What is the board's role in cyber safety?

Cyber threats represent one of the most significant risks facing modern organisations across sectors. Boards play a crucial role governing cyber safety and resilience to protect interests of the organisation and its stakeholders. This article provides insights for directors to strengthen cyber risk governance.


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What is cyber risk?

Digital connectivity introduces vulnerabilities that cyber criminals actively exploit, including:

Data theft - Breaches stealing sensitive information like intellectual property, customer records or employee data for profit.

Ransomware - Malware encrypting organisation data until ransom payments are made.

System disruption - Attacks disabling websites, operational technology systems or data centers.

Infrastructure manipulation - Compromising technology supply chains to enable broader attacks.

Misinformation - Using compromised social media accounts to spread false information undermining reputation.

Both external threats and insider risks require robust cyber safety governance.

How do you govern for cyber risk management?

While management leads execution, board governance oversight includes:

  • Probing whether the organisation has adequately identified its “crown jewel” information assets and operational systems requiring the highest protection.
  • Reviewing management’s cyber risk assessment methodology, key exposures identified and safeguards in place to mitigate priority risks.
  • Monitoring metrics regarding vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, security incidents, breaches and resulting impacts like system outages or data losses.
  • Overseeing training and communications reinforcing secure practices across the workforce and third parties like suppliers.
  • Evaluating executive leadership accountability for regularly elevating cyber safety and resilience.
  • Guiding cyber crisis incident response plans encompassing containment, communications and recovery.
  • Sponsoring independent reviews by experts assessing effectiveness of security organisation, tools and processes benchmarked against leading practices.

Robust board oversight guides strategic evolution of cyber risk management.

What is the role of the Audit and Risk Committee in cyber safety leadership?

The audit and risk committee leads detailed cyber risk oversight including regular evaluations of:

  • The cyber risk governance model with clearly defined responsibilities and reporting processes.
  • Integration of cyber risks within enterprise risk management and internal audit assurance activities.
  • Adequacy of security investments matched to the risk environment.
  • Risk mitigation measures encompassing people, processes, data, technology and facilities.
  • Security team capabilities including use of third party cyber experts.

Close audit committee-CISO relationships enhance insights.

What is the CEO's role in cyber safety?

As cyber threats become increasingly strategic, accountability for cyber safety elevates to the CEO and executive team. CEO priorities like security staffing, capability development and fostering secure culture cascade through management. Boards evaluate executives heavily on cyber resilience under their leadership.

Board Cyber Fluency

Directors protect their governance effectiveness by developing fluency in foundational cybersecurity concepts including common threats, attack vectors, controls and mitigation frameworks. This equips boards to probe and guide management more incisively. Expert briefings, training programs and facility visits provide ongoing education.

Independent Advice

Knowledge gaps can be strengthened through independent cyber advisors who augment management updates with objective external perspectives. Firms specialising in security assess an organisation’s cyber risk management maturity, highlight vulnerabilities and advocate enhancements aligned to leading practices.

Enterprise Resilience Focus

Cyber oversight interlinks with broader organisation resilience encompassing crisis readiness, infrastructure robustness, supply chain contingencies and workforce flexibility. Cyber attacks serve as resilience stress tests, with learnings applied to harden defenses and responses organisation-wide.

Instilling a Secure Culture

Governance oversight evaluates how well executive communications and conduct shape a culture vigilant about cyber safety. Hallmarks include security awareness influencing decisions at all levels, vigilance converting threats into learning moments, and speaking up to promptly address potential vulnerabilities. Tone at the top guides cultural norms around cyber risk.


As cyber risks grow, board oversight provides a strategic governance counterbalance guiding management towards more proactive protection and resilience. Disciplined focus on enhancing risk mitigation, capability development and enterprise-wide secure behaviors elevates cyber safety as a lasting governance priority.

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