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Cybersecurity governance is the approach your organization uses to implement strong cybersecurity practices throughout your organization. This is more than just the controls and management practices you have in place, it’s the overarching strategy that guides your cybersecurity implementation, the way it’s integrated throughout your organization, and how it aligns with your business goals.

Cybersecurity governance vs. cybersecurity management

There is an important distinction between cybersecurity governance and cybersecurity management within the information security industry. Cybersecurity management is the way you orchestrate your cybersecurity — such as the specific controls in place and the tests you perform. Cybersecurity governance refers to the broader strategy behind your cybersecurity management. Essentially, cybersecurity governance sets the direction while cybersecurity management puts it into action.

Key components of cybersecurity governance

As you start to develop your own cybersecurity governance strategy, consider these core components in your planning:

Strategic alignment

One of the purposes of cybersecurity governance is removing the siloes involved in managing cybersecurity and treating it as an organization-wide responsibility. By aligning your cybersecurity governance with your business goals, cybersecurity helps your business grow and become more stable. 

Policy development

Once you've defined your cybersecurity strategy, you’ll also create policies and practices that put this philosophy into practice. These policies should include operational guidance and practices about how each department can help maintain the organization’s strong cybersecurity on a daily basis. 

Risk management

An instrumental part of cybersecurity is continuously identifying, assessing, and mitigating cybersecurity risks. As you develop your cybersecurity governance strategy, define your organization’s risk appetite in alignment with your business objectives. Proactive and ongoing risk management should be integrated into the principles and policies you implement as well. 

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The role of leadership in cybersecurity governance

Cybersecurity governance requires the entire organization to be involved, including senior leadership. Here are some of the ways your leadership team will be involved in creating an effective cybersecurity governance program:

  • Executive responsibility: Organizational leaders must take an active role in cybersecurity to demonstrate its priority within the organization. After establishing and orchestrating a cybersecurity governance strategy, leadership must engage in and oversee this strategy.
  • Accountability and compliance: Organizational leaders must take accountability for the company’s cybersecurity and compliance performance. They need to assign cybersecurity responsibilities throughout the organization to ensure each department is fulfilling their responsibilities. 

How to develop a cybersecurity governance framework

Here’s how to develop your own cybersecurity governance framework for your organization:

Framework components

Before you start designing your framework, it’s important to understand the key components your framework should have, including: 

  • Accountability structures
  • Decision-making guidelines
  • Risk management and mitigation processes
  • Policies and processes for cybersecurity oversight

Some organizations design their own cybersecurity governance framework but there are also industry-vetted frameworks, such as NIST SP 800-171 or ISO 27001, you can use to meet your business needs. 

Implementation steps

Follow these essential steps when implementing your cybersecurity governance framework and integrating it into your operations:

  1. Secure buy-in: Ensure decision-makers understand the value of cybersecurity governance. Communicate how it helps avoid compliance violations and data breaches and makes cybersecurity more sustainable.
  2. Determine your current state: Get an understanding of how your organization’s cybersecurity program currently works, what’s going well, and what inefficiencies and gaps exist. Use this to develop a plan to adjust your practices appropriately.
  3. Create goal-aligned policies: Create objectives for your cybersecurity framework that are aligned with your business objectives and create policies that work toward these goals. Establish metrics and KPIs to evaluate whether those policies are successful.
  4. Standardize cybersecurity practices: Create standardized cybersecurity workflows and processes for departments to follow that minimize errors and make it easier for leaders to monitor whether the protocols are being followed.
  5. Make a plan for continuous monitoring: Set up metrics and processes for routinely supervising cybersecurity practices and analyzing the data you collect.

Challenges in cybersecurity governance

As you work toward establishing and implementing a strong cybersecurity governance framework, there are a few common challenges you may encounter. Here’s what those challenges are and how to overcome them:

  • Unclear goals: Your framework may be too broad to see how it can be put in practice. Be specific about what your organization is working toward and how each department will contribute.
  • Lack of buy-in: Leaders may not understand the role it plays in the organization’s success. Demonstrate the value of cybersecurity governance by pointing out current inefficiencies that could be solved with a cybersecurity governance framework.
  • Siloed processes: There will be some processes that aren’t repeatable or only apply to a specific team. Draw parallels to more standardized, established processes, and have clear oversight so that those supervising the process understand how it works.
  • Resource allocation: Budgets and resources are often limited. Explain the return the company gets from developing cybersecurity governance and how it can save the organization money in the long run.

