Cyber Risk Assurance

Cyber breaches (personal data, business secrets etc.) are increasing in frequency and scale and so will remain a major concern for boards and their management teams for the foreseeable future.

Cyber assurance however is typically distributed and siloed across functions and organisational structures. Other than at a policy level, cyber assurance is typically not joined up in any consistently structured way and is almost never joined up at a systems/platform level. For this reason cyber assurance is more of a challenge for management teams reporting to boards than it is a challenge for IT departments working to individual operational and compliance requirements.

The Venn below illustrates what good cyber assurance looks like. On the other hand, if you remove the centre circle and replace it with high-level policy statements, and perhaps a conceptual governance framework, you get a representation of what actual cyber assurance looks like in very many organisations today.


The distributed nature of cyber assurance is compounded further as:

1. Different functions and different departments have different taxonomies and measure risk differently. This can result in sub-optimal, and sometimes deeply flawed, cyber risk reporting up to boards. 
2. Front-line decision makers (1st line of defence[1]) see cyber risk as somebody else’s problem. They have no easy to use effective way of identifying and measuring cyber risk within their areas of responsibility. They can do little other than be responsive to periodic or event lead IT security, risk and compliance (2nd line of defence) engagements. As a result the ‘soft underbelly’ of cyber risk, PEOPLE, remains vulnerable to social engineering and a multiplicity of increasingly innovative cyber-crime tactics,
3. Different systems, with limited to no interoperability, are procured to meet different functional requirements with low-no ability to present an organisation-wide aggregated view and understanding of cyber risks across the enterprise, 

[1] - Three Lines of Defence-

The Challenge:

The distributed nature of cyber assurance summarised above results in:

  • Poor cyber risk management capabilities
  • Poor organisational agility to respond to many cyber-related crises
  • Poor business continuity and contingency planning
  • Poor resilience within the deeply interconnected and independent ecosystems resulting in systems failures across critical activities

Organisations need to find a way to align disparate systems in a way which results in the receipt of "always-on" reliable, relevant actionable information to provide effective cyber-risk assurance.

Choices include:

  • Combining publicly available data and internal systems [2] analytics algorithms to seek to illuminate possible vulnerabilities facing organisations over a period of time,  
  • Crowdsourcing trusted front line information infused with third-party data sources for more immediate results

[2] - Venn diagram

Using Agile Risk Management (ARM) practices SoluxR delivers results at scale, in less time, at less cost, more effectively and more reliably than other methods.

Immediate results begin to emerge when practical issues are concretely addressed against an internationally proven and accepted technique assessing emerging risks, for example using:

World Economic Forum (WEF) Cyber Resilience Framework [3] comprised of 200 questions (including inferred questions from ISO 27000) against 10 (WEF) Principles:

[3] Note - Framework

Principle 1 Responsibility for cyber resilience. The board as a whole takes ultimate responsibility for oversight of cyber risk and resilience. The board may delegate primary oversight activity to an existing committee (e.g. risk committee) or new committee (e.g. cyber resilience committee).

Principle 2 Command of the subject. Board members receive cyber resilience orientation upon joining the board and are regularly updated on recent threats and trends – with advice and assistance from independent external experts being available as requested.

Principle 3 Accountable officer. The board ensures that one corporate officer is accountable for reporting on the organization’s capability to manage cyber resilience and progress in implementing cyber resilience goals. The board ensures that this officer has regular board access, sufficient authority, command of the subject matter, experience and resources to fulfil these duties.

Principle 4 Integration of cyber resilience. The board ensures that management integrates cyber resilience and cyber risk assessment into overall business strategy and into enterprise-wide risk management, as well as budgeting and resource allocation.

Principle 5 Risk appetite. The board annually defines and quantifies business risk tolerance relative to cyber resilience and ensures that this is consistent with corporate strategy and risk appetite. The board is advised on both current and future risk exposure as well as regulatory requirements and industry/societal benchmarks for risk appetite.

Principle 6 Risk assessment and reporting. The board holds management accountable for reporting a quantified and understandable assessment of cyber risks, threats and events as a standing agenda item during board meetings. It validates these assessments with its own strategic risk assessment using the Board Cyber Risk Framework.

Principle 7 Resilience plans. The board ensures that management supports the officer accountable for cyber resilience by the creation, implementation, testing and ongoing improvement of cyber resilience plans, which are appropriately harmonized across the business. It requires the officer in charge to monitor performance and to regularly report to the board.

Principle 8 Community. The board encourages management to collaborate with other stakeholders, as relevant and appropriate, in order to ensure systemic cyber resilience.

Principle 9 Review. The board ensures that a formal, independent cyber resilience review of the organization is carried out annually.

Principle 10 Effectiveness. The board periodically reviews its own performance in the implementation of these principles or seeks independent advice for continuous improvement.

Integrated with:
1. SWOT analysis: Organisational Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
2. Importance to economic integrity 

Powerful insights from such automated integrated assessments conducted across large numbers of front-line decision makers have a hugely positive impact on the quality of thinking and decision making.


Dynamic links are distributed across the organisation to:
3. Initially map and scope application of the 10 WEF-ISO2700 principles, SWOT and economic impacts. The more links that are shared across senior decision makers the more automated assessments are undertaken and the more complete the 360 review,
4. Thereafter undertake deep business impact analysis leading to enhanced scenario development and stress testing,
5. Leading to enterprise-wide cadenced assessments, across the senior echelons of the organisation such that it can competently assess the efficacy of its risk and resilience posture. 

Useful Approaches

.Point Solutions for small numbers of people: You know and understand your issues. They are complicated but you have a plan. You know what WEF Cyber Resilience questions to ask and the people who can answer them. You just want information fast so you can make a concrete decision now. Examples include Board/Risk/Audit cyber assurance query which requires attention now. 

Read the case study

.Extended Solutions for an unlimited number of people: Issues are arising and they are complex. There is little or no precedent so the right path is not always clear. You need different people, from different departments and different countries/locations to pool knowledge and experience to help arrive at the right decisions for management consideration. Examples include a range of Board/C-suite cyber assurance queries arising from breaches reported in the press, own near misses or internal concerns which have been raised .

3.Enterprise Solutions: Yours is a complex and distributed organisation. You are spread across countries and operate in a highly competitive industry sector. You are agile and data driven. You want a consistently reliable way of solving complex and complicated problems. You need scenario driven insights underpinned by evidence based, actionable information to provide sufficient certainty that business objectives can be achieved. Examples include multiple combinations of the above delivered in a seamless and structured way.