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The CFO: Your Risk Mitigation Team’s MVP

As the executive officer in charge of a company’s financials, the CFO is in a unique position to understand risk management – from the growing list of threats themselves, to the quantifiable harm they could do to the company’s bottom line.

That’s why, although there was once a time that only security and IT departments were responsible for detecting and warding off cyberattacks, CFOs have become stronger voices on their companies’ risk management teams.

And, they aren’t just speaking out – they’re putting real financial support behind risk management initiatives. In fact, two-thirds of U.S. technology CFOs confirmed that they increased cybersecurity spending within their organizations within the last 12 months alone, renewing focus on combating the incoming threats that can compromise their brand.

Cyberattacks and Combative Techniques

In most cases, the goal of cybercriminals is the same: to cloak themselves in false online identities that are strongly associated with trusted brands and executives, as a means to siphon away business, spread misinformation, gain unauthorized access or create market havoc.

For example, imagine your customers receiving an email from what appears to be your IT department asking them to “click here” to change their login and password. The logo looks correct and the email address matches your corporate domain – or so they think. However, upon clicking the hyperlink, they’re actually giving their personal information and valuable data to the cybercriminal who crafted the phishing email, damaging your brand’s reputation in the process.

Unfortunately, this is only one of many threat vectors that can occur in today’s ever-growing world of sophisticated cyberattacks that CFOs should be on the lookout for. Others include counterfeit mobile apps, domain hijacking, social media scams and executive impersonation – both at physical events and online – to name a few.

To truly improve risk mitigation within their organizations against these threats, CFOs should implement a cyber-risk plan around the three Es: educate, eliminate and energize.

The Three Es of Successful Risk Mitigation

1. Educate

Because CFOs have a broad, holistic perspective of their company and its bottom line, they should inform the workforce about the potential damage cyberattacks can cause their organization. The first step to educating employees is to initiate employee training around cybersecurity issues, incorporating risk training into new employee orientation programs and refreshing risk mitigation sessions regularly. By raising awareness internally, CFOs can help their organization be one step ahead of vicious cybercriminals and their cyberattack attempts.

2. Eliminate

When managing online threat issues, one main goal that CFOs should have is breaking down traditional department silos. For instance, while the marketing team might typically monitor external social media and mobile apps, the IT department may be scanning for phishing attacks and executive threats, while protecting personally identifiable information (PII). Legal could be covering online brand abuse, while HR focuses on insider threats. By leveraging this information interdepartmentally with a universal monitoring service, CFOs can streamline the process, improving both financial and risk mitigation efforts alike.

3. Energize

As valuable members of the risk mitigation team, the best CFOs drive company culture and embrace their role by organizing regular C-level discussions about cyber-risk. Cyber breaches make headlines quite often, but by bringing attention to early-stage cyber threats and potential risks, CFOs can help minimize overall organizational vulnerability to low-level attacks before they escalate. In the end, making it harder for cybercriminals to start their infiltration process will decrease the likelihood of the large-scale threat disasters that follow.

A Different Lens: The CFO Perspective

As CFOs are entrusted with the overall financial health of a business, they must think “big picture” when it comes to their organization’s success, which includes focusing on business risks. At many organizations, CFOs have the most power to raise questions about cybersecurity, allowing them to drive – and lead – company-wide initiatives to minimize threat exposure.

In the coming years, CFOs must ensure that their companies are implementing the most effective approach to reducing their risk exposure and taking cybersecurity programs to the next level. CFOs should continuously take charge to ensure their organizations can combat existing and emerging threats.

Remember, cyber insurance can only get you so far. It may cover direct losses, but it cannot prevent or repair your brand reputation. By adopting the idea that CFOs are valuable members of risk mitigation teams, these immeasurable losses caused by cyberattacks will be less likely to occur.

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