A recent survey conducted by the Financial Times (FT) revealed that just four FTSE 100 companies had board members under the age of 40. Though perhaps this is unsurprising when we think about a traditional corporate hierarchy, the implications of an older board that does not have the digital threat landscape at the top of their agenda could result in a security headache.

In the vast majority of corporate boards, particularly where a CIO isn’t present, members often lack the technical know-how, or in many cases the interest, to head off the increasing threats posed by cyber crime. Boards should engage more with their CIOs and security teams to understand the risk and the directives they must comply to. In the write up of its research, the FT interviewed Simon Walker, chief executive of the Institute of Directors, who said: "Boards should look at appointing more young directors who can contribute in-depth understanding of the risks and preventative strategies."

This call comes as companies and policymakers have gradually begun to wake up to the risks posed by the huge amount of data and online communication. The EU recently unveiled proposed legislation designed to protect companies against cyber threats, under the Networks and Information Security Directive. This would see financial, energy and healthcare companies forced to disclose significant cyber attacks. The five main elements of the proposed NIS Directive are listed below:

New national strategy – member states must have a national strategy. The UK has been active in developing a cyber security strategy, which has seen the introduction of the ‘Ten steps to cyber security’ guide.

  • Co-operation network – member states must co-ordinate against risks. The network will exchange information between authorities, provide early warnings on information security issues and agree on a coordinated response.
  • Security requirements – public bodies must take appropriate measure to reduce risks. A key element of the directive is that member states must ensure public bodies and certain market operators take appropriate technical and organizational measures to manage the security risks
  • Use of standards – standards will be drafted by the commission
  • Enforcement – member states have the powers to investigate and enforce adoption. For the first time in the EU, there will be an information security regulatory framework with national authorities and European-wide information security standards.

Boards need to understand the threats their businesses face, as well as understand the legislation and bring in the right set of skills to manage this risk. Companies also need to share intelligence of cyber attacks, as a breach at one company is an attack on us all. We should look to learn from each other and share best practices in the battle against cyber crime. Industry events such as BlackHat are the ideal forum to network and share these discussions but I am always interested in hearing and sharing personal experiences.