The top concern for CEOs today isn’t competitors or a recession — it’s cybersecurity. See why this is becoming the biggest challenge for an organization’s top executive.
A business’s top executive has plenty on their minds: the potential of a major recession, competitors nipping at their heels and a shortage of talent. However, none of these hot topics are the top concern for US CEOs in 2019 — that banner falls to cybersecurity. When there are so many other issues facing organizations, why is cybersecurity the highest business concern for CEOs? Perhaps part of the issue is the continual cycle of mainstream media coverage of the massive breaches such as Equifax in 2017 that affected millions of individuals and can cost billions of dollars to resolve. It could also be the high-profile challenges that Facebook, Yahoo, Under Armour and Marriott have been facing over the past few years. A recent poll of over 1,400 CEOs and senior executives by The Conference Boardpoints to some of the reasons cybersecurity is a top strategic consideration for CEOs in 2019.
One of the key threats facing today’s CEOs is the ability to adequately resource their cybersecurity teams. This relatively new need is one that is causing a significant shortage in the hiring market, with organizations wrestling with budget requirements for an increasingly-expensive skill set. Unfortunately, the dearth of talent is not just at the executive leadership level, it is also causing IT departments around the country and the world to flounder as they attempt to staff up to meet the growing needs of cybersecurity as well as data compliance requirements. These individuals will be in high demand for the foreseeable future as gaining knowledge about cybersecurity requires time and investment in education. Savvy CEOs and other technology leaders have been growing these skills internally for the last several years, but having a split focus between cybersecurity requirements and their “day job” can quickly cause individuals to fall behind in the ever-changing security landscape.
It’s relatively easy for CEOs to keep shorter-term strategies top-of-mind for their executive teams, but there are no quick solutions to enhancing your organization’s cybersecurity. This requires a long-term, focused effort — and resisting the siren songs of short-term gains to ensure that your strategic focus on IT security stays in place. Changes in the economy or in the competitive marketplace may tease CEOs to redirect some of the funds or teams to other parts of the organization, but it’s crucial that top executives stay in tune with the benefits that cybersecurity provides to the organization. In many cases, the changes that need to be made to make your organization more secure will also have payoffs in the efficiency of your operations, too.
The extremely negative perception and sheer quantity of negative publicity that can come with a data breach are reason enough for CEOs to be overly concerned about the cybersecurity within their organization. It doesn’t take long for smaller, leaner competitors to enter many marketplaces, and these organizations can receive positive publicity if larger organizations are caught up in a breach situation. How the business handles their communication around a massive breach, ransomware or other cybersecurity incidents can be as damaging as the incident itself if the CEO isn’t careful. These situations require a great deal of proactive communication and notification to customers along with the major effort required to evaluate the incident and begin remediation. Without a comprehensive incident response plan in place, the situation becomes that much more difficult for leaders throughout the organization.
Creating a proactive field for cybersecurity does start at the top, which makes it encouraging that CEOs are considering cybersecurity their very top initiative for 2019. As long as this focus on IT security and the value for the business continues strong over the next few years, businesses should be able to prepare adequately to weather this type of storm.