What is a cybersecurity report? Why are they necessary?

Cybersecurity Reporting

What is a cybersecurity report?

Waves of change are constantly disrupting companies of all sizes around the world, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity. Digital infrastructure keeps expanding, work models constantly change, and the web between businesses gets more and more intertwined. It’s no surprise that CISOs and risk leaders are evolving.

A majority of boards now see cyber risk as business risk, so they’re asking hard questions around risk and exposure. Security leaders must have processes in place to inform and educate executives, boards, and stakeholders as to the security posture of the organization as well as the postures of important third parties.

What is a cybersecurity report?

A cybersecurity report presents critical information about cybersecurity threats, risks within a digital ecosystem, gaps in security controls, and how a security program performs. Cybersecurity reports help to foster data-driven communication between boards, executives, security practitioners, and security and risks leaders to ensure that all parties are working together to enhance security programs and mitigate risk.

Why should you create a cybersecurity report for your organization?

Malicious actors are growing more sophisticated. The attack surface and vendor ecosystems have rapidly expanded, refocusing the security conversation towards digital risk and risk tolerance. Despite large investments in cybersecurity, the frequency and severity of attacks has not decreased. Boards and executives are increasingly becoming involved as they are ultimately at the top of the chain and often have to answer to regulators and investors when something does happen. With greater attention comes greater scrutiny on what the return of investment is after years of heavy spending on cybersecurity (or hasn’t been). There’s never been a more important time for security and risk professionals to effectively measure, manage, and communicate their security program to senior executives, board members, and external stakeholders.

The market keeps pumping more investment into cybersecurity, topping $173 billion in 2022. But, companies still see increasing financial loss—compromised emails alone account for $3.8 billion cybercrime losses. Almost half of companies suffer reputational damage after an incident. And companies lose 20 days every year in lost business time.

Now, CISOs need to understand their risk and exposure and the quantification of that expected impact. Not only that, they must determine if their company is prioritizing the right things, comparing to the right peers, and taking on the right amount of risk.

Leaders need to provide the necessary answers and can do this via regular cybersecurity reports.


What is a security report vs cybersecurity report?

The two terms can be used interchangeably, but “security report” is a much broader term that can encompass reports and communications regarding security and risk beyond just the digital realm. Security reports can include analysis on topics such as nation-state military statuses and actions. While cybersecurity reports are a bit more specific to the digital realm, security reports often communicate the same metrics and analysis that are reported either to the public or to a more narrow definition of stakeholders.

What are the basic but essential elements of a cybersecurity report?

The content in a cybersecurity report is determined by the audience. Boards and executives require high-level metrics that provide an overview of security performance and flag significant risk exposure. Security and risk leaders need more detailed reports that identify the largest areas of risk and prioritize investment and resources. Security practitioners need data that can help to remediate specific issues and identify the optimal course of action to improve cybersecurity posture.

What are some specific example elements of a cybersecurity report?

Important cyber metrics for CIOs, for example, include security performance benchmarked against peers, patching cadence, and high-risk findings that are outstanding from recent audits or security assessments. When evaluating vendors, important cybersecurity data includes the amount of time vendors require to remediate vulnerabilities and respond to security incidents, as well as vendors’ security ratings.

In-depth metrics for cybersecurity reports

While the general descriptions on important elements for your cybersecurity report are a good place to start, stakeholders may want more tailored information to your organization. Below are more specific examples of cyber risk metrics, cybersecurity analytics, and cyber risk analysis that executives, board members, and investors will want to know.

Your cybersecurity report should include:

It is often difficult to craft a cybersecurity report that will be easy to understand for executives while being impactful at the same time. These example metrics provide summaries of the hundreds of cyber risk metrics that security leaders are exposed to on a daily basis. Data points around botnet infections, spam propagation, open ports, and insecure systems are informative, but are generally not fit for the executive audience or the board room. They want a high-level cybersecurity report in order to know quickly whether the organization is secure and if the security investments are making an impact.