United States: Blue Pill/Red Pill: How Officers And Board Members Can Swallow The Red Pill And See The Real World Of Cybersecurity

The answer is out there and it is looking for you. It will find you if you want it to. In the 1999 movie The Matrix, Morpheus gives Neo a simple choice: take the blue pill, and Neo can go on believing whatever he wants to believe. Take the red pill, and Neo stays in Wonderland and gets to see just how deep the rabbit-hole goes. What Morpheus is colorfully offering is the opportunity for Neo to free his mind from the computer-generated dream world created by the Matrix, and to use his eyes for the first time to see reality.

It is no surprise that when it comes to information security most directors and officers want to take the blue pill. Cybersecurity can be confusing stuff – whether you are an M.D. who knows every human body part in Latin and maybe a few other languages; a CPA who really understands the complicated transactions involved in mortgage backed securities; or an Electrical Engineer that knows how to take the Laplacian of the Gaussian before complex convolution with the Fast Fourier Transform, the language of cybersecurity is a unique language unto its own. It's filled with terms like PKI, XML, IDS, website cross scripting, Javascript, SQL injection, AES, Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks, hash functions, and APT. Trying to understand how a hacker thinks can twist your brain around – while you normally think about how to make something work or why something is not working, hackers think how to get something to work in ways that it is not supposed to. Despite your every instinct to take the blue pill, courts and regulatory agencies have made it clear – officers and directors have fiduciary obligation to monitor and minimize their organization's information security risks. They have to take the red pill and see the real world of cybersecurity.

So How do You Take the Red Pill?

A spoon full of sugar may help make it go down easier but of course, the truth is that there is no spoon. Here are a few other suggestions to help swallow that cybersecurity red pill that you can do to walk through that door:

  • Get educated on information security and the risks your organization faces. Build a relationship with, and consult with, your IT Security manager (even if it seems like he/she keeps talking about something called a "franastat") or hire a reputable security expert to teach you the key terms and evaluate your organization's risks.
  • Establish an Information Security committee to oversee data security issues and to manage the organization's responses to data security incidents. The committee should meet regularly to obtain updates on new threats and risks, and issue regular reports that document what issues they have considered and what risks mitigation strategies they have decided to enact. When a breach occurs, convene this committee more often during the incident investigation and response.
  • Review your written information security policies (or create them if they do not already exist) to ensure they properly address the risks and that they are consistent with your organization's culture and the security systems and controls currently implemented by your organization. Reassess these policies at least once a year to respond to new risks.
  • Provide the appropriate amount of resources to combat information security threats, considering the size of your organization and the magnitude of the particular risks your organization faces. Prioritize your resources towards the highest risks first.
  • Plan and test your response for when a data security incident occurs. Know the actions to take and who will lead the response and mitigation efforts before a breach occurs so when it does, you can react quickly and appropriately. Perform a dry run of your response plan (much like you probably do with fire drills) to identify and correct any deficiencies.

You may have been living in the self-created dream world where you were not aware of the matrix of cyberthreats your organization faces. Officer and directors have to free their mind and let it all go – cast aside fear, doubt, and disbeliefs about their obligations to oversee their organization's information security posture. They have to take the red pill and awaken their minds to the desert of the real – the real world of cybersecurity.

Download the white paper, Taking Control of Cybersecurity: A Practical Guide for Officers and Directors, now to help prepare your organization.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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