How Involved with Cyber Security Should a CEO Be?


The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a company is the go-to leader in all aspects. As such, it is incumbent upon the CEO to keep abreast of the pulse of their organization in all facets — even if in the most cursory and broad capacities. One area that is of growing and paramount concern to firms of all sizes is the specter of cyber crime and the high degree of risk that is posed by this issue.

The size of the company in question obviously plays a role in dictating how hands-on the chief executive for a given company will be: a smaller enterprise allows for much closer exposure to all of the departments in an operation, while a larger organization’s size simply makes this unrealistic. But considering the profound impact that cybercrime can have on businesses of any size, just how intimately involved should the CEO be? How much does the typical CEO need to know about cyber security?


As previously alluded to, how big a company is can often play a large role in determining the extent of the CEO’s involvement in the area of cyber security. It is only logical to assume that the smaller the company, the more involved with cyber security issues the chief executive will end up being. Conversely, at a large corporation, it would not be reasonable to expect that the CEO is in on daily cyber security meetings. However, a key takeaway here is that regardless of the size of the organization, the CEO is making the strategic, big-picture calls on issues relating to cyber security — even if that means establishing a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) where that position did not exist before. Another variable pertains to the skill set of the CEO in question. If he or she has a technical background in cyber security, the odds are far greater that they would be interested in daily decision-making regarding this aspect of operations, let alone have the technical prowess to contribute value.


There is significant merit to the concept that a leader sets the tone for the entire company. When the head of the organization (the CEO) mandates that an issue is important to the company, the rest of the business will naturally follow suit. Consequently, if there is not an enthusiastic level of support for thwarting potential cyber crimes, this type of laissez-faire nonchalance will become contagious, and permeate the rest of the company. This culture of lazy IT security processes has the danger of becoming standard practice among the employees of a firm, and in worst-case scenarios can even affect the IT staff who are supposed to be vigilant.


With the steadily growing number of security breaches and cyber security incidents, the issue of staffing for this important matter has come to the forefront. There are certainly valid reasons for and against both sides of this argument, and they mostly fall along the typical in-house vs. outsourced lines: keeping it in-house means your company retains control while outsourcing typically proves more cost-effective (although this is not always the case with cybersecurity). Regardless of which option is chosen, the CEO should certainly be closely involved with this crucial decision.


The CEO of an organization is expected to be accountable to the stakeholders and consumers equally. By becoming involved with the cybersecurity efforts of a business, the chief executive becomes better positioned to respond to potential and actual threats proactively. As a result, they can convey salient information to stakeholders in an expeditious, informed, and forthright manner. The overall effect is that the CEO comes across as far more credible and in control of their company.

There is no doubt that given the increasingly digital age that we live and work in, the CEO of an organization needs to be actively involved and participatory in their firm’s cyber security efforts. A proactive CEO ensures the most intelligent and precise response to cyber situations. The issues of cyber security and cyber crime will only become more pronounced as we proceed further along in the digital age.