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Implementing Effective Cybersecurity and Security Risk Governance Practices

Cyber risk governance is the strategy that informs how your organization will implement cyber security controls. The practice considers your business, industry regulations, and unique vulnerabilities, and it creates security policies, procedures, and cadence of assessments, aimed at building cyber maturity for your organization. 

Cyber risk governance may also be referred to as “governance, risk, and compliance,” or the acronym “GRC.” 

Cybersecurity risk management implements the cybersecurity controls developed during the cyber risk governance phase. 

To build a resilient cyber posture, your organization must develop a Cyber Risk Governance Program.

[This article is part of our Guide to Information Security and Compliance]

Essential Elements of a Cyber Risk Governance Program

1. Executive Leadership Buy-In

News of high profile breaches in recent years has garnered fear in many executive teams about their own cybersecurity vulnerabilities. But not all c-suites are equally as invested in developing a posture and culture of cyber resilience in their organizations. It may be seen as a “nice to have” rather than a “must have.” 

To effectively develop a culture of resilience in your team, it must begin with executive leadership. Consider the following ideas to emphasize the importance to hesitant members of your c-suite through the following ideas: 

  • Facilitate a cyber resilience analysis (CRA). Invite a third party to perform an assessment on your current system, identifying vulnerabilities in your system, processes and training. This will help shed light on the areas of improvement as well as the priority at which you should work through them. 
  • Map the cyber vulnerabilities to the business objectives. Connect the dots for your leadership team, laying out what the worst-case scenario impacts of a breach would have on your business. What happens if someone breaks into your office and steals the CFO’s computer? What would it mean for the business if someone held your customer data for ransom? What would those things do to your reputation? 
  • Simulate a cyber incident. Invite your MSP to design a cyber incident that will help you highlight the fact that the organization’s cyber posture extends far beyond the IT department. By showcasing the organization’s blind spots and weaknesses, your participants will see the importance and interconnectedness of navigating and responding to a cyber incident. 

Now, depending on the regulatory requirements you’re complying with, assessments like these may be required. For example, to be PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant, you have to have 4 passing vulnerability scans each year. HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to conduct regular risk assessments. 

And remember, the purpose of compliance regulations is to help your organization handle all customer information securely and privately. There’s a very intentional purpose behind each of the requirements.

2. Develop Policies That Support Business Objectives

Statistically, Fortune 1000 companies have a 25% chance of being breached, while 50% of all small-to-medium-sized businesses have already been the victims of cyber attack. The regulatory bodies are keeping up as fast as they can, updating the SOC, PCI, GDPR, HIPAA, etc. requirements as they learn more about vulnerabilities and develop policies to prevent further threats. 

But they can’t account for everything. 

It’s up to individual businesses to keep their data and their customer’s data as safe as possible. That’s why it’s important to develop policies and objectives for your company’s cybersecurity. 

Work with your department leads and your MSP provider to understand the information being shared, collected and transmitted across your organization: 

  • Customer Data 
  • Payment Processes 
  • Customer Communication 
  • And more 

By collaboratively combining the department knowledge with the industry knowledge of your cybersecurity consultants, you’ll have a cross-section of information that will create a robust and secure posture against cyber attacks. 

3. Standardize, Implement and Review Processes

As you navigate creating, standardizing and implementing your processes, you may find that it can feel like “whack-a-mole.” Just when you think you’ve marked something off the list, you’ll find that a regulatory requirement has shifted or someone developed an even better best practice. This is why it’s paramount to continually review the processes you’ve implemented. Periodically, circle back and re-evaluate if those are the best steps to ensure the safety and security of your information.

Business Benefits of a Cyber Risk Governance Program

Depending on the industry you’re in, the benefits that your business will see as a result of prioritizing governance, risk, and compliance are: 

Financial Services Businesses: 

  • Keep client and business data safe.
  • Minimize the risk of financial fraud.
  • Reduce the risk of violating industry regulations.

Healthcare Businesses: 

  • Monitor system weaknesses and proactively patch them.
  • Safeguard patient data.
  • Utilize compliant financial systems.

Implementing Cybersecurity Governance in Your Organization

Your framework for a governance system enables you to implement specific security practices to help you achieve compliance. 

This will include regularly evaluating your procedures, investing in continued company-wide compliance training, and giving your company leadership the tools they need to implement GRC in their particular areas of responsibility.

Challenges and Best Practices

The cybersecurity threat landscape continually presents new challenges to every industry. Although there are many challenges to cybersecurity governance, perhaps the most overlooked and important one is staying informed about the cybersecurity landscape and how quickly cybersecurity threats can progress.

It’s key to remain informed and current on best practices and cybersecurity news so you’re never surprised when a new threat arises. Working with a Managed Service Provider will help you sift through the mountain of new data, updates, and case studies and apply what you need to your unique business, vulnerabilities, and regulatory requirements. 

For a financial services or healthcare organization in particular, remaining vigilant about protecting your patients’ and customers’ sensitive data and information is a top priority at all times. While a different industry may focus on mitigating other threats, your business needs to focus on the issues and threats that are most relevant to you and those you serve.


Navigating information security for your organization doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Collaborating with the right partner will help you create a systemized approach to continually strengthen your cyber resilience year over year.

[This article is part of our Guide to Information Security and Compliance]

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