New IBA Report Provides First-of-Its-Kind Global Perspective on Cybersecurity Risk Governance

A new report from the International Bar Association (IBA) Presidential Task Force on Cybersecurityand the IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) provides a first-of-its-kind global perspective on key governance practices for senior managers and boards of directors to protect their organisations against cyber-attacks.

The report provides insight into cybersecurity threats and outlines actionable steps companies can take to strengthen their cyber risk governance.

The report draws on sources across 10 jurisdictions–Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, India, Israel, Singapore, Uganda, the UK, and the US – to provide a comparative analysis with diverse international case studies.

Sternford Moyo, immediate past president of the IBA and chairman, Scanlen and Holderness, Zimbabwe, who appointed the Task Force during his 2021–2022 presidency and assigned the project as a presidential priority, commented: “There is a real need for leadership and development of international cyber best practices in the intersection of law, public policy and technology. This IBA report sets a global benchmark on best governance practices for corporations in effectively safeguarding their organisations against cyber risks.”

With the rise of 5G networks, quantum computing and devices linked to the Internet of Things, cybersecurity is fast evolving into a primary concern for society. Identity Theft Resource Center data shows that a data compromise in the first half of 2022 impacted 53.3 million Americans.

Meanwhile, the telecommunications company Verizon reported that of the total breaches committed in 2022, 89 per cent were financially motivated and almost half of all cyber breaches featured hacking.

Regulatory bodies have begun developing legal guidelines and standards in response to the increase in cyber-attacks. However, simply abiding by such regulations no longer secures companies; company leaders must proactively establish security frameworks and strategies.

Luke Dembosky, co-chair of the Presidential Task Force on Cybersecurity and a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, US, remarked: “It is more important than ever that senior executives and boards of directors engage directly in ensuring their organisations manage cyber risks effectively.

“The days of leaving that enormous responsibility to the IT team or to privacy compliance to handle are long over, as these are whole-company risks to operations, data, and brands. We hope this report is a useful guide to the issues involved and practical steps corporate leaders can take to carry out effective cyber oversight.”

Setting guidelines and standards apart from national legislation can bridge existing gaps in knowledge. The new IBA report acknowledges the shared accountability between senior management and boards of directors to tackle cybersecurity risks and provides 17 recommendations to both parties, including:

  • Understand the cyber risk profile of the organisation.
  • Ensure the board and management have sufficient cybersecurity expertise.
  • Ensure appropriate reporting lines so that cyber risks are raised to leadership.
  • Invest sufficient funds to meet cybersecurity goals.
  • Review, understand, and test the organisation’s cyber incident response plans.

Senior management plays a crucial role in day-to-day operations, positioning them well to map cybersecurity risks and identify high-priority concerns. By tracking internal knowledge, external support and expertise, and cross-functional collaboration, they can select the ideal policy for their organisation. They are also responsible for ensuring internal compliance, and as the primary reporters to the board, they can also suggest timely analysis/assessments and updates.

Søren Skibsted, co-chair of the Presidential Task Force on Cybersecurity and a partner at Kromann Reumert, Denmark, commented: “The number, magnitude, sophistication, frequency and impact of cyber incidents are increasing. Today they represent one of the biggest challenges to the proper functioning of organisations and the successful embracement of digital transformation.”

“Now more than ever, senior executives and boards of directors need to understand the strategic essence of cyber resilience better, and we hope that this guide will serve as a catalyst for senior executives and boards of directors to accept accountability for – and enable impactful actions concerning – advancing their organisations’ overall cyber capabilities and resilience.”

Having a well-advised and attentive board with a thorough understanding of the financial and legal risks associated with poor cybersecurity practices is critical for organisations today, with supervisory boards allowing for a top-down approach to cybersecurity prioritisation.

In Australia, Germany, the UK and the US, recently enacted legislation holds boards directly accountable for cybersecurity oversight.