How to Get the Board Onboard With Zero Trust

Taking a Zero Trust approach is one of the best ways to modernize your organization’s security. That’s an obvious statement to CISOs, but without context it can often be a hard sell to the rest of the company. That’s why it helps to communicate your security goals to the board and the rest of the management team. 

But how do you do that? After all, it’s quite common for CISOs not to report to the board at all. A study by the Ponemon Institute from 2019 found that a staggering 63 percent of CISOs don’t report to the board on a regular basis. 

This is slowly changing as boards and other C-level executives begin to understand the devastating impact a security breach can have on their company. CISOs can help hasten this mindshift by effectively communicating this to the board, and ensuring that everyone understands the company’s security objectives and why they’re important.

The next time you get a chance to present to your board, start building your case by implementing these tactics into the discussion.

View Security Objectives as Business Goals

The board is primarily focused on the organization’s success and growth. Many board members may not fully grasp the magnitude of cyber threats and their potential consequences. To gain support for any security project, it’s crucial to articulate security objectives in terms of business goals.  It’s up to you to present compelling data and real-life examples that demonstrate the negative impact a security breach can have on valuable company assets. 

In order to get to that point, you, the CISO, need to have a unique understanding of the business you’re helping to secure, and its surrounding industry. This will help you to figure out exactly what the company’s most important assets are and how strictly each one should be protected. 

This may not be something that’s immediately obvious. Perhaps your company manufactures its own product line. Are the design documents the only assets in need of higher protection? Are there special production technologies that are unique to the company? What about the business relationships built up over decades with suppliers and customers? What would happen if product plans were extracted by a hacker versus production schematics, supplier contracts, meeting notes, or memos? 

Once you understand the crucial aspects that need the highest level of protection, it becomes much easier to highlight how implementing Zero Trust can protect these assets to avert any financial risks associated with the breach, as well as maintain the company’s reputation, and retain customer trust.

Communicate the Impact of Now

To effectively communicate the importance of Zero Trust, provide a comprehensive understanding of the current risks your organization faces. If an attack were to happen today, what kind of potential damage is the company looking at based on its current network security posture?

The idea is to communicate how imperative the switch to a modern network security solution is–one that can effectively deal with today’s threats. 

To communicate this information you’ll also need an accurate and up-to-date asset inventory. Then combine the asset inventory with your knowledge of the business values associated with those assets. Identify threats and vulnerabilities that are facing the company right now, and explain how you want to deal with them using a Zero Trust approach. 

Then you can expand that discussion into deeper issues such as a continuous risk assessment, and the need for the board to have regular visibility into the top risks and their potential business impact. By highlighting specific risks, you can demonstrate the urgent need for Zero Trust as a proactive defense strategy.

Legacy Technologies and Business Goals

Now that we’ve shaped and explained the risks in terms of business objectives and detrimental impacts, it gets easier to open the discussion to moving away from legacy technologies. Just don’t take your eye off the ball. We want to show how current legacy technologies are failing to serve the company’s business goals. 

A legacy VPN, for example, makes it easier for hackers to achieve lateral movement in the hunt for highly-privileged access or data. Take, for example, the Uber Hack from September 2022 where a threat actor was able to achieve lateral movement after gaining access to the network and discovering higher-privileged credentials. Compare that to a Zero Trust Network Access approach. Under this model, employees are limited to only the applications they need to do their job, not the entire network. Thus hackers would be far more restricted in what they could access should they ever obtain credentials. 

Establish a Zero Trust Roadmap

Now that you’ve set the stage with business objectives, current threats, and the inability of legacy technologies to meet these threats, it’s time to move on to Zero Trust implementation.

Start with a proof of concept (POC) to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of the new Zero Trust approach. Then, outline how the implementation will evolve over time and expand into more and more areas and assets. Be sure to emphasize the continuous nature of this journey. Show the board that Zero Trust is not a one-time project but an ongoing commitment to improving security posture, and thereby serving the business goals we established in earlier stages. 

What’s crucial during this stage is that no one, including you, reduces Zero Trust to a budget item. Zero Trust is not just about a different security expense. There’s no single switch to pull. Zero Trust is a fundamental shift in strategy and mindset. Ensure that the board understands that implementing Zero Trust requires involvement from the entire IT team, users, and management. Emphasize the importance of user education, ongoing training, and awareness programs to foster a security-conscious culture throughout the organization.

Perimeter 81 Is Here for You

By following these steps, CISOs can effectively communicate the value and urgency of Zero Trust to the board. Establishing a solid relationship and aligning security objectives with business goals will help gain the necessary support and resources for implementing this critical security strategy. Remember, building trust and ensuring open communication are key to fostering a security-focused culture throughout the organization.

Once it comes time to implement Zero Trust-based network security, Perimeter 81 has what you need. Our Zero Trust Network Access provides granular permissions for essential company resources whether they’re on-prem or in the cloud. You can permit access based on groups, or to specific individuals. Our advanced Hybrid SWG provides multiple protection layers to defend employees against ransomware, malicious websites, zero day attacks, and more. 

Plus, it’s all wrapped up in an easy to use cloud-managed platform designed to reduce the time IT managers have to spend configuring, maintaining, and monitoring their network. 
To see what Perimeter 81 can do to secure your business, book a 20-minute consultation with one of our experts.