6 Key Cybersecurity Metrics for Your Board of Directors That Will Show Value

By Alain Sanchez | November 11, 2022

As an organization’s hybrid workforce grows in capacity, so does the value of having a strong security posture. But, as digital transformation efforts continue, securing organizations has become challenging. This digital transformation requires businesses to bring together data, applications, and users in a secure way—across digital and hybrid environments that are distributed, complex, and expanding. Your IT team can reduce risk across your company internally, by ensuring employees are trained in the latest cybersecurity best practices to protect both themselves and others from harm. In addition to educating your staff on cybersecurity, it’s equally important to confirm that company leadership—especially the board—is fully aware of how vital cybersecurity is to the organization.

With that in mind, CIOs/CISOs must deploy the latest tools to consistently and accurately measure an organization’s cybersecurity metrics to share within the C-suite. Furthermore, when generating cybersecurity metrics for the board of directors, it is important to emphasize the benefits of cybersecurity, how it will save money in the long run, and the overall value it will bring to the business or—for governments—the mission.

Of course, the end goal is working to determine the risk profile of an organization to help educate executives on the big picture of cybersecurity for a business.

Measuring the Value of Your Current Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity requires constant attention and adjustment because cyber threats are continuously evolving. Organizations need assurance that the defensive processes and technologies employed are working as expected before an attack occurs. It is important to measure the value of cybersecurity to an organization because data can provide the guidance needed to determine whether a company is doing well at protecting itself, if it is failing miserably, or if it falls somewhere between the two extremes. In short, if you can measure your cybersecurity, you can manage it and your spending on it wisely.

How to Determine Your Cybersecurity Posture

A good place to start with determining the current status of your cybersecurity posture is to crunch the data from KPIs (key performance indicators). The KPIs should include vulnerability management, network intrusion detection, firewall intrusion statistics, security breaches, MTTD (mean time to detect), MTTR (mean time to resolve), and more.

You can go as deep and wide as you want with gathering your cybersecurity metrics from KPIs but you will want to narrow down your data to tell “a story” to non-technical people—like those that might be on your organization’s board. To show the leadership the value of cybersecurity, you need to present them with a high-level, easy-to-understand, and accurate picture.

More than a Cost Center

The process of making cybersecurity a permanent priority of the board has been in place for a few years now. One of the best ways to grab anyone’s attention on the board is to have a cybersecurity metrics report that is easily understandable. Beyond providing leadership with a managed risk view and the confidence of knowing the organization is being adequately protected against cybercriminal attacks, the IT security team needs to speak the language of the board and translate its geek jargon into risk indicators. This approach is turning cybersecurity from a cost center to a strategic asset.

The ultimate goal of presenting a cybersecurity metrics report to leadership is to become an enabler of innovation rather than a block on the road. This process starts with explaining why every organization is a potential target. Highlighting what is at stake and describing in concrete terms the threat takes time. But this time is crucial to support your argument that cybersecurity is enabling a level of innovation never achieved before. It is like a formula one car approaching a corner with a higher speed knowing you can rely on a new-generation spoiler. IBM’s report on the cost of a Data Breach in 2022 is also contributing to this quantification of the benefits of cybersecurity: $4.35 million worldwide and $9.44 million in the United States.

6 Cybersecurity Metrics for the Board

A CIO or CISO must quantify the benefits of cybersecurity in terms that shareholders and regulators understand. Below are six common metrics that have proven to support efficiently the cause of cybersecurity.

  1. Detected intrusion attempts
  2. Incident rates, severity levels, response times, and time to remediation
  3. Vulnerability patch response times
  4. Number of users broken out by application/data access levels
  5. The overall volume of data the business generates
  6. Lack of or limited privileged access controls

The translation of the above metrics into Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) enables board members to clearly visualize the cyber maturity of an organization.

6 Best Practices for Cybersecurity

Below are some cybersecurity best practices that CIOs/CISOs should implement to enhance their organization’s cybersecurity metrics.

  1. Take care of your people, they are the strongest link in the chain of protection
  2. Conduct concrete and regular drills so that the entire staff lives the reality of the cyber gaps
  3. Align cyber risk management to the company's business priorities
  4. Rally the entire company to the regular rewriting of cybersecurity policies
  5. Open the discussion about the metrics outside cybersecurity experts

In Conclusion

Act and communicate, communicate again, and rally the entire organization to the task of reporting cybersecurity performance. Ensure the board understands how the cyber posture is an execution mechanism of the overall strategy. Cybersecurity metrics are important milestones of the company's success. It is now your job to make these milestones part of the health bulletin of the company.