March 11, 2024
Cyber Risk

Speak Dollars, Not Fears: CRQ Is Your Budget’s Secret Weapon

Cyber risk quantification translates technical jargon into the language of business.

By James Mullane

With the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, justifying cybersecurity budgets to your CFO can feel like an uphill battle. While the dangers are undeniable, translating abstract risks into concrete numbers often leaves CISOs scratching their heads.

This is where cyber risk quantification (CRQ) enters the scene, armed with proven techniques to make your cybersecurity budget a boardroom champion.

So, what exactly is CRQ? Imagine it as a translator, converting the technical jargon of vulnerabilities into the financial language of dollars and cents. It quantifies the potential monetary impact of cyberattacks, taking into account factors such as:

  1. Likelihood of an attack: How likely is your organization to be targeted based on your industry, size, and data sensitivity?
  2. Vulnerability types: What are the weakest links in your security chain?
  3. Potential loss: How much could a breach cost you in terms of data restoration, regulatory fines, reputational damage, and downtime?

By assigning probabilities and costs to these factors, CRQ helps uncover the financial impact of a security event that speaks directly to your executive team's concerns. Imagine the difference between saying, "We need more security tools," and presenting data showing, "Investing in X technology could reduce our potential breach cost by Y dollars annually."

That's the power of CRQ in action.

But how can you actually use CRQ to boost your budget? Here are three practical examples:

  1. Prioritize Investments: CRQ helps you identify the areas with the highest probable financial impact, allowing you to prioritize investments in controls and technologies that address the most significant risks. Say your CRQ analysis reveals that ransomware attacks pose the biggest threat in terms of likelihood and impact in dollars You can then use the data to justify investing in better data encryption and backup solutions.
  2. Communicate Effectively: Ditch the technical jargon and speak your management's language. CRQ analysis reports with clear financial impact figures that make it easier for executives to understand the value of cybersecurity investments. Imagine presenting a dashboard showing how specific budget increases translate to reduced risk exposure, making budgeting decisions more strategic and data-driven.
  3. Demonstrate ROI: When you track the effectiveness of your security measures over time, CRQ helps you assess the return on investment (ROI) of your cybersecurity spending. Showcasing how your cybersecurity investments have demonstrably reduced your risk profile not only justifies past budgets but also strengthens your case for future funding.

But simply using CRQ as a mechanism to quantify your company’s cyber risk isn’t enough. The calculation of your company’s data must be tied to an objective, defensible, and industry-accepted benchmark.

This is where FAIR comes in.

The FAIR methodology is the widely accepted industry standard for CRQ that helps companies translate cyber risks into a language that everyone can understand: money.

By analyzing probable loss scenarios, FAIR helps to assign a likelihood and financial value to cyber risks. This enables companies to:

  1. Make Data-Driven Decisions: Move beyond anecdotal evidence and gut feelings. FAIR provides concrete data to justify budget requests, making them more impactful to decision makers.
  2. Align with Business Goals: FAIR allows you to demonstrate how security investments directly impact the organization’s bottom line. This fosters stronger collaboration between security, risk management and business units.

As businesses continue to mature their security programs, it’s the responsibility of security leaders to communicate their program effectiveness and their needs in the language of the business. Rather than just presenting the traditional heat maps of “high, medium, and low” criticality, security leaders will be required to speak in dollars.

And as these risk-led discussions begin to shift, so does the confidence in their decisions. Are these investment decisions based on qualitative assessments? Are they rooted in subjective interpretations of what “critical” means? Or are they effectively communicated in a manner that executive leadership committees will understand?

Another anecdotal use case for why Cyber Risk Quantification can help with the cyber security budgeting process is the ability to justify current spend.

More and more security leaders share that their current security budgets are at risk from other competing lines of business within the organization.

Traditionally, a company’s security budget is seen as a cost center. And if a CFO has to decide between allocating money towards a line of business that generates revenue versus one that does not, it’s no surprise that a cost center has a harder hill to climb.

In this common scenario, Cyber Risk Quantification is a CISO’s best friend because it removes subjectivity from the equation, and provides objective feedback on why certain cyber security controls are critical to an organization’s risk exposure.

Let’s say a CFO wants to reduce a CISO’s budget by 15%. In this scenario, a CISO may use CRQ to say “with this change, we will have to cut X and Y from our security stack, thus increasing our risk likelihood for a security event on these critical applications. Is this a risk you’re willing to accept?”

This fosters a completely different conversation with the executive team. And one that not only speaks in a language that executives understand, but helps foster trust in the security leader’s ability to contextualize their charter with the business in mind.

Remember, CRQ isn't about creating a magic shield against all cyber threats. It's about providing a data-driven foundation for informed decision-making and resource allocation. By translating fear into financial terms, CRQ empowers you to advocate for effective cybersecurity programs, ultimately protecting your organization's data, finances,and reputation.