# Opener

Valentine’s Day for CISOs: How to Woo Your CEO

Published by Axio

CISO is a high-stakes position, and possibly the most important business relationship/direct report a CEO can have. Whether your relationship is new, or you’ve been partners for a long time, it’s important to keep your CEO happy. At Axio, our platform enables companies to perform cyber risk quantification (CRQ), which analyzes the unique risks to your business and how specific risk scenarios would financially affect your organization. Here we have compiled a list of CRQ-related tips for keeping that flame alive with your CEO. 

Be Practical 

Whether personal or business-related, making promises you can’t keep never turns out well. You can’t defend against every potential attack, and it doesn’t make sense to try. A good CISO accepts this reality and will ensure their CEO does, too. Cyber risk quantification is a risk-management approach to cybersecurity that allows you to optimize cybersecurity spending instead of throwing money away trying to put out every fire. Working towards implementing a risk-based approach to cybersecurity will protect the business and ensure it survives when the inevitable cyber-attack takes place. Not all risks are created equal, and the risks that pose the highest threat to your business should be prioritized first. Identifying the highest priority risks for your organization can seem like a monumental task but approaching cyber risk through quantification provides the insight you need to identify these risks and plan around them.   

Good Communication 

Regardless of your budget, an easy first step towards building a healthy relationship with your CEO is assessing and modifying how you communicate with them. Relationship experts across the board would agree that communication is key to a successful and happy partnership. Executive management teams responsible for business decisions require a CISO that can speak in business terms they can understand. When presenting data to your CEO, you should forgo traditional methods of communication like stoplight scoring and KPIs. These can be valuable in measuring generic progress, but they take information out of context and don’t tell the whole story. This means that critical projects can get sidelined or deprioritized. 

While KPIs and stoplight scoring are based on operational metrics, cyber risk quantification focuses on identifying and mitigating risks that matter specifically to your business. CEOs must remain aware of the potential impact, in dollars, of a security event before it occurs. Quantification frames cyber risk in a way that CEOs can easily understand in fiduciary terms. 


Another thing relationship experts can agree on is that transparency increases the level of trust between partners. Trust is integral to the relationship between CISO and CEO – your CEO must have full confidence in the business decisions that they make based on the information you have provided. CRQ provides the transparent data necessary in building this trust. Having trustworthy data allows your CEO to defend any business and spending decisions they make around cybersecurity. Your CEO trusts that you already know potential cost scenarios and the expected range of loss when a cyber attack occurs. They know that having CRQ in place will ensure a swift and successful recovery for the business.  

Transparency also encourages accountability, another aspect of a healthy relationship. Businesses can face a number of cyber event types in any given year, each with its own probability and impact range. In a world where unlimited spending on security software will never be a flawless defense, accountability is necessary to maintain your organization’s reputation with customers and investors. In the aftermath of a cyber breach, your CEO can confidently point to your CRQ reports, which provide transparent, defensible data justifying where and why investments were made. “We have made cybersecurity spending decisions around the expectation that this type of loss scenario could occur and we are financially prepared to face the outcome.”  


Nobody wants a partner incapable of change or improvement. The relationship between CISO and CEO should be based on the mutual agreement that a successful cybersecurity program requires constant evaluation and improvement. Cybersecurity risk management is a moving goalpost, and relying solely on static cybersecurity frameworks, like compliance, cannot sufficiently protect your business from otherwise avoidable attacks. Cyber risk quantification incorporates a dynamic framework that can be leveraged by companies at any stage of cyber maturity. As your business grows, risk landscape and attack vectors change. Cyber criminals are constantly shifting the ways in which they execute attacks and new types of threats arise every day. A successful cybersecurity program, therefore, must also be ready and willing to make changes to their spending strategy.  


In the past, CISOs have been hired based on their technical background and expertise alone. It’s true that experience in technical security is beneficial to the role of CISO, but the qualities outlined here supersede the importance of any technical skills. While searching for “that special someone” who can be their CISO and lead cybersecurity efforts for their organization, your CEO will expect you to have both technical and business expertise. Let Axio help you build on these qualities as a CISO and improve the relationship with your CEO. Axio360 can get you started with cyber risk quantification today.