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Five core questions to help boards understand their cyber risk

The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) says that Board members ‘need to get a little bit technical if they are to understand and manage the risks they face’ and has published a five-question checklist to assist.

NCSC also emphasises that boards cannot outsource their cyber security risks and need to understand what their technical staff are doing if they are to ‘prosper securely in the digital age’.

When launching the checklist, Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the NCSC, said:

“Cyber security is now a mainstream business risk. So corporate leaders need to understand what threats are out there, and what the most effective ways are of managing the risks.

“But to have the plain English, business focussed discussions at board level, board members need to get a little bit technical. They need to understand cyber risk in the same way they understand financial risk, or health and safety risk.

“Our sample questions, which we’ve published in consultation with businesses, aim to equip board members to ask the right questions and begin to understand the answers.

“There is no such thing as a foolish question in cyber security. The foolish act is walking away without understanding the answer because that means you don’t understand how you’re handling this core business risk.”

The five questions the NCSC is recommending boards ask are;

  • How do we defend our organization against phishing attacks?
  • What do we do to control the use of our privileged IT accounts? 
  • How do we ensure that our software and devices are up to date?
  • How do we ensure our partners and suppliers protect the information we share with them?
  • What authentication methods are used to control access to systems and data?

These initial questions form part of a broader toolkit to be published in a few months’ time which will help boards to recognise and resolve gaps in their knowledge.

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