One of the greatest challenges in maturing security programs stems from difficulty showing ROI on your security investments and communicating your security posture and effectiveness in a way that makes sense at the board-level. If you start talking about the number of events per second, firewalls blocked, or MTTR, eyes will start to glaze over and the board will be left wondering if your security program is truly keeping the organization secure.

As a result, you may struggle to obtain executive support, be excluded from strategic business decisions, and fail to secure additional budget needed to mature your security program.

That’s why it’s critical to anticipate what the board really cares about and prepare for meetings with security metrics that can address these questions.  Below we’ve compiled a list of the top security concerns that boards want answered. CISOs, be prepared to answer these questions, and you’ll soon receive the support you need to continuously mature your security program.

Question: What are our greatest cybersecurity risks – and what are we doing to reduce these risks?

In order to understand your greatest risks and vulnerabilities, you must first be able to measure how much visibility you have into your security environment. You can’t protect what you can’t see: If you’re unsure of how much of your environment you’re seeing, you won’t be able to confidently build the full picture around your risks.

Prepare for this question with metrics on how much of your environment you can see. Start by looking at how many systems you have vs. how many of these systems are logging. Perform this calculation across all of your different environment types.  Then, map your coverage to kill chain stages or industry frameworks, like MITRE ATT&CK® or NIST, to determine if you have controls in place to see and protect against the threats that are of most concern to the business.

Question: Are we protected from breaches?

While you can never answer this question with “yes,” you can provide a quantitative response around what you have visibility into and where your gaps are.

Using the same numerator and denominator calculation from above, you can gather metrics that show how much of your environment you can see and how much visibility you have into the types of threats that are of concern to your business. Then, you can confidently prioritize and present a roadmap to close these gaps with new data sources or security controls.

Question: What return are we seeing on the security tool investments we’ve already made?

If you’ve invested money into tools like a SIEM, EDR, SOAR, or UEBA, your board will want to know how they’re impacting the business.  To determine your tools’ ROI, start by measuring any issues or outages with the tool, as well as how many of the tools’ features and functionalities are integrated.

Looking at the extent that security tools are used and their performance, you’ll be able to identify improvements and updates that could improve your ROI.  Have these metrics ready for your board meetings, so you can quantitatively communicate ROI.

Question: Should we invest more or less in security, and if so, how?

When you’re able to properly show ROI on your existing security tools, it’s likely that the question as to whether or not this is the right approach will arise.

Use a combination of both visibility metrics and tool efficacy metrics from above to determine what changes in investment are needed. Visibility metrics will expose the gaps in your security program, and tool efficacy metrics will determine whether these gaps can be filled by optimizing existing tools, or if a new investment is needed. For example, visibility gaps in cloud or SaaS activity often lead to investment in cloud access security brokers (CASBs), if these gaps can’t be filled by optimizing existing technology.

Question: Are we better protected today than yesterday?

This question is really asking for the big picture view of how your people, processes, and technology are all working together to improve your security posture as the business evolves.

To answer this question as comprehensively and confidently as possible, you must look at a combination of metrics across visibility, tool efficacy, and team performance, benchmarked against the past quarter or timeframe that you report your metrics on.  By looking at trends over time, you’ll understand if you truly are more protected – and if not, why not. To really speak the same language as the board, it’s beneficial to drill down to specific coverage areas or threat types to explain if protection meets risk tolerance levels.

With ReliaQuest GreyMatter, Report to the Board with Confidence

ReliaQuest GreyMatter’s Model Index has dashboards depicting your current security program status—that’s table stakes.  But we also measure improvements in visibility, efficacy of tools, and maturity of your teams and processes. We can help you set and achieve targets for improvement and benchmark your strengths and opportunities versus your industry peers, delivered in a format that makes sense at the board-level.

We are your partners to deliver on your vision for a best-in-class security program. Transparency is critical to our joint success, and as such these ongoing reports keep us committed to our targets and to delivering ROI for your existing security investments.