Security Experts:

How Cyber Business Intelligence Can Be Your "Canary in the Boardroom"

Cyber Business Intelligence is Quickly Becoming the “Canary in the Boardroom”

Well into the 20th century, coal miners used canaries to detect methane and other poisonous gases. The ability of the tiny birds to sense even small amounts of potentially harmful gases is legendary and saved many lives in a time when sophisticated ventilation systems and other lifesaving technologies did not yet exist.

In today’s business world, large enterprises, mid-sized organizations and fledgling startups are subject to a similar, often invisible deadly force that can kill success in an instant:

Rampant cybercrime.

Just as noxious as deadly gases, cybercrime has fatal effects, such as revenue and profit loss, brand destruction, erosion of customer loyalty, competitive disadvantages and, amongst other onerous impacts, debilitating litigation.

In the wake of recent cyber incidents at companies such as Target, Neiman Marcus and others, C-Suites and Boards of Directors are now starting to wake up to the critical need for lifesaving protections that indicate when danger is in the air.

They’re starting to realize they need “risk sensors” in place to help keep inevitable cybercrime from turning fatal when it does happen and to prevent deadly situations from happening in the first place.

Yet, just as in the coal mines of centuries past, they lack the available, difference-making solutions necessary to help them prevent loss of business life to cyber threats. For all the highly-technical and low-level software and hardware solutions, security tools, people and cyber policies adopted in the market today, no consistent, “right-sized” tool exists at the boardroom level.

So how do corporate leaders become cyber savvy? How do they get up-to-date, continuous information on what might be waiting just around the corner to harm them? More importantly, how do they plan effectively to head it off?

The answer is cyber business intelligence. It’s quickly becoming the “canary in the boardroom.”

Most businesses use traditional business intelligence as a vital part of their operations to track Key Performance Indicators, better known simply as KPIs. For everything from sales performance, customer engagement, brand penetration, and marketing effectiveness to employee retention and, of course, financial performance, business intelligence is a true business commodity. Executives and board members gain key insights from it and they use it to keep all aspects of their businesses tracking and on target. Without it, engineered success is a blindfolded throw at a dartboard.

But, today, most enterprises have almost no form of cyber business intelligence for tracking KPIs that might keep them safer and free from financial ruin. It would seem the same corporate “culture of accountability” expected of traditional data domains does not apply to most things cyber.

Cyber Problems and Top Targets

So how do they get started and what should they be measuring anyway? The answers are simpler than you think.

For starters, businesses have a lot more data on hand than they think. They key is crafting a plan to track it and combine it with data from outside their own walls against which the internal data can be analyzed.

Data to support answering all of the questions below can and should be continuously collected, stored and analyzed to provide quick, summary assessments of potential risk:

• How have I been affected by cybercrime this year? What techniques were used? What was targeted? What happened as a result in each instance?

• What has been targeted in my business yesterday, this week, last month, this year?

• What new exploits appeared in the last week, quarter, month and this year that have never affected me before?

• What types of systems are trending as targets in my industry sector?

• What software and systems used by my business/customers/suppliers have been exploited this year? In each instance, how was the attack carried out?

• Have other businesses in my sector been hit in the last 24 hours?

• How are other businesses in my industry getting hit? What’s happening as a result?

• Are any of my suppliers getting attacked? If so, how? What happened in each instance?

• How are my customers getting hit? What was the effect on retention?

• Is overall cyber activity increasing or decreasing in the last week? The last quarter? This year?

And dozens more key performance questions - the answers to which are integral to decision support operations.

Sample Dashboard ReportThis cyber business intelligence Q&A gets even more interesting - and useful - when you combine it with other, more traditional business intelligence data sets such as budget data. Significant insights often leap off the screen turning those dog and pony board meetings into very effective, valuable sessions that help steer enterprises around potential cyber impacts.

For example, overlaying your IT and INFOSEC budgets against actual current cyber trends can illuminate coverage gaps, focus problems or overspending. Doing this every month? Invaluable.

How about matrixing your entire IT inventory against historical or trending malware techniques? It can uncover unseen trouble spots in an instant.

Trying to deliver a new SaaS product next quarter to a previously untapped customer segment? Model your customers’ expected behavior and usage, as well as the technology that makes up your application, then analyze it against current cyber problems in your industry or another industry with a similar user base. An ounce of prevention can be worth millions spent on a cure.

In the middle of a market survey to swap vendors for your Point-of-Sale system upgrade? Reviewing cloud hosting or outsourcing services for secure processing and storage of your patient data? Are similar companies to yours in another industry getting hit with something you’re not? What’s the most costly cybercrime affecting your suppliers? Who are all of your suppliers anyway? What systems of yours do they have access to?

The list goes on and on. If you can’t answer these questions and more, it should worry you.

As you can see, cyber business intelligence is business intelligence. In fact, in a corporate world now threatened every hour by invisible, potential cyber tragedy (and its costly effects), it’s high time this type of business data analysis becomes the canary in every board room.

view counter
Jason Polancich founder and Chief Architect at SurfWatch Labs. He is a serial entrepreneur focused on solving complex internet security and cyber-defense problems. Prior to founding SurfWatch Labs, Mr. Polancich co-founded Novii Design which was sold to Six3 Systems in 2010. In addition to completing numerous professional engineering and certification programs through the National Cryptologic School, Polancich is a graduate of the University of Alabama, with degrees in English, Political Science and Russian. He is a distinguished graduate of the Defense Language Institute (Arabic) and has completed foreign study programs through Boston University in St. Petersburg, Russia.