Dear CEOs: The Tone of Cybersecurity Starts at the Top

When your company is facing a threat, the CEO must get involved. When facing a corporate lawsuit, the CEO doesn’t have be in every deposition and understand the minutiae of every precedent, but the tone at the top will dictate how seriously the case is taken, what the strategy will be and how much money the company is willing to spend to defend itself.

Bill Gates famously stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 in order to dedicate all his energy to defending the company from an onslaught of anti-trust accusations. Microsoft prevailed and owes much of its present-day success to Gates’ personal involvement in that defense.

Cybersecurity is not that different. Your company is under a daily assault (whether you know it or not) and the tone at the top will largely dictate how seriously your team and your employees take the threats of Cybersecurity.

Are you unwilling to use the same security as your team? Do you push back on increased security because of the inconvenience without taking the time to understand the risks? Do you say, “our IT guy handles that,” but you haven’t met with them in over a year to discuss the current security controls?

You cannot eliminate all risk, but a CEO who is willing to learn the 30-thousand-foot view of the risks they face will set the tone for their organization. You don’t need to micromanage Cybersecurity, but you should meet with an expert at least once a year to understand what the risks are, what you can do, and what you aren’t willing to do.

It takes true leadership to convey that the threat is real, the risks can be mitigated, and that security is everyone’s job.

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