Cybersecurity performance management is the process of evaluating your cybersecurity program's maturity based on top-level risks and the associated level of investment (people, processes, and technology) needed to improve your security to meet regulatory requirements and business outcomes.

Security metrics improve decision-making by helping risk management and security teams take a risk-based, outcome-driven approach to assessing and managing their organization's cybersecurity capabilities. The same can be said for Vendor Risk Management teams looking to reduce third-party risk.

Learn how UpGuard simplifies Vendor Risk Management >

Despite the benefits, 58% of organizations aren't adequately measuring the effectiveness of their cybersecurity programs against best practices. As the number of successful cyber attacks and cybersecurity incidents climb, Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), senior executives, and other security leaders must be comfortable continuously monitoring and assessing their and their vendors' information security and network security standards.

Why Isn't Cybersecurity Performance Management More Common?

Traditional cyber risk management has relied on point-in-time penetration testing, threat intelligence, occasional audits, and point-in-time risk assessments.

The problem with this approach is that it's subjective, expensive, and, worst of all, static. It doesn't provide a continuous view of how your security program is performing.

Continuous monitoring is the key to better security, as attackers and researchers are constantly discovering new vulnerabilities and exploits.

Additionally, communicating findings to senior management has always been a challenge. The highly technical metrics must be summarized into digestible insights for board meetings, often lacking real context.  

Mckinsey Digital offers examples of reports sent to senior management that mention "millions of attacks the organization faces per week or per day." While this number may be eye-catching, it doesn't provide adequate context.

The truth is most board members want to know how your organization compares to its peers, not that you stopped 3,600 malware threats per day.

Worst of all, these reports generally capture a moment that could become outdated tomorrow.

Why is Cybersecurity Performance Management Important?

Cybersecurity management is an increasingly important topic for board members and C-suite executives who want to ensure their organization is doing all it can to reduce cyber risk and prevent data breaches and data leaks.

With the average cost of a data breach reaching $3.92 million globally, you can see why cybersecurity has become so important. Not to mention the risk of corporate espionage, loss of intellectual property, sensitive data exposure (e.g., PII, PHI, or psychographic data), reputational damage, and the ever-growing list of data breach notification laws like GDPR, LGPD, PIPEDA, CCPA, the SHIELD Act, 23 NYCRR 500 and GLBA.

Yet, building defenses and maintaining regulatory compliance is no longer enough. Board members, C-suite executives, and even shareholders are demanding to understand the impact and effectiveness of security investments and the security gaps in their organization.  

The problem for CISOs is that the technical knowledge needed to understand the effectiveness of cybersecurity initiatives is generally lacking, even at the board level.

This is why many organizations are turning to security ratings and peer comparisons to report on and set goals for security outcomes.  

How Security Ratings Facilitate Cybersecurity Performance Management

A security rating is akin to a credit score; the higher an organization's security rating, the better its security posture and the less likely it will suffer from a cyber attack, data breach, or data leak.

According to Gartner, cybersecurity ratings will become as important as credit ratings when assessing the risk of existing and new business relationships.

Security ratings are data-driven, objective, and, most importantly, a continuous measure of an organization's cybersecurity posture. Unlike traditional cyber risk management strategies like penetration testing, security questionnaires, or onsite visits, security ratings are an instant, non-intrusive way to measure the security posture of any organization, anywhere in the world.

Learn about the top security questionnaires >

Security ratings are derived from objective, verifiable information such as a lack of DNSSEC, DMARC, or SSL and the risk of email spoofing, man-in-the-middle attacks, phishing, spear phishing, domain hijacking, exposure to wormable vulnerabilities like EternalBlue, which led to WannaCry, different types of malware and ransomware, poor configuration management and other cyber threats.

The algorithm framework powering UpGuard’s security ratings.
The algorithm framework powering UpGuard’s security ratings.

Learn more about UpGuard security ratings >

Armed with first-party, third-party, and fourth-party security ratings, organizations can proactively identify, quantify and manage cybersecurity risk throughout their ecosystem and attack surface. They can also see how changes to their or their vendors' security infrastructure have impacted their rating, either positively or negatively, and then address these risks in a mitigation workflow.

The UpGuard platform showing vendor security rating changes over time.
The UpGuard platform showing vendor security rating changes over time.

Security ratings provide a common language that technical and non-technical stakeholders can understand by providing an easy-to-understand numeric or letter-grade score.

This is particularly important for CISOs looking to compare how their organization is performing against its competition and to measure the effectiveness of a vendor's security performance. As organizations outsource more, the risk of third-party data loss or exposure increases.

This is why the ability to identify high-risk service providers and plan for business continuity is an increasingly in-demand skill set.

Learn how to select a third-party risk management assessment framework >

An example of a simple yet powerful method of using security rating to demonstrate the effectiveness of your cybersecurity program in board meetings is by benchmarking your security rating against your industry’s baseline.

UpGuard's security ratings showing industry average.
UpGuard's security ratings showing industry average.

The ability to effectively communicate security risks and the efforts of security controls and cybersecurity teams is always a struggle when it comes to security performance management reports. Security ratings provide a solution for compacting KPIs and other cybersecurity performance indicators in a single quantitative value. This efficiency streamlines remediation management and the design of cybersecurity reports.

Learn how UpGuard streamlines cybersecurity reporting >

UpGuard Can Help With Cybersecurity Performance Management

UpGuard Vendor Risk can minimize the time your organization spends managing third-party relationships through vendor questionnaire automation and by providing vendor questionnaire templates mapping to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and other best practices.

By also offering a security ratings feature that reflects security posture changes in real-time, UpGuard helps risk management teams identify vendor security risks before they develop into security incidents and supply chain attacks.

Ready to see
UpGuard in action?