Thought Leadership

Jun 8, 2022

CISO-to-CISO Insights: Prioritizing Risk Reduction

Former CISO and current SafeBreach CEO Guy Bejerano shares tips on how to prioritize cybersecurity risk reduction efforts in the face of economic uncertainty.

There’s a common misconception that the CISO’s top priority is to prevent risk. People like to think of risk in a deterministic way—as something that can and must be stopped at all costs—but there’s more to a successful security operation than just prevention. Reducing risk is also about staying agile and being able to both detect fast and recover fast because, at the end of the day, you can’t prevent everything. 

With rising economic volatility and budgets coming under increased scrutiny, a good CISO is someone who, first and foremost, collects evidence and clearly communicates what they know to their board and other stakeholders, enabling business leaders to make more informed security decisions. Reporting on how many phishing emails were successful last month won’t help your execs become more educated about risk. The CISO must be data-driven, articulate, and foster a common security language.

A CISO must also seek to understand the larger business and revenue concerns at play. A SafeBreach CISO client at a major airline identified their highest risk area as the safety of their planes and passengers—and rightfully so. But their second highest risk area was an attack targeting their booking system, which would be a disaster from a business disruption standpoint. By understanding the business impact, this CISO was able to focus their risk reduction efforts where they mattered most.

As a CISO, you can’t solve every problem. So how do you maximize your effectiveness and drive down risk without increasing spending? And where do you start when every concern is “critical”? 

Crawl, Walk, Run—then Fly

The cliche applies here: don’t try to boil the ocean. Or in the case of security, don’t forget to simply put locks on your doors before you add state-of-the-art trip alarms and motion detectors. I see a lot of organizations attempt to tackle the biggest challenges first before they solve the basics. Trying to conquer everything at once is a recipe for strategic failure. Aim instead to be efficient and prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.  

Begin by interviewing your business stakeholders to better understand the organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs). From there you can build a framework around areas security will have the biggest impact—either positive or negative. Rather than go right after major tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), start with basic indicators of compromise (IOCs), and then progress toward the more sophisticated threats. 

By taking this more conscientious approach, you will position the business to move faster and take more risks down the road. That’s right—being risk averse actually enables more smart risk taking and greater agility. Also, don’t be afraid to follow in the footsteps of those who have come before you. It surprises me how often people forget to leverage commonality in the market. Many methods can be reused, and there’s a wealth of great knowledge out there you can access to improve your defenses quickly. 

Don’t Let Your Tools Drag You Down

Economic uncertainty or not, it’s never good practice to invest in shiny new tools before you’ve optimized what you already have in your tech stack. The SafeBreach platform helps organizations assess the effectiveness of their security controls, delivering fast, comprehensive threat assessment and ROI. We weaponize threat intelligence to show how susceptible our clients are to any known attack. And with over 25,000 attack scenarios—and growing fast thanks to our 24-hour SLA for US-CERTs and emerging threats—we break down the atomic parts of the attacks and execute them safely. 

To be able to assess your real risk, you need a starting point. You need to ask, what’s the likelihood of something happening? SafeBreach will show you that likelihood based on your existing control configuration. Think of it like a time-machine visit to the future that enables you to see precisely what will happen, and then you can go back to the present day to reduce and remediate proactively. 

If you understand the attack scenarios you’re most concerned about—it could be downtime, it could be data exfiltration, it could be a certain threat actor—then you can tie a control to that scenario and the business impact. For the savvy CISO, the priority is not about security for security’s sake, but rather how well you understand your business and the impact security will have on your organization’s goals and financial stability. Communicate clearly. Build KPIs. Test continuously. Don’t assume anything. And yes, of course, be proactive about preventing risk. 

Interested in more CISO-to-CISO insights? Check out the other blogs in our CISO-to-CISO series:

Want to learn more about how the automated SafeBreach platform helps organizations prioritize their security efforts and reduce risk? Connect with a SafeBreach cybersecurity expert today or schedule a personalized demo.

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