By Jessica Anderson, Director of PR, phoenixnap Global IT Services

The increase in ransomware attacks has created security challenges for companies. CEO roles have expanded to include cybersecurity. As CEO you can take steps to minimize these potential threats. Prepare your company and take precautions to avoid costly data breaches. Hacks can hurt the company financially, and the reputation and brand ruined.

Here are nine steps that CEOs can take to promote cybersecurity.

Understand security protocols in place with your company

Once you have a clear picture of what practices are in place, you can identify areas that need improvement. Work with other company leaders to develop a cybersecurity plan throughout the company. Keep your security protocols updated to stay on top of new security threats.

Each employee needs to understand what rules are in place when a breach occurs; employees should know what to do. Communicate changes to the whole company, to lessen the chance of a security breach.

Conduct regular security assessments

An annual security assessment can be a powerful tool to prevent and identify a breach. Regulations like HIPAA Compliant hosting and the PCI require companies to perform these evaluations. A security risk assessment (SRA) allows a company to identify key risk areas in the network from the view of a hacker.

After the SRA, the CEO decides on where to allocate resources and security solutions. The size and complexity of the network determine whether specific areas need to be prioritized or if it can be more generalized

A CEO and the board decide what level of risk is acceptable for the company. An SRA cannot eliminate all security risks. It identifies potential targets that hackers may target so that you can protect those areas. Company resources are finite, but the assessment can assist with the prioritization.

Create a working relationship with the CISO

Establish a partnership with the company’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).

This is key to promote cybersecurity throughout the company. A CISO helps business executives, including the CEO, understand cyber risks and are essential to promoting a culture of cyber defense.

In recent years, most CISO’s have been connected to the company’s leadership team, and in half of the companies, they are a member of the executive leadership team. A CEO must understand and carry out security procedures throughout the entire enterprise. Together with the CISO, you can work together to run threat assessments and review the results.

Consult the CISO on new projects early on in the planning phase so that they can find ways to improve security. It is easier to integrate security measures during the development rather than after the fact. The CISO will work with each team to find ways to meet the project goals in a way that complements security protocols. Then it is up to the CEO to make sure that the teams follow through and stay accountable.

Promote security awareness with education and training

Most companies have a cyber awareness program in place to educate employees.

These programs train them to be able to identify network threats. An effective training program stays up to date to meet new security threats. An outdated program wastes time and resources.

Take an active role in security awareness programs. By supporting these programs, you send a message to employees on what they can do to promote cybersecurity awareness. It is also up to your leadership to keep employees, managers, and other executives on track.

Involving yourself in the training program helps to measure its effectiveness. You can see how many users have completed the training program, along with parts that they found helpful. Employee surveys can provide feedback, and you can identify areas that need improvement.

 Strengthen and adapt security protocols

A risk assessment identifies areas in your IT security that need to be improved. Whenever your company adds new equipment or software, you should make sure that it keeps the existing network secure. Cybersecurity becomes more relevant as your business continues to add these new tools.

By the year 2020, there will be between 20 to 30 billion connected devices in the world. Connected devices provide useful information, but unprotected they can be a liability. Adapt your security protocols to reduce or eliminate these liabilities.

Place a higher priority on mobile and connected devices. The cell phone that allows you to connect to your business email can be a spot that hackers can exploit. Understand how these devices fit into the network, you can make the changes needed to strengthen the network.

Decentralize access

People, not technology, is the weakest point in your network.

You need to be cautious considering the new ways that hackers can steal your information. Limit your access to protect the company from a major break in security. Instead of accessing information directly, you can request reports from the relevant department. If the worst-case scenario happens, the damage can be minimized.

Having a CISO can help to identify possible breaches. How do you find the right CISO for your company? Here are some of the key traits you should look for in a CISO.

You want a person that has a strong background in information security. They should be able to keep an open perspective as well. When needed, they should be able to consult with outside specialists to identify threats before they become an issue.

Coordinate and communicate with all employees

Communication is a key part in promoting cybersecurity awareness.

As the CEO, it is your job to bridge the gap between security offers and the board. Encourage your CISOs to use business language in their reports for easy understanding.

Security training should occur on a regular basis. Most companies train on an annual basis but can benefit from more frequent training. Quarterly or biannual meetings can help to reinforce defensive behaviors. By improving these programs, you can communicate updates with your employees as they occur.

Stress the importance of cybersecurity awareness. This cannot be overstated. Educated employees can make well-informed decisions that will lessen security risks. Employees that are more aware become less of a liability.

Cybersecurity is an important part of every employee’s job. As the CEO, you need to be a role model for the company. Display proper security behavior, and create an environment where security is constantly changing. Create a culture that promotes awareness so employees can find weak spots in security.

Update security protocols and systems

Ransomware targets many worldwide institutions and businesses in all sectors. Software used to steal information has become commonplace, and criminals for hire are not in short supply. Many hacked victims have one thing in common. A part of their network is out of date, and hackers exploit this vulnerability to enter the company’s network.

An overextended IT department can have issues with keeping all of the devices on the network up to date. A security threat assessment can identify these devices that can be exploited by hackers. Once these threats are identified, you can create a schedule that ensures that devices are not being skipped over.

Tools are available that can help to test your existing security. Anomaly detection tools can spot unusual patterns in the network and user behavior. Penetration testing can also identify weaknesses in the network.

Active defense techniques is an area that has developed in the network security world. Active defense techniques can embed programs in the data that will attack the hacker’s computer if data is stolen. These techniques can have legal issues and would need approval from a CEO before being used.

Have a data recovery and emergency response plan

It can take only hours for your company’s reputation to be damaged by a security breach.

A security breach can create both financial, and legal issues for your company. When your business becomes a victim, you need to know how to respond to minimize the damage. Some companies minimize risks by transferring liability to a third party. Securing data on cloud service cuts costs, and increase flexibility.

Cloud providers maintain security to protect their clients’ data and function as a data backup. Security risk can also be transferred to the provider, or cyber liability insurance can be purchased by your company. If a breach occurs, react quickly. Identify when and where the breach occurred. You should work with your security team to gather information. This will help you figure out if any information is stolen so that you have a complete picture of the situation. Staying on top of the issue will minimize the damage so that you can work on recovery as soon as possible.

Conclusion
As the CEO, you have a vital role in promoting cybersecurity awareness.
Having the right cybersecurity culture can help with protecting your company’s valuable data. These nine methods will contribute to strengthening your organization’s cybersecurity.

About the Author
Jessica Anderson is a cybersecurity enthusiast and writer who studied journalism at Rhodes University. She is working as Director of Public Relations in Phoenix NAP LLC. Jessica can be reached online at jessicaphoenixnap@gmail.com and her company website https://phoenixnap.com/