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Maximizing ROI: How to Justify an Information Security Program to Senior Management


Information security is a topic that only sometimes gets the attention it deserves. The threat of cyber-attacks is growing, but senior management might need help understanding why implementing an information security program is necessary. This will explain how to make a business case for investing in your company’s cybersecurity. We’ll also give you some tips on presenting that case clearly and concisely, so your efforts are noticed by upper management.

Identify the potential risks

The first step in justifying an information security program is to identify the potential risks your organization faces. A data breach or cyber attack can significantly impact your company, so it’s important to understand what types of threats you may be exposed to and how they could affect you.

Potential risks include:

  • Data breaches – Unauthorized access to sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or Social Security numbers, can result in fines from regulators and lawsuits from customers affected by identity theft.
  • Cyber attacks – Hackers can target an organization’s computer systems with malware designed to steal personal information or disrupt its operations; this type of attack might also cause damage if hackers gain access to critical infrastructure like power grids or transportation systems (for example).

Quantify the risks

To justify an information security program, you must first quantify the risks. This can be done in three steps:

  • Identify the potential risks that your organization faces.
  • Quantify the potential financial impact of each risk.
  • Determine how much you spend on information security and how much it would cost to implement an additional program or initiative that addresses those risks specifically.

Identify the costs of the information security program

To convince a senior manager to invest in an information security program, you need to show them that it will pay for itself. To do this, you need to identify the costs associated with implementing and maintaining the program and any associated costs of a breach or attack.

  • Implementing an information security program can be expensive: hardware upgrades may be required for your organization’s systems to meet compliance standards; training courses must be taken by employees who work with confidential data; there may also be additional fees associated with hiring outside consultants or contractors who specialize in information security (e.g., penetration testers). These expenses should be factored into your budget before implementing a new system or revising existing ones: remember that even after making those investments, there may still be additional costs if updates are needed over time due to changing laws/regulations/policies, etcetera. The cost of recovering from an attack could outweigh any savings made by avoiding one altogether: consider legal fees stemming from lawsuits against companies whose networks were breached; loss of business due to inadequate press coverage following such incidents (which could include both negative publicity surrounding how they handled things internally as well as external consequences like lost customers); fines levied against organizations found responsible under federal law (such as HIPAA violations)

Determine the benefits of implementing an information security program

Before you start on an information security program, it’s important to define what problem you’re trying to solve. You may be tempted to jump into solutions, but defining a goal first can help ensure your efforts are focused and effective. If your organization doesn’t already have goals in place for its information security program, ask yourself:

  • What do we want our company’s information security posture (or state) to look like in 6 months? 1 year? 3 years? 5 years?
  • How does this align with our business strategy?
  • What problems do we have today that could prevent us from achieving these goals?

Calculate the ROI

The first step in calculating the ROI is determining your organization’s current data breach cost and how it would affect your business. You can do this by comparing historical data breaches within your industry and comparing them with similar businesses.

Once you know how much each incident costs, use this information to calculate an average cost per breach over time (this will give you an idea of how much each new breach could cost). To do this:

  • Add up all costs incurred from previous incidents that were related to cybercrime or internal negligence (for example, legal fees associated with investigating a security incident; fines imposed by regulators)
  • Divide those costs by the number of incidents that occurred during the same period

Present the ROI clearly and concisely to senior management

  • Present the ROI clearly and concisely to senior management.
  • Ensure you have done your homework and that the program will provide a positive return on investment. If not, the best thing to do is to cut your losses before they get out of control.
  • If unexpected costs are associated with implementing an information security program, be prepared to explain why they were necessary and show how they will help increase profits in other areas of the business.


In summary, we have outlined a process for calculating an information security program’s return on investment (ROI). The first step is identifying and quantifying potential risks using a risk assessment tool like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. Next, you need to identify the costs associated with implementing an information security program and its benefits for your organization. Finally, calculate the ROI based on these factors to determine whether or not investing in cybersecurity makes sense from financial and nonfinancial perspectives.

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