Traversing the Rising Tide of Cyber Threats in 2024: An Integrated Risk Management Approach

Traversing the Rising Tide of Cyber Threats in 2024: An Integrated Risk Management Approach

As we dive deeper into 2024, cybersecurity is more treacherous than ever. According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, nine of ten compliance professionals have observed a marked increase in cyber risks. The implications of these findings are profound for internal auditors, risk managers, and compliance professionals who are now at the forefront of safeguarding their organizations against a growing array of cyber threats.

The Current Situation: Escalating Cybersecurity Risks in 2024

The Wall Street Journal survey highlights a significant rise in cybersecurity threats, with nearly half of the respondents indicating that the risk has increased substantially. This spike is not confined to any single industry but spans financial services, professional and business services, and technology sectors. High-profile cyberattacks, such as those on MGM Resorts International and UnitedHealth Group’s Change Healthcare unit, underscore the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures.

Moreover, regulatory bodies like the SEC and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have tightened their reporting requirements, demanding swift disclosure of cyber breaches. This regulatory pressure adds another layer of complexity to an already challenging cybersecurity environment.

Decode the New SEC Cybersecurity Disclosure Ruling

Implications for Audit, Risk, and Compliance Professionals: The Weight of Increased Cyber Threats

The implications of these rising cyber threats are multifaceted for audit, risk, and compliance professionals. Firstly, there is an increased demand for advanced cybersecurity expertise within these teams. The survey revealed that nearly half of the respondents possess only a basic or novice level of knowledge in cybersecurity compliance. This skills gap necessitates urgent upskilling and, in many cases, expanding the team to include cybersecurity specialists.

Furthermore, the need for audit, risk, and compliance professionals to keep pace with rapid regulatory changes is paramount. The new SEC rules, which require companies to report material cyber incidents within four business days, significantly burden compliance teams to develop and maintain robust incident response protocols.

Complications in Changing Approach: Challenges on the Horizon

Transitioning to a more cybersecurity-centric approach in compliance comes with its own set of challenges. Firstly, there is the issue of resource allocation. Expanding compliance teams and investing in training can be costly, especially for midsize companies with limited budgets. Integrating cybersecurity measures into existing compliance frameworks can also be complex and time-consuming.

Moreover, staying abreast of the ever-evolving threat landscape is challenging. Cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated, and compliance teams must continuously adapt their strategies to counter new and emerging risks. This dynamic nature of cyber threats necessitates ongoing education and agility in compliance practices.

Key Questions and Answers: Charting the Path Forward

As we navigate the complexities of an increasingly volatile cyber landscape, internal auditors, risk managers, and compliance professionals must address several critical questions to fortify their defenses and ensure regulatory compliance. Understanding the essential cybersecurity skills needed, integrating cybersecurity into compliance programs, and keeping pace with regulatory changes are pivotal steps in this journey. Here are some key questions and answers to guide you on this path.

What cybersecurity skills are essential for audit, risk, and compliance professionals?

Audit, risk, and compliance professionals need a foundational understanding of cybersecurity principles, including threat detection, incident response, and data protection. Advanced knowledge in penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, and cybersecurity frameworks like NIST CSF 2.0 and ISO 27001 is also beneficial.

How can organizations effectively integrate cybersecurity into their compliance programs?

Organizations can adopt an integrated risk management (IRM) approach, which aligns cybersecurity with overall risk management strategies. This approach involves collaborating across departments to ensure cybersecurity measures are embedded in all business processes. Comprehensive IRM platforms can streamline this integration, providing a centralized view of risks and facilitating coordinated responses.

What are the best practices for keeping up with regulatory changes?

Staying informed about regulatory updates through industry publications, webinars, and professional associations is crucial. Additionally, leveraging automated compliance tools can help track and manage regulatory changes, ensuring that compliance teams are always up to date.

Integrated Risk Management: The Strategic Solution

Integrating risk management into the core of your compliance strategy is paramount to tackling the rising cyber threats. Here’s a step-by-step guide to leveraging IRM for enhanced cybersecurity:

  1. Assess and Prioritize Risks: Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify and prioritize cyber threats. Use this assessment to guide resource allocation and focus on the most critical areas.
  2. Develop an IRM Framework: Establish an IRM framework that integrates risk management processes across all departments. This framework should include policies, procedures, and tools for identifying, assessing, managing, and monitoring risks.
  3. Leverage Technology: Utilize advanced IRM software to centralize risk data, automate workflows, and facilitate real-time monitoring and reporting. These tools can help streamline compliance processes and improve response times.
  4. Foster Collaboration: Promote a culture of collaboration between IT, compliance, and other relevant departments. Regular cross-functional meetings and shared objectives can ensure that cybersecurity measures are aligned and effectively implemented.
  5. Continuous Improvement: Cyber threats constantly evolve, so your risk management approach must be dynamic. Regularly review and update your IRM framework to incorporate new insights, technologies, and regulatory requirements.

The rise in cybersecurity threats highlighted by the Wall Street Journal survey necessitates a strategic shift in how audit, risk, and compliance professionals approach their roles. By adopting an integrated risk management approach, organizations can better align their cybersecurity efforts with overall risk management strategies, ensuring a comprehensive and coordinated defense against cyber threats. As we move through 2024, embracing these strategies will be crucial for safeguarding organizational assets and maintaining regulatory compliance in an increasingly complex cyber landscape.


John A. Wheeler is the founder and CEO of Wheelhouse Advisors, and former Senior Advisor, Risk and Technology for AuditBoard. He is a former Gartner analyst and senior risk management executive with companies including Truist Financial (formerly SunTrust), Turner Broadcasting, Emory Healthcare, EY, and Accenture. Connect with John on LinkedIn.