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Firms lack responsible exec for cyber security

Narrow gap between CEO, CIO and CISO roles means no single executive function is stepping up to take responsibility for cyber security, a study shows

A lack of cohesion at the top means organisations are struggling to secure most important digital assets, a report reveals.

Responsibility for information security is not falling to any one senior executive function, according to the 2018 Risk:Value report from NTT Security.

The report, based on a poll of 1,800 senior decision makers from non-IT functions in global organisations in 12 countries, shows that at a global level, 22% of respondents believe the CIO is “ultimately responsible” for managing security, compared with 20% for the CEO and 19% for the CISO.

In the UK, fewer respondents point to the CIO (19%) and CISO (18%) while the CEO gets the biggest vote at 21%. The US (27%) and Norway (26%) buck the trend with more than a quarter of respondents suggesting the CEO is responsible, while in Singapore, 33% say it is the role of the CISO, which is highest figure across all countries.

In Switzerland, 10% believe the CFO is responsible for security.

“Responsibility for day-to-day security doesn’t seem to fall on any one particular person’s shoulders among our response base,” said Azeem Aleem, vice-president consulting and UK&I lead, NTT Security.

“This narrow gap between the roles of CIO, CEO and CISO shows that no one executive function is stepping up to the plate,” he said. “It could be a sign of unclear separation between the CIO and CISO though, as often they are the same or collaborate closely.”

On the other hand, Aleem said findings could potentially raise concerns that the CEO is not more involved in security matters, given the potentially damaging affects to the business, but on the other, the findings could bring a sense of relief that CEOs are not managing a specialist task like security over and above other critical corporate responsibilities.

According to the report, although more people see the need for regular boardroom discussions about security, their organisations are failing to raise it sufficiently at the C-suite level. While 80% of all survey respondents agree that preventing a security attack should be a regular boardroom agenda item (up from 73% a year ago) only 61% say that it already is, which represents an increase of just 5% on last year.

The report also suggests this lack of cohesion at the top of the organisation means that many are struggling to secure their most important digital assets. Fewer than half (48%) of respondents globally – 53% in the UK – say they have fully secured all of their critical data. But with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now fully in effect, this is no longer an opportunity, but mandatory, the report notes.

However, companies are beginning to take control of their data as cloud computing best practices mature, with 27% reporting that the majority of their organisation’s data is currently stored on premise or in datacentres (25%). However, in 12 months’ time, a similar proportion (25% of respondents) say that it will be stored in a cloud environment.

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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