To manage cybersecurity risks effectively and maintain a strong defense posture, organizations need a clear understanding of their security program and the ability to measure their progress toward key objectives.

Enter key performance indicators (KPIs), a mechanism that allows organizations to gauge and track their cybersecurity effectiveness. In this article we delve into cybersecurity KPIs, exploring their meaning, showcasing real-world examples of cybersecurity metrics, and highlighting the numerous benefits of employing a data-driven approach to cybersecurity management.

KPIs in Cybersecurity

KPIs are measurable values that depict how well an organization achieves its key business objectives. Which KPIs your organization chooses depends on your industry and which element of business performance you’re looking to track.

In cybersecurity specifically, KPIs help to evaluate the effectiveness of security measures and processes to mitigate security threats.

See also

How to Upgrade Your Cyber Risk Management Program with NIST

Examples of Cybersecurity Metrics

Here are some of the commonly used KPIs in cybersecurity:

  • Security incidents. This KPI measures the total number of security incidents, including data breaches, malware infections, unauthorized access attempts, and system compromises.
  • Intrusion attempts. How often have malicious actors tried to breach your networks?
  • Mean time between failures (MTBF). How much time elapses between one system or product failure and the next? This metric helps to understand system reliability.
  • Mean time to detect (MTTD). MTTD measures the average time taken to detect security incidents from the moment they occur. It reflects the efficiency of an organization’s detection mechanisms and its ability to identify and respond to threats promptly.
  • Mean time to recovery (MTTR). How long does your organization take to recover from a system failure?
  • Cost per incident. This KPI measures the average cost incurred by the organization for each security incident. It considers factors such as incident response efforts, investigation, remediation, legal actions, regulatory fines, and other associated costs.
  • Cybersecurity awareness training. How well are you maintaining documentation for security awareness training? Are you including all members of your organization, including senior executives?
  • Number of cybersecurity incidents reported. Are employees and users reporting cybersecurity issues to your team? If yes, that’s a good sign; the employees and stakeholders recognize the issues outlined in your training.
  • Compliance with security policies and regulations. This compliance metric measures the degree of adherence to security policies, standards, and regulatory requirements. It helps to assure that security controls and measures are implemented as per the defined guidelines.
  • Security ratings. Security ratings provide a simple score to communicate metrics to non-technical colleagues, evaluating your company’s security posture in various categories such as network security, patching cadence, endpoint security, IP reputation, web application security, hacker activity, leaked credentials, and social engineering.
  • Phishing attack success. This KPI measures the percentage of employees who fall victim to phishing attempts by clicking on malicious links or providing sensitive information.
  • Vendor patching cadence. This vendor risk management KPI refers to how often (and promptly) third-party vendors release and deploy patches to address security vulnerabilities in their products or services. It is an essential aspect of third-party risk management as it directly affects the security of organizations relying on these vendors.

Benefits of a Cybersecurity KPI Dashboard

You can’t measure your security without tracking specific cybersecurity KPIs.

Interestingly, a 2019 Risk in Review study found that just 22 percent of chief executives believe they receive sufficient information about risk exposure to inform their decisions. That indicates a potential gap in the availability and quality of risk exposure data for chief executives, which is a huge red flag.

One solution: a cybersecurity KPI dashboard. These dashboards can deliver numerous benefits, such as:

  1. Centralized view of security metrics. A dashboard provides a centralized and visual representation of both KPIs and their cousins, key risk indicators. It allows stakeholders, including executives, IT professionals, and security teams, to quickly grasp the organization’s overall security posture at a glance.
  2. Real-time monitoring. The dashboard allows real-time monitoring of cybersecurity metrics, such as the number of security incidents, threat detection rates, response times, vulnerability assessments, and compliance status. This real-time visibility helps identify potential security risks promptly and allows for timely remediation.
  3. Early-warning system. A well-designed KPI dashboard brings concerns to light quickly, by highlighting any significant deviations from established security benchmarks or industry standards. This helps organizations identify potential security incidents, breaches, or policy violations right away, which in turn allows faster incident response.
  4. Data-driven decision-making. A cybersecurity dashboard facilitates data-driven decision making by presenting actionable data and insights. It allows organizations to assess the effect of security investments, identify areas for improvement, allocate resources, and prioritize security initiatives based on actual performance metrics.
  5. Alignment with business goals. A KPI dashboard aligns cybersecurity metrics with broader business goals and objectives. It offers insights into how security initiatives contribute to overall business performance, risk mitigation, and compliance requirements, helping to prove the value of cybersecurity investments.

