Justifying your 2021 cybersecurity budget

Sitting in the midst of an unstable economy, a continued public health emergency, and facing an uptick in successful cyber attacks, CISOs find themselves needing to enhance their cybersecurity posture while remaining within increasingly scrutinized budgets.

2021 cybersecurity budget

Senior leadership recognizes the value of cybersecurity but understanding how to best allocate financial resources poses an issue for IT professionals and executive teams. As part of justifying a 2021 cybersecurity budget, CISOs need to focus on quick wins, cost-effective SaaS solutions, and effective ROI predictions.

Finding the “quick wins” for your 2021 cybersecurity budget

Cybersecurity, particularly with organizations suffering from technology debt, can be time-consuming. Legacy technologies, including internally designed tools, create security challenges for organizations of all sizes.

The first step to determining the “quick wins” for 2021 lies in reviewing the current IT stack for areas that have become too costly to support. For example, as workforce members moved off-premises during the current public health crisis, many organizations found that their technology debt made this shift difficult. With workers no longer accessing resources from inside the organization’s network, organizations with rigid technology stacks struggled to pivot their work models.

Going forward, remote work appears to be one way through the current health and economic crises. Even major technology leaders who traditionally relied on in-person workforces have moved to remote models through mid-2021, with Salesforce the most recent to announce this decision.

Looking for gaps in security, therefore, should be the first step in any budget analysis. As part of this gap analysis, CISOs can look in the following areas:

  • VPN and data encryption
  • Data and user access
  • Cloud infrastructure security

Each of these areas can provide quick wins if done correctly because as organizations accelerate their digital transformation strategies to match these new workplace situations, they can now leverage cloud-native security solutions.

Adopting SaaS security solutions for accelerating security and year-over-year value

The SaaS-delivered security solution market exploded over the last five to ten years. As organizations moved their mission-critical business operations to the cloud, cybercriminals focused their activities on these resources.

Interestingly, a CNBC article from July 14, 2020 noted that for the first half of 2020, the number of reported data breaches dropped by 33%. Meanwhile, another CNBC article from July 29, 2020 notes that during the first quarter, large scale data breaches increased by 273% compared to the same time period in 2019. Although the data appears conflicting, the Identity Theft Research Center research that informed the July 14th article specifically notes, “This is not expected to be a long-term trend as threat actors are likely to return to more traditional attack patterns to replace and update identity information needed to commit future identity and financial crimes.” In short, rapidly closing security gaps as part of a 2021 cybersecurity budget plan needs to include the fast wins that SaaS-delivered solutions provide.

SaaS security solutions offer two distinct budget wins for CISOs. First, they offer rapid integration into the organization’s IT stack. In some cases, CISOs can get a SaaS tool deployed within a few weeks, in other cases within a few months. Deployment time depends on the complexity of the problem being solved, the type of integrations necessary, and the enterprise’s size. However, in the same way that agile organizations leverage cloud-based business applications, security teams can leverage rapid deployment of cloud-based security solutions.

The second value that SaaS security solutions offer is YoY savings. Subscription models offer budget conscious organizations several distinct value propositions. First, the organization can reduce hardware maintenance costs, including operational costs, upgrade costs, software costs, and servicing costs. Second, SaaS solutions often enable companies to focus on their highest risk assets and then increase their usage in the future. Third, they allow organizations to pivot more effectively because the reduced up-front capital outlay reduces the commitment to the project.

Applying a dollar value to these during the budget justification process might feel difficult, but the right key performance indicators (KPIs) can help establish baseline cost savings estimates.

Choosing the KPIs for effective ROI predictions

During an economic downturn, justifying the cybersecurity budget requests might be increasingly difficult. Most cybersecurity ROI predictions rely on risk evaluations and applying probability of a data breach to projected cost of a data breach. As organizations look to reduce costs to maintain financially viable, a “what if” approach may not be as appealing.

However, as part of budgeting, CISOs can look to several value propositions to bolster their spending. Cybersecurity initiatives focus on leveraging resources effectively so that they can ensure the most streamlined process possible while maintaining a robust security program. Aligning purchase KPIs with specific reduced operational costs can help gain buy-in for the solution.

A quick hypothetical can walk through the overarching value of SaaS-based security spending. Continuous monitoring for external facing vulnerabilities is time-consuming and often incorporates inefficiency. Hypothetical numbers based on research indicate:

A poll of C-level security executives noted that 37% said they received more than 10,000 alerts each month with 52% of those alerts identified as false positives.

  • The average security analyst spends ten minutes responding to a single alert.
  • The average security analyst makes approximately $91,000 per year.

Bringing this data together shows the value of SaaS-based solutions that reduce the number of false positives:

  • Every month enterprise security analysts spend 10 minutes for each of the 5,2000 false positives.
  • This equates to approximately 866 hours.
  • 866 hours, assuming a 40-hour week, is 21.65 weeks.
  • Assuming 4 weeks per month, the enterprise needs at least 5 security analysts to manage false positive responses.
  • These 5 security analysts cost a total of $455,000 per year in salary, not including bonuses and other benefits.

Although CISOs may not want to reduce their number of team members, they may not want to add additional ones, or they may be seeking to optimize the team they have. Tracking KPIs such reduction in false positives per month can provide the type of long-term cost value necessary for other senior executives and the board of directors.

Securing a 2021 cybersecurity budget

While the number of attacks may have stalled during 2020, cybercriminals have not stopped targeting enterprise data. Phishing attacks and malware attacks have moved away from the enterprise network level and now look to infiltrate end-user devices. As organizations continue to pivot their operating models, they need to look for cost-effective ways to secure their sensitive resources and data. However, budget constrictions arising from 2020’s economic instability may make it difficult for CISOs to gain the requisite dollars to continue to apply best security practices.

As organizations start looking toward their 2021 roadmap, CISOs will increasingly need to be specific about not only the costs associated with purchases but also the cost savings that those purchases provide from both data incident risk and operational cost perspective.

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