For many businesses, the idea of a debilitating cyberattack has become something of a boogeyman. There are a million articles similar to this one that talk about the “what ifs” and “how to defend” strategies, and they all boil down to the same thing: cybersecurity needs to be a focus. That focus needs to come from the top: the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
This isn’t another article about how to safeguard against hacking attempts or simple tips to protect your organization’s data. Instead, it’s a call to action for CTOs. Cyberattacks have reached critical mass and cybersecurity is no longer best-practice: it’s mission critical.
Alarm bells are ringing
Cyberattacks against mid-stream organizations and SMBs have been on the rise since the pandemic, when the transition to remote work kicked off. They persist today and, in fact, are on the rise in dramatic fashion. In Q3 of 2022 alone, successful cyberattacks topped more than 1,000 instances per week—a year-over-year increase of 28% from 2021.
And this is just the average.
If you’re in Manufacturing, Healthcare or Education, you’re more than twice as likely to encounter hackers in a given week. Healthcare organizations in particular are prime targets, with one in 42 organizations likely to suffer a data breach this year.
These data points are all building toward a future where hacking is nothing short of a lucrative profession. Cybercrime could cost the world as much as $10 trillion by 2025. This year alone, the average cost of a data breach has increased by 80%—largely because of the high success rate. It’s a cost companies can ill-afford to pay.
Cybersecurity stewardship from the C-suite
There are two prime voices in the C-suite charged with shoring the digital defenses of an organization: the CIO and the CTO—or the hybrid equivalent of CISO. CTOs in particular need to rise to the occasion.
It’s the role of the CTO to create and perpetuate a culture of cybersecurity that trickle down from the C-suite to encompass a business’ complete digital operations. Every piece of hardware, every mode of communication, every employee with access—it all requires accountability that needs to come from the top.
To safeguard businesses against the torrential threat of a data breach, CTOs need to first understand the scope of threats, then counter them with robust defenses that leave no gaps. At a high level, this means allocating budget and resources to the following:
- Hire and consult with outside specialists and white-hat hackers;
- Depreciate legacy equipment and systems with known vulnerabilities;
- Instituting accountability for organizational technical decision-makers;
- Implementing routine audits and simulated attacks to test responsiveness.
For those companies that don’t have a full-time CTO or CISO to coordinate defenses against rising cybersecurity threats, a fractional CTO or interim technology executive can serve the same purpose.
Instituting a culture of cybersecurity
Data breaches and other cyberattacks are on the rise because bad actors continue to succeed in executing them. From small four-figure ransoms to regain access to data systems, to massive six-figure costs to clean up after a sensitive data dump, the onus is on businesses to prevent these outcomes by stonewalling malicious attackers.
A culture of cybersecurity—one that extends throughout the company’s entire data architecture to reach every single employee—needs to come from the top. CTOs need to be stewards for safeguarding data access, and put up fierce defenses against those who seek to do harm.