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Strategic Cybersecurity: The Essential Role of Boards

Strengthening security from within.
Kelsey Brandt
Contributing Writer
Top view of white meeting room table with gray and white chairs standing around it in room with concrete floor. 3d rendering

With the rise of digitization, advanced computing, and innovative technologies, the “attack surface” for cyber threats in industrial sectors has expanded significantly. The role of cyber defenders is becoming more complex, necessitating a strategic approach to cybersecurity that transcends day-to-day operations. In this context, the involvement of an organization’s board of directors is crucial.

Board directors are traditionally responsible for setting major goals and ensuring the company’s long-term success. However, as cyber threats grow due to increased digitization and advanced connectivity, boards must also focus on cybersecurity. They provide the strategic direction needed to safeguard the organization’s digital infrastructure, particularly in sectors like industrial operational technology, which faces unique vulnerabilities.

Why it matters: Industrial sectors are increasingly embracing digitization, making their systems more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Effective cybersecurity governance at the board level is essential to mitigate these risks, protect critical infrastructure, and ensure operational continuity.

  • Expanded Attack Surface in Industrial Sectors: As industrial operational technology (OT) systems digitize, their attack surfaces increase, exposing them to more sophisticated cyber threats. Legacy OT equipment, originally designed without digital connectivity in mind, now faces significant security challenges.
  • Critical Role of Boards in Cybersecurity: Boards must go beyond traditional oversight roles to actively engage in cybersecurity strategies. They need to ensure that cybersecurity is integrated into the organization’s overall strategic plan and that sufficient resources are allocated to protect against threats.
  • Emerging Cyber Threats and Trends: Modern cybercriminals, often as skilled as nation-state actors, are using advanced technologies like generative AI to develop new attack vectors. This trend underscores the need for boards to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity developments and threats.
  • Strategic Cyber Defense Actions: Organizations should focus on human capital, integrating cyber governance, securing third-party supply chains, and embedding security by design. Boards play a pivotal role in overseeing these initiatives to ensure comprehensive protection.
  • AI and Cybersecurity: Leveraging AI for security operations and intelligence can significantly enhance an organization’s ability to detect and respond to cyber threats. Boards should advocate for the adoption of AI-driven cybersecurity measures.

Go Deeper -> Boards of directors: The final cybersecurity defense for industrials – Mckinsey & Company

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