrated from the board level all the way down to the workforce.

Tim Erlin, VP at Tripwire, said: “Accountability starts with the CEO, but the information security is a shared responsibility across every function and level of an organization. Data breaches are a problem that the board-level executives need to be responsible for addressing, which means that the CISO must be involved in those board-level discussions. The board can’t take meaningful, productive risk management action without that expertise in the room.

“Nevertheless, even the most diligent organizations are still susceptible to attack, and to human error. Businesses need to implement and maintain a core set of foundational security controls, which is a proven strategy for reducing the risk of cyberattacks. The focus should be on a balance of tools and outcomes, and especially a balance between prevention and detection.”

In addition to finding out whose neck was on the line from a data breach, Tripwire also uncovered which department security professionals felt struggled most with cyber security. Nearly a third (29 percent) thought the Operations department struggled with dealing cyber attacks.

Departments chosen by security professionals included Finance (14 percent), Sales (13 percent), HR (11 percent) and Marketing (10 percent) found it difficult when handling cyberattacks.

Erlin added: “Companies must recognise the need for a cross-functional incident response plan. The worst time to plan for a cyber attack is after the incident has occurred, but this is what happens far too often. Security hygiene goes a long way toward making the attackers job’s difficult, as well as creating confidence in your company’s overall security, but incidents still occur and creating awareness of the incident response plan ahead of time will prevent panic, especially from the groups that don’t worry about these attacks on a daily basis.”


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