What Every Public Company CISO Must Know:
The role of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in public companies has never been more pivotal. With cyber threats escalating in scale and sophistication, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rolled out new cyber regulations aimed at safeguarding investors, stakeholders, and the broader market. Given that the amendments took effect on September 5, 2023, it’s crucial for your organization to be informed. While the final rules are quite lengthy, I’ll offer a condensed and digestible version in this blog post to help you understand the key points – so make sure to read on!
Back in March 2022, the Commission took the bold step of introducing a suite of regulations. The intent was clear: fortify public company disclosures concerning cybersecurity. This encompassed key areas such as cyber threats, strategic countermeasures, governance structures, and insights into major cyber incidents.
At the time, there were several major trends that led the Commission to take this action. The digital evolution and massive work-from-home shifts, intertwined with the allure of cybercrime monetization and an overarching reliance on third-party tech services like cloud platforms, have stretched cyber risk boundaries. The financial fallout from cyber incidents have also skyrocketed. Given all of this, the Commission’s move to ensure transparency isn’t just timely—it’s imperative.
Though the Commission offered guidance in 2011 and 2018, the standards remained inconsistent. The 2022 regulations were introduced to bring consistency and offer investors clearer insights.
Key Mandates To Be Aware Of:
Skip ahead to 2023, and the SEC’s proposed rules have officially transformed into finalized rules. Here are the essential highlights you should be aware of…
Form 8-K Item 1.05: A pivotal element in the new regulations. Public companies now have the duty to report significant cyber incidents. Reports must, “describe the material aspects of the nature, scope, and timing of the incident, as well as the material impact or reasonably likely material impact of the incident on the registrant, including its financial condition and results of operations.”
Disclosure Timeline: Post a cyber event, companies need to swiftly gauge its significance. If found consequential, a Form 8-K needs to be filed within four business days. However, exceptions do exist. Should the U.S. Attorney General deem a quick disclosure a threat to national or public safety, delays can ensue.
Regulation S-K Item 106: This regulation delves deep. It mandates firms to shed light on their cyber threat assessment, detection, and management strategies. Past incidents that have or might have considerable ramifications also need to be outlined. Plus, it casts the spotlight on how involved the board is in overseeing cyber risks and the prowess of the management in mitigating them.
International Disclosures: The SEC is highlighting that global transparency is crucial. Modifications to Form 6-K and Form 20-F ensure that foreign private entities aren’t left out. Significant cyber events disclosed overseas or required by foreign issuers need to be detailed.
What Lies Ahead:
The new regulations will be operational a month after their Federal Register appearance. For companies, the compliance timelines are split based on the form:
Regulation S-K Item 106 & Form 20-F: Disclosure starts with annual statements for fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2023.
Form 8-K Item 1.05 & Form 6-K: Compliance starts 90 days post Federal Register publication or by December 18, 2023, except for smaller firms. They have until June 15, 2024.
- Finally, when it comes to structured data mandates, the spotlight is on Inline XBRL. The final rules require the cybersecurity disclosures to be presented in Inline eXtensible Business Reporting Language. Entities must tag their disclosures using this format, a year after the kick-off of initial disclosure duties. To simplify what this filing format is for those who may not be aware, it’s a special language for computers that makes it possible to create a single document that’s human and machine readable. So, instead of making two different documents (one for people to read and one for computers to understand), you just make one using Inline XBRL.
Every day we are reminded how crucial cyber resilience is. For CISOs in public companies, aligning with the SEC’s updated cyber regulations is not just about compliance—it’s a commitment to transparency, investor protection, and long-term business sustainability.