Your essential guide to cybersecurity KPIs in 2024

So, your organization has put a number of cybersecurity protocols in place. But how do you know they’re working? How do you track progress? That’s exactly where identifying the right key performance indicators (or KPIs) comes in.

Indeed, understanding and monitoring the right cybersecurity KPIs is crucial for maintaining a strong security posture. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into essential cybersecurity KPIs, helping you identify, track, and improve your organization’s defense against cyberattacks. 

Discover how to choose relevant metrics, build a KPI dashboard, and effectively communicate your cybersecurity performance to stakeholders. It’s time to take control of your organization’s security and stay one step ahead of cyber threats.

Key takeaways

  • Understand and monitor essential cybersecurity metrics such as preparedness, policy compliance, security ratings, and incidents
  • Track GRC metrics to ensure adherence to policies and regulations. Assess security posture with Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)
  • Regularly review and update key performance indicators for informed decision-making and improved overall cybersecurity stance

High level: Understanding cybersecurity KPIs

Your organization can significantly evaluate and enhance its security posture by focusing on key performance indicators. A keen eye on relevant cybersecurity metrics aids in assessing security performance and relaying crucial information to key stakeholders, such as board members or leadership. 

Moreover, taking a data-driven approach to cybersecurity management allows organizations to evaluate and monitor their cybersecurity efficacy, measure progress toward essential objectives, and maintain a robust defense stance. To put it plainly, tracking and reporting KPIs takes subjective evaluations out of the equation and gives you a clear metric of success.

Cybersecurity KPIs aren’t just a nice-to-have: Reporting and providing context on cybersecurity metrics has become paramount for many Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs). With the increased demand for reporting at the shareholder, regulatory, and board levels, understanding and utilizing the right cybersecurity metrics have become increasingly important to ensure the effectiveness of security efforts and justify the investments made in cybersecurity initiatives.

19+ cybersecurity metrics to consider tracking

In the following subsections, we will explore a range of crucial cybersecurity metrics, from the level of preparedness to compliance with security policies and regulations. 

Understanding these key performance indicators allows organizations to better comprehend their security landscape, fostering data-driven decisions to bolster their defenses against constantly evolving cyber threats. 

However, it’s important to note that not all metrics will be equally relevant to all organizations. Each company will need to carefully evaluate and select the metrics that are most pertinent to their unique circumstances and security needs.

1. Compliance with security policies and regulations

Ensuring compliance with security policies and regulations is critical for maintaining a strong security posture. A well-implemented security program often dictates essential security measures such as regular security awareness training, patch management, and vulnerability scanning.

Monitoring compliance with security policies and regulations allows organizations to identify areas for improvement and adopt proactive measures to improve their overall cybersecurity stance.

Selecting the appropriate compliance framework is a vital aspect of your cybersecurity strategy. Compliance frameworks provide guidelines for organizations to manage and secure their data effectively. When choosing a framework, consider your organization’s industry, size, and type of data handled.

For instance, if you’re in the healthcare industry, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) would be relevant. For financial services, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) might be applicable.

It’s also important to consider the geographical location of your organization and the regions where you operate. Different regions may have specific data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

Remember, the chosen framework should align with your organization’s risk management strategy and overall business objectives. It should also be flexible enough to adapt to evolving cyber threats and regulatory changes. Not sure where to start? Thoropass can help!

2. Level of preparedness

Having a strategy to prevent, respond to, and recover from a cyber incident is essential for any organization. The key indicators of preparedness in cybersecurity include: 

  • Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) metrics
  • Security monitoring and incident response metrics
  • Security assurance metrics

You should strive to achieve a level of preparedness that is equal to your organization’s preparedness for compliance, operational, financial, and reputational risks.

3. Security ratings

Evaluating an organization’s cybersecurity posture using security ratings is crucial for managing risks effectively. 

Different platforms provide A-F security ratings based on objective data collection, encompassing factors such as network security, DNS health, and IP reputation. These ratings, along with first-party security ratings, offer a comprehensive assessment of cyber risk across your business ecosystem, generated in real-time using advanced risk quantification methods.

Proactive mitigation of risks and assurance of a robust security posture can be achieved through diligent monitoring of security ratings by security teams.

4. Security incidents

Tracking and analyzing security incidents is vital for identifying trends and areas for improvement. 

A security incident is any event that disrupts normal operations of system hardware or software, indicating a possible compromise of an organization’s data or systems or a failure of protective measures in place. 

Monitoring the number of security incidents that take place helps organizations evaluate their training program’s effectiveness and security measures and uncover potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Addressing these weaknesses enables organizations to minimize the impact of cyberattacks and reduce the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access.

5. Intrusion attempts

Monitoring the number of intrusion attempts is crucial for assessing vulnerabilities and the effectiveness of security measures. Intrusion attempts include:

  • Network intrusions
  • Cyber-attacks
  • Spear phishing
  • SQL injection
  • Infecting emails
  • Tainting removable media
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks
  • Session hijacking attacks
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks

Consider implementing an IDS if you are detecting and monitoring intrusion attempts.

6. Phishing attack success rate 

Measuring the success of phishing attacks is important for evaluating employee awareness and the effectiveness of security awareness training.