What Should Be Included in a Cybersecurity Dashboard?

While the specific components of a cybersecurity dashboard will vary depending on the organization’s needs and priorities, some vital elements should always be included:

  • Threat intelligence. Real-time updates on the latest threats, vulnerabilities, and security incidents, including information from trusted sources, such as threat feeds, security advisories, and vendor alerts.
  • Intrusion detection system (IDS). Statistics on the network and host-based intrusion detection and prevention activities, including alerts triggered, blocked attacks, and suspicious activities detected.
  • Security alerts. Summary of active security alerts and notifications, highlighting critical incidents, intrusion attempts, system compromises, and ongoing attacks.
  • Vulnerability management. Metrics related to the identification, assessment, and remediation of vulnerabilities within the organization’s infrastructure, including vulnerability scan results, patch management status, and prioritization of high-risk vulnerabilities.
  • Firewall and network security. Monitoring and reporting on firewall rules, network traffic, and security device logs, which provides visibility into network security posture, potential breaches, and policy violations.
  • User activity monitoring. Insights into user behavior and activity logs, such as failed login attempts, privileged account usage, and abnormal user behaviors that could indicate potential insider threats or compromised accounts.

How to Use a Cybersecurity KPI Dashboard

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a cybersecurity KPI dashboard effectively.

Step 1: Determine your goals

Identify your organization’s cybersecurity goals and objectives. These could include reducing the number of security incidents, improving incident response times, enhancing patch management, or strengthening employee training. Clearly defining your goals will help you choose the appropriate KPIs to track.

Step 2: Select relevant KPIs

Choose KPIs that align with your goals and provide meaningful insights into your cybersecurity performance. Some common cybersecurity KPIs include the number of security incidents, the average time to detect and respond to incidents, the percentage of systems with up-to-date patches, and vulnerability assessment results.

Step 3: Set benchmarks and targets

Establish benchmarks and targets for each KPI. Benchmarks provide a baseline for comparison, while targets define the desired level of performance. These benchmarks and targets should be realistic and aligned with your organization’s risk appetite and industry standards.

Step 4: Gather and analyze data

Collect the necessary data for each KPI. This may involve integrating your dashboard with various cybersecurity tools and systems, such as intrusion detection systems, vulnerability scanners, antivirus software, and log analysis tools. Regularly update and maintain the data to ensure accuracy.

Step 5: Track performance

Regularly review and monitor the dashboard to track your security performance. Identify deviations from the targets and benchmarks, and investigate the underlying causes. Use the insights from the dashboard to make informed decisions and take corrective actions as needed.

Step 6: Share insights and reports

Communicate the findings and insights from the cybersecurity KPI dashboard with relevant stakeholders, the chief information security officer (CISO), senior management, and board members. Share periodic reports that summarize IT security performance, highlight key areas of concern, and suggest recommendations for improvement.

Improve Cybersecurity KPIs with RiskOptics

The ZenGRC provides extensive capabilities that empower you to observe and promptly respond to crucial cybersecurity KPIs. Using the ZenGRC gives you an enhanced perspective into the intricate landscape of cyber threats, enabling you to make informed decisions and take proactive measures to safeguard your digital assets.

The graphics within the ZenGRC offer visually intuitive, color-coded representations that allow management to comprehend and assess the organization’s current risk status.

Book a demo today to see how the ZenGRC simplifies the reporting process for security KPIs.