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SEC Cyber Security Rules: A Game-Changer For CFOs - Talion

In recent years, cyber security risk management has become a significant concern for CFOs. With the implementation of new cyber security rules in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the stakes have been raised even higher for CFOs and other corporate leaders. This article explores the impact of the SEC’s cyber security rules and the increased personal liability risks faced by CFOs. Additionally, it highlights the Biden administration’s aggressive approach to cyber security enforcement.

The New Rules and Their Implications

Under the new rules, public companies are now required to disclose “material cyber security incidents” to the SEC within four days of their occurrence. This expanded guidance reflects the SEC’s determination to hold corporate executives accountable for their actions, particularly in relation to cyber disclosure. CFOs, as some of the most senior officers in a firm, will face heightened scrutiny under these new regulations.

Lessons from Past Cases

To understand the potential consequences of the new rules, it is important to examine previous cases where cyber security incidents led to regulatory actions. For example, software firm Blackbaud faced a $3 million settlement with the SEC over misleading disclosures related to a ransomware investigation. Similarly, SolarWinds disclosed that its CFO and CISO might face civil enforcement action from the SEC for possible violations related to a cyber attack. These cases serve as a warning to CFOs about the need for proactive cybersecurity measures and accurate disclosure.

Increasing Federal Investigations and Enforcement Actions

The SEC’s new cyber security rules signal an increase in federal cybersecurity investigations and enforcement actions. This heightened scrutiny could expose companies to additional challenges, such as class action litigation from shareholders. CFOs must now have a better understanding of cyber security risks and their implications for the company. Failing to do so could result in securities or breach of fiduciary duty lawsuits.

The Role of CFOs in Cyber Security Incident Evaluation

Given their financial expertise, CFOs are well-positioned to be closely involved in evaluating cyber incidents. They are best suited to determine, in a defensible manner, whether a potential cyber event poses a material risk to the company. However, this involvement also puts CFOs at increased risk of regulatory scrutiny and personal liability. CFOs must carefully navigate this responsibility and ensure they accurately manage and represent the financials of the enterprise.

Enhancing Cyber Security Programs and Disclosure

In addition to mandating disclosure of material cyber security incidents, the SEC’s new rules require public companies to describe their board of directors’ oversight of cyber security risks. These rules represent a significant expansion compared to prior guidance, necessitating businesses to revamp their cyber security programs. CFOs will play a crucial role in implementing effective cyber security strategies, ensuring appropriate disclosure, and certifying the adequacy and effectiveness of these processes.

The SEC’s new cyber security rules have significantly raised the stakes for CFOs and other corporate leaders. CFOs must proactively address cyber security risks, gain a deeper understanding of their implications, and accurately evaluate the materiality of cyber incidents. Compliance with the new rules requires greater transparency, effective cybersecurity programs, and careful navigation of personal liability risks. By embracing these challenges, CFOs can help their organisations navigate the evolving cyber security landscape successfully.

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