Cybersecurity – Is a Lack of Good Benchmarks Misleading Execs?

A recent survey carried out on our behalf by research company Ovum found that 48% of organizations think that in a year’s time, an assessment of their cybersecurity will show improvement. Only 3% think that their cybersecurity position will have worsened.

Most companies also think they are doing well compared to their competitors; a mere 6% think their cybersecurity is below average and 54% think they’re above average or a top performer. This is statistically unlikely.

It seems that many are taking an optimistic view of their cybersecurity. Could a lack of objective measurement be to blame?

Here’s what our survey participants said:

Cyber survey chart 4 Cybersecurity – Is a Lack of Good Benchmarks Misleading Execs?
It is encouraging to see that 94% carry out some form of assessment. However, consideration must be given as to how objective the methods used are.

38% of respondents say they self-assess based on their own criteria, this is the largest and possibly the most worrying category. When organizations decide for themselves what criteria to use, it is easy to lose objectivity.

28% use a third party service to assess. These external experts can provide valuable insight and advice; they are likely to be more objective than self-assessment.

However, not all third-party assessments are based on the same criteria. There is little standardization in how a result is produced, and so quality may be variable. Assessments by a third party are based on interpretation of what is needed by an assessor — this human factor introduces error and reduces objectivity.

28% use a software solution to assess their cybersecurity status. On the face of it this is the most objective way to measure an organization’s cybersecurity posture.

But all software solutions are the not the same. Some are based on a human interpretation of what good cybersecurity looks like, examining different factors and then adding or subtracting points to derive a score. True objectivity and an accurate reflection of risk can only come from an empirically derived score, such as the FICO Enterprise Security Score.

My colleague Doug Clare has written a blog looking at the six principles for cyber-risk scores. This is vital reading for any organization that is considering investing in a software solution to measure their risk.

 Cyber Risk Measurement Matters

It is increasingly important to benchmark cybersecurity performance. Accurate and easy-to-understand assessments of cybersecurity posture helps communicate to the business the priorities and importance of making the right decisions on what steps to take; it also helps show when improvement has happened.

It is also vital to demonstrate cybersecurity status to third parties. Many organizations look at the cybersecurity of their supply chain during vendor selection, while insurance underwriters need to accurately assess risk to determine premiums. Using a stable, objective and accepted method to assess cybersecurity posture can provide both a cost saving and a competitive advantage.

To learn more about our cybersecurity research, Ovum have produced a whitepaper: ‘What the C-Suite Needs to Know About Cyber-Readiness’ and there are also four e-books looking at the results for the countries we surveyed. They can all be downloaded from our cybersecurity survey page.

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