The Phishing Click Rate measures how effectively users can recognize and evade phishing attempts, calculated as the percentage of users who clicked on phishing links in either simulated or actual phishing campaigns.

Tracking the success of phishing attacks helps organizations identify areas needing additional training and devise strategies to minimize the risk of cyberattacks resulting from phishing attempts. You may also consider implementing a phishing campaign to run on a set basis for your organization.

7. Mean time to detect (MTTD)

Calculating the average time taken to detect threats is key for highlighting the efficiency of detection systems. 

Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) evaluates the amount of time it takes for your team to recognize the occurrence of a potential security incident. Assessment of intrusion detection systems, incident response capabilities, and proactive measures to reduce the risk of cyberattacks and potential damage can be achieved through diligent monitoring of MTTD.

The complexity and scale of an organization’s IT infrastructure, as well as the efficiency of security monitoring tools, can significantly impact MTTD.

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8. Mean time to acknowledge (MTTA)

Measuring the time taken to acknowledge a security incident is essential for evaluating the responsiveness of the security team. Mean Time to Acknowledge (MTTA) quantifies the average time taken by an organization to recognize a particular incident, request, or event. 

The channel used for MTTA can differ from organization to organization but may include channels such as Slack, email, phone calls, and more.

Tracking MTTA enables organizations to:

  • Identify bottlenecks in their incident response process
  • Enhance triaging issues
  • Establish clear expectations
  • Ensure prompt incident acknowledgment

This assists in expediting incident response times and reducing the repercussions of security incidents.

9. Mean time to contain (MTTC)

Mean Time to Contain (MTTC) is the period of time measured from the discovery of a threat, attack, or security incident until the containment of the incident. 

Keeping track of MTTC allows organizations to assess their incident response processes’ effectiveness and adopt proactive measures to elevate their overall cybersecurity stance.

Implementing automated remediation and cyber fusion can help reduce MTTC and improve incident management performance.

10. Mean time to resolve/recovery (MTTR)

Mean Time to Resolve / Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR) measures the average time required for complete recovery or restoration of normal operations after a cyber breach, incident, or disruption. ‘

Assessment of incident response processes’ efficiency and proactive steps to enhance the overall cybersecurity stance can be achieved through diligent tracking of MTTR.

The ability to neutralize a threat quickly and restore systems to an operational state is essential for reducing the damage inflicted and controlling expenses. This can be done via periodic exercises to test the effectiveness of the MTTR in fictional scenarios.

11. Mean time between failures (MTBF)

Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is an important metric that helps organizations evaluate the reliability of their systems and components. 

MTBF measures the average time elapsed between two consecutive failures or breakdowns. Cybersecurity teams can identify potential system vulnerabilities and adopt proactive measures to mitigate risks by diligent monitoring of MTBF.

12. Cost per incident

No KPI is clearer to executives and stakeholders than dollars and cents. Calculating the financial impact of security incidents on the organization is crucial for understanding the cost-effectiveness of security measures. 

Cost per incident refers to the financial impact incurred by an organization for each security incident. Organizations can assess the efficacy of their security measures and make informed decisions to optimize their security investments by keeping track of this KPI.

This metric is also crucial for justifying the expenses associated with cybersecurity initiatives and ensuring that the organization’s security posture remains robust. Post mortems should be performed and documented on every incident and retained, whether it be for internal-only purposes or for regulatory/statutory purposes in a more severe instance

13. Access management

Evaluating the effectiveness of access management controls and processes is essential for maintaining a strong security posture. 

Access management refers to the controls, practices, and processes established and executed by an organization to manage user access to systems and networks.

Keeping track of access management metrics, like the User Authentication Success Rate, aids organizations in assessing the efficacy of their authentication mechanisms, ensuring that only authorized users have access to sensitive data and systems.

14a. Average password strength

Assessing the strength of employee passwords is a subset of access management. 

A secure password typically comprises at least eight characters, a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols, and is unique and difficult to guess. 

Monitoring average password strength allows organizations to identify weak passwords and take proactive measures to improve security, such as implementing password complexity requirements, enforcing password expiration policies, and providing user education on creating strong passwords.

Enhancing password security can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and protect sensitive data from being compromised.

14b. Unidentified devices on internal networks

Unidentified devices on internal networks present a considerable risk to the organization, as they may not be secure. Recognizing and controlling unknown devices on internal networks can decrease attack surfaces and decrease the probability of experiencing a data breach. 

Monitoring unidentified devices on internal networks and taking appropriate measures can help organizations maintain a strong security posture.

15. Patching cadence

Patch management involves identifying, acquiring, installing, and verifying patches for various systems and software applications. These patches take the form of code updates that fix bugs, vulnerabilities, etc. 

Regular patch management helps to protect systems and networks. By keeping systems up to date, organizations can address security vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of cyberattacks, data breaches, and unauthorized access.

Establishing a regular patching cadence and ensuring that updates are applied as soon as possible is essential for addressing security vulnerabilities and maintaining a strong security posture.

16. Backup frequency

The recommended backup frequency for corporate data can vary depending on the organization’s specific needs and requirements, but at least once a week is advised, with daily backups being ideal for maximum protection and minimal risk of data loss.

Monitoring backup frequency allows organizations to ensure adequate data protection and