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What Is Cybersecurity in the Corporate Stack?

Author: SEAN LEE, CISSP, MANAGING DIRECTOR

June 22, 2023

Introduction

In today’s data-driven business environment, cybersecurity has emerged as a critical aspect of protecting and maintaining business operations. Often, though, it is a subset of other business functions. Just as departments such as IT, legal, HR, finance, and compliance play essential roles in overall business operations, cybersecurity requires a distinct and independent focus with dedicated resources – and a broader role in the business. In this blog post, we explore why cybersecurity should stand on its own in the corporate stack.

Objective Alignment

Each department within an organization has its own unique objectives and priorities. By separating cybersecurity from other departments, the focus remains solely on protecting the company’s information assets and infrastructure. IT, for instance, is primarily responsible for managing and maintaining technology systems. While IT plays a vital role in implementing security measures, its primary focus is often on system availability and functionality. Having cybersecurity as an independent function keeps security objectives from being compromised or overshadowed by other departmental goals. This allows for a more targeted and proactive approach to security. Another way to look at the interplay between IT and cybersecurity is that IT’s responsibility is to give access, whereas cybersecurity’s is to control it. This collaborative dichotomy makes both teams, and the organization, stronger and more mature.

Specialized Expertise

Cybersecurity is a highly specialized field that demands unique skill sets and expertise. While IT professionals possess knowledge in managing technology infrastructure, they may not have the extensive cybersecurity training required to defend against sophisticated threats. A dedicated cybersecurity department can employ professionals who specialize in a range of cybersecurity disciplines, such as threat intelligence, incident response, vulnerability management, and secure coding practices. This focused expertise ensures that cybersecurity strategies and initiatives are implemented effectively and efficiently.

Mitigating Conflicts of Interest

In some cases, other departments may face conflicts of interest when it comes to cybersecurity. For example, legal departments may prioritize data retention for litigation purposes, while cybersecurity focuses on data minimization to reduce the risk of a breach. Similarly, HR departments handle employee onboarding and off-boarding, which includes granting and revoking access privileges. Cybersecurity focuses on ensuring proper access controls and identity management. By separating the cybersecurity function, organizations can minimize conflicts of interest and assure that security decisions are made based on best practices and risk mitigation rather than being influenced by other departmental considerations.

Risk Management and Compliance

Departments such as finance, compliance, and legal have their own compliance obligations and risk management responsibilities. Because cybersecurity plays a crucial role in risk management and compliance, it requires a comprehensive and integrated approach. Cybersecurity as an independent business function can collaborate with departments across the business to develop and implement effective security policies, procedures, and controls. This collaboration allows for a balanced and well-rounded approach to risk management, and makes certain that cybersecurity considerations are adequately addressed while meeting compliance requirements.

Incident Response and Business Continuity

In the event of a cybersecurity incident, the response and recovery processes become paramount. An independent cybersecurity department is better equipped to handle incidents promptly and effectively, as they possess the necessary expertise, tools, and resources. As a distinct department, cybersecurity can establish incident response teams that can rapidly assess the situation, mitigate the impact, and restore normal operations. This independent approach to incident response ensures a clear chain of command, swift decision-making, and efficient coordination during high-stress situations.

Conclusion

As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, it is imperative for organizations to establish a separate and independent cybersecurity function. Doing so enables organizations to align security objectives across the business, hire and leverage specialized expertise, mitigate conflicts of interest, effectively manage risks and compliance, and establish a robust and consistent incident response capability. While other departments play integral roles in overall business operations, cybersecurity necessitates a broader view and a distinct focus to protect the organization against ever-growing cyber threats. Organizations that recognize the unique requirements of cybersecurity and foster its independence can more effectively safeguard their digital assets and maintain a secure and resilient business environment.

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