Nine steps to a successful privacy and cyber security capability uplift

Most organisations today understand the critical importance of cyber security and privacy protection to their business. Many are commencing major uplift programs, or at least considering how they should get started.

These projects inevitably carry high expectations because of what’s at stake. They’re also inherently complex and impact many parts of the organisation. Converting the effort and funding that goes into these projects into success and sustained improvement to business-as-usual practices is rarely straightforward.

Drawing on our collective experiences working on significant cyber security and privacy uplift programs across the globe, in a variety of industries, here’s what we believe are key elements to success.

1. Secure a clear executive mandate

Your uplift program is dealing with critical risks to your organisation. The changes you will seek to drive through these programs will require cooperation across may parts of your organisation and potentially partners and third parties too. A mandate and sponsorship from your executive is critical.

Think strategically about who else you need on-side, beyond your board and executive committee. Build an influence map and identify potential enablers and detractors, and engage early. Empower your program leadership team and business leadership from affected areas to make timely decisions and deliver their mandate.

2. Adopt a customer and human-centric approach

Uplift programs need to focus on people change as well as changes to processes and technology. Success in this space very often comes down to changing behaviours and ensuring the organisation has sufficient capacity to manage the new technology and process outputs (eg how to deal with incidents).

We therefore suggest that you adopt a customer and human-centric approach. Give serious time, attention and resourcing to areas including communications planning, organisational change management, stakeholder engagement, training and awareness.

3. Know the business value of what you are going to deliver and articulate it

An opaque or misaligned understanding of what a security or privacy program is meant to deliver is often the source of its undoing. It is crucial to ensure scope is clear and aligned to the executive mandate.

Define the value and benefits of your uplift program early, communicate them appropriately and find a way to demonstrate this value over time. Be sure to speak in terms the business understands, not just new technologies or capabilities you will roll-out for instance, what risks have you mitigated?

You can’t afford to be shy. Ramp up the PR to build recognition about your program and its value among staff, executive and board members. Think about branding.

4. Prioritise the foundational elements

If you’re in an organisation where security and privacy risks have been neglected, but now have a mandate for broad change, you can fall into the trap of trying to do too much at once.

Think of this as being your opportunity to get the groundwork in place for your future vision. Regardless of whether the foundational elements are technology or process related, most with tenure in your organisation know which of them need work. From our experience, those same people will also understand the importance of getting them right and in most cases would be willing to help you fix them.

As a friendly warning, don’t be lured down the path of purchasing expensive solutions without having the right groundwork in place. Most, if not all of these solutions rely on such foundations.

5. Deliver your uplift as a program

For the best results, deliver your uplift as a dedicated change program rather than through BAU.

Your program will of course need to work closely with BAU teams to ensure the sustained success of the program. Have clear and agreed criteria with those teams on the transition to BAU. Monitor BAU teams’ preparation and readiness as part of your program.

6. Introduce an efficient governance and decision making process

Robust and disciplined governance is critical. Involve key stakeholders, implement clear KPIs and methods of measurement, and create an efficient and responsive decision-making process to drive your program.

Governance can be light touch provided the right people are involved and the executive supports them. Ensure you limit the involvement of “passengers” on steering groups who aren’t able to contribute and make sure representatives from BAU are included

7. Have a ruthless focus on your strategic priorities

These programs operate in the context of a fast-moving threat and regulatory landscape. Things change rapidly and there will be unforeseen challenges.

It’s important to be brave and assured in holding to your strategic priorities. Avoid temptation to succumb to tactical “quick fixes” that solve short-term problems but bring long-term pain.

8. Build a high-performance culture and mindset for those delivering the program

These programs are hard but can be immensely satisfying and career-defining for those involved. Investing in the positivity, pride and engagement of your delivery team will pay immense dividends.

Seek to foster a high-performance culture, enthusiasm, tolerance and collaboration. Create an environment that is accepting of creativity and experimentation.

9. Be cognisant of the skills shortage and plan accordingly

While your project may be well funded, don’t be complacent about the difficulties accessing skilled people to achieve the goals of your project. Globally, the security and privacy industries continue to suffer severe short-ages in skilled professionals. Build these into your forecasts and expectations, and think laterally about the use of partners.


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Our view on APRA’s new information security regulation

For those of you who don’t work in financial services and may not know the structure associated with APRA’s publications, there are Prudential Practice Guides (PPGs) and Prudential Standards (APSs or CPSs). A PPG provides guidance on what APRA considers to be sound practice in particular areas. PPGs discuss legal requirements but are not themselves legal requirements. Simply put, this is APRA telling you what you should be doing without making it enforceable.

On the other hand, APSs and CPSs are regulatory instruments and are therefore enforceable.

Until now, those working within a cyber security team at an Australian financial services company had PPG 234 – Management of security risk in information and information technology (released in 1 February 2010) as their only reference point as to what APRA were expecting from them in regard to their cyber security controls. But things have moved on a fair bit since 2010. Don’t get us wrong, PPG 234 is still used today as the basis for many ‘robust’ conversations with APRA.