It’s important to choose the right tools to help you manage your cybersecurity program. Vanta’s trust management platform allows you to coordinate your GRC and cybersecurity controls, manage regulations, track your implementation, and offer continuous monitoring. 

Unlike traditional GRC tools, Vanta takes it a step further with automated GRC management, including automated evidence collection and alerts, AI-powered risk questionnaires, and simplified audit preparation. Schedule a demo with our team to see if adding trust management to your GRC program is right for you. 

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Governance

What is cybersecurity governance?

A black and white drawing of a rock formation.
A lock with warning, verified document and optimization icons

Cybersecurity governance is the approach your organization uses to implement strong cybersecurity practices throughout your organization. This is more than just the controls and management practices you have in place, it’s the overarching strategy that guides your cybersecurity implementation, the way it’s integrated throughout your organization, and how it aligns with your business goals.

Cybersecurity governance vs. cybersecurity management

There is an important distinction between cybersecurity governance and cybersecurity management within the information security industry. Cybersecurity management is the way you orchestrate your cybersecurity — such as the specific controls in place and the tests you perform. Cybersecurity governance refers to the broader strategy behind your cybersecurity management. Essentially, cybersecurity governance sets the direction while cybersecurity management puts it into action.

Key components of cybersecurity governance

As you start to develop your own cybersecurity governance strategy, consider these core components in your planning:

Strategic alignment

One of the purposes of cybersecurity governance is removing the siloes involved in managing cybersecurity and treating it as an organization-wide responsibility. By aligning your cybersecurity governance with your business goals, cybersecurity helps your business grow and become more stable. 

Policy development

Once you've defined your cybersecurity strategy, you’ll also create policies and practices that put this philosophy into practice. These policies should include operational guidance and practices about how each department can help maintain the organization’s strong cybersecurity on a daily basis. 

Risk management

An instrumental part of cybersecurity is continuously identifying, assessing, and mitigating cybersecurity risks. As you develop your cybersecurity governance strategy, define your organization’s risk appetite in alignment with your business objectives. Proactive and ongoing risk management should be integrated into the principles and policies you implement as well. 

{{cta_withimage1}}

The role of leadership in cybersecurity governance

Cybersecurity governance requires the entire organization to be involved, including senior leadership. Here are some of the ways your leadership team will be involved in creating an effective cybersecurity governance program:

  • Executive responsibility: Organizational leaders must take an active role in cybersecurity to demonstrate its priority within the organization. After establishing and orchestrating a cybersecurity governance strategy, leadership must engage in and oversee this strategy.
  • Accountability and compliance: Organizational leaders must take accountability for the company’s cybersecurity and compliance performance. They need to assign cybersecurity responsibilities throughout the organization to ensure each department is fulfilling their responsibilities. 

How to develop a cybersecurity governance framework

Here’s how to develop your own cybersecurity governance framework for your organization:

Framework components

Before you start designing your framework, it’s important to understand the key components your framework should have, including: 

  • Accountability structures
  • Decision-making guidelines
  • Risk management and mitigation processes
  • Policies and processes for cybersecurity oversight

Some organizations design their own cybersecurity governance framework but there are also industry-vetted frameworks, such as NIST SP 800-171 or ISO 27001, you can use to meet your business needs. 