APRA’s announcement

That leads us to the Insurance Council of Australia’s Annual Forum on 7th March 2018. It was at this esteemed event that APRA Executive Board Member Geoff Summerhayes delivered a speech which noted:

“APRA views cyber risk as an increasingly serious prudential threat to Australian financial institutions. To put it bluntly, it is easy to envisage a scenario in which a cyber breach could potentially damage an entity so badly that it is forced out of business.

“….What I’d like to address today is APRA’s view on the extent to which the defences of the entities we regulate, including insurers, are up to the task of keeping online adversaries at bay, as well as responding rapidly and effectively when – and I use that word intentionally – a breach is detected”

Summerhayes then went on to announce the release of the consultation draft of CPS 234 – Information Security. Yeah, actual legislative requirements on information security.

So what does it say?

Overall there are a lot of similarities to PPG 234 but the ones that caught our eye based upon our experience working within financial services were:

Roles and responsibilities

  • “The Board of an APRA-regulated entity (the Board) is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the entity maintains the information security of its information assets in a manner which is commensurate with the size and extent of threats to those assets, and which enables the continued sound operation of the entity”. – Interesting stake in the ground from APRA that Boards need to be clear on how they are managing information security risks. The next obvious question is what reporting will the Board need from management for them to discharge those duties?

Information security capability

  • “An APRA-regulated entity must actively maintain its information security capability with respect to changes in vulnerabilities and threats, including those resulting from changes to information assets or its business environment”. – Very interesting. There is a lot in this provision. First, there is a push to a threat based model, which we fully endorse (see our recent blogpost: 8 steps to a threat based defence model). Next, there is a requirement to have close enough control of your information assets to determine if changes to those assets somehow adjust your threat profile. Definitely one to watch. That brings us nicely to the following:

Information asset identification and classification

  • “An APRA-regulated entity must classify its information assets, including those managed by related parties and third parties, by criticality and sensitivity. Criticality and sensitivity is the degree to which an information security incident affecting that information asset has the potential to affect, financially or non-financially, the entity or the interests of depositors, policyholders, beneficiaries, or other customers”. – This really is a tough one. From our experience, many companies say they have a handle on this for their structured data with plans in place to address their unstructured data. In our experience however, very few actually do anything that would stand up to scrutiny.

Implementation of controls

  • “An APRA-regulated entity must have information security controls to protect its information assets, including those managed by related parties and third parties, that are implemented in a timely manner”. – Coming back to the previous point, there is now a requirement to have a clear line of sight of the sensitivity of data, this just adds to the requirement to build effective control over that data.
  • “Where information assets are managed by a related party or third party, an APRA-regulated entity must evaluate the design and operating effectiveness of that party’s information security controls”. – Third party security assurance is no longer a nice to have folks! Third party risk is referenced a couple of times in the draft, and so definitely seems to be a focus point. This will be very interesting as many companies struggle getting to grips with this risk. The dynamic of having to face into actual regulatory obligations however, is a very different proposition.

Incident management

  • “An APRA-regulated entity must have robust mechanisms in place to detect and respond to information security incidents in a timely manner. An APRA-regulated entity must maintain plans to respond to information security incidents that the entity considers could plausibly occur (information security response plans)”. – We love this section. A very important capability that often gets deprioritised when the dollars are being allocated. Whilst the very large banks do have mature capabilities, most do not. Pulling the ‘Banks’ industry benchmark data from our NIST maturity tool we see that for the NIST domain Respond, the industry average is sitting at 2.39. So in maturity terms it is slightly above Level 2 – Repeatable, where the process is documented such that repeating the same steps may be attempted. In short, many have a lot to do in this space.

Testing control effectiveness

  • “An APRA-regulated entity must escalate and report to the Board or senior management any testing results that identify information security control deficiencies that cannot be remediated in a timely manner, to enable an assessment and potential response by the Board or senior management to mitigate the exposure, as appropriate”. – Yep, we also love this. Putting formal requirements around the basic principle of ‘fix what you find’! The key message from us to Boards and senior management is make sure you are clear on what is in/out of scope for this testing and why.
  • “Testing must be conducted by appropriately skilled and functionally independent specialists”.- The Big 4 audit firms will be very excited about this one!

APRA Notification

  • “An APRA-regulated entity must notify APRA as soon as possible, and no later than 24 hours, after experiencing an information security incident”. –  Eagle-eyed readers will spot that this reflects mandatory data breach obligations that recently came into force under the Privacy Act on 22 February. The Privacy Act requires entities that experience a serious breach involving personal information, to notify the OAIC and affected individuals ‘as soon as practicable’ after identifying the breach. Another example of how companies now have to contend with notifying multiple regulators, on different time-frames. 

Conclusion

CPS 234 is just a draft, and ultimately the final product may be vastly different. Nevertheless, we feel APRA’s approach is a positive step to drive awareness of this significant risk, and one which will hopefully be used to baseline the foundational cyber security capabilities noted within. Well done, APRA!

Consultation on the package is open until 7 June 2018. APRA intends to finalise the proposed standard towards the end of the year, with a view to implementing CPS 234 from 1 July 2019.

Link to the consultation draft.


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