Implementation steps

Follow these essential steps when implementing your cybersecurity governance framework and integrating it into your operations:

  1. Secure buy-in: Ensure decision-makers understand the value of cybersecurity governance. Communicate how it helps avoid compliance violations and data breaches and makes cybersecurity more sustainable.
  2. Determine your current state: Get an understanding of how your organization’s cybersecurity program currently works, what’s going well, and what inefficiencies and gaps exist. Use this to develop a plan to adjust your practices appropriately.
  3. Create goal-aligned policies: Create objectives for your cybersecurity framework that are aligned with your business objectives and create policies that work toward these goals. Establish metrics and KPIs to evaluate whether those policies are successful.
  4. Standardize cybersecurity practices: Create standardized cybersecurity workflows and processes for departments to follow that minimize errors and make it easier for leaders to monitor whether the protocols are being followed.
  5. Make a plan for continuous monitoring: Set up metrics and processes for routinely supervising cybersecurity practices and analyzing the data you collect.

Challenges in cybersecurity governance

As you work toward establishing and implementing a strong cybersecurity governance framework, there are a few common challenges you may encounter. Here’s what those challenges are and how to overcome them:

  • Unclear goals: Your framework may be too broad to see how it can be put in practice. Be specific about what your organization is working toward and how each department will contribute.
  • Lack of buy-in: Leaders may not understand the role it plays in the organization’s success. Demonstrate the value of cybersecurity governance by pointing out current inefficiencies that could be solved with a cybersecurity governance framework.
  • Siloed processes: There will be some processes that aren’t repeatable or only apply to a specific team. Draw parallels to more standardized, established processes, and have clear oversight so that those supervising the process understand how it works.
  • Resource allocation: Budgets and resources are often limited. Explain the return the company gets from developing cybersecurity governance and how it can save the organization money in the long run.

It’s important to choose the right tools to help you manage your cybersecurity program. Vanta’s trust management platform allows you to coordinate your GRC and cybersecurity controls, manage regulations, track your implementation, and offer continuous monitoring. 

Unlike traditional GRC tools, Vanta takes it a step further with automated GRC management, including automated evidence collection and alerts, AI-powered risk questionnaires, and simplified audit preparation. Schedule a demo with our team to see if adding trust management to your GRC program is right for you. 

{{cta_testimonial2}}

Have you outgrown your security processes?

Get step-by-step guidance for auditing and updating your inefficient security processes.

Have you outgrown your security processes?

Get step-by-step guidance for auditing and updating your inefficient security processes.

Have you outgrown your security processes?

Get step-by-step guidance for auditing and updating your inefficient security processes.

Vanta gives us broad visibility across our business. We are immediately alerted to any critical vulnerabilities so we can deal with them straight away. It’s a single pane of glass for us.”

Nathan Miller, Head of Information Security & Compliance | Dovetail

Role:GRC responsibilities:
Board of directors
Central to the overarching GRC strategy, this group sets the direction for the compliance strategy. They determine which standards and regulations are necessary for compliance and align the GRC strategy with business objectives.
Chief financial officerPrimary responsibility for the success of the GRC program and for reporting results to the board.
Operations managers from relevant departmentsThis group owns processes. They are responsible for the success and direction of risk management and compliance within their departments.
Representatives from relevant departments
These are the activity owners. These team members are responsible for carrying out specific compliance and risk management tasks within their departments and for integrating these tasks into their workflows.
Contract managers from relevant department
These team members are responsible for managing interactions with vendors and other third parties in their department to ensure all risk management and compliance measures are being taken.
Chief information security officer (CISO)Defines the organization’s information security policy, designs risk and vulnerability assessments, and develops information security policies.
Data protection officer (DPO) or legal counselDevelops goals for data privacy based on legal regulations and other compliance needs, designs and implements privacy policies and practices, and assesses these practices for effectiveness.
GRC leadResponsible for overseeing the execution of the GRC program in collaboration with the executive team as well as maintaining the organization’s library of security controls.
Cybersecurity analyst(s)Implements and monitors cybersecurity measures that are in line with the GRC program and business objectives.
Compliance analyst(s)Monitors the organization’s compliance with all regulations and standards necessary, identifies any compliance gaps, and works to mitigate them.
Risk analyst(s)Carries out the risk management program for the organization and serves as a resource for risk management across various departments, including identifying, mitigating, and monitoring risks.
IT security specialist(s)Implements security controls within the IT system in coordination with the cybersecurity analyst(s).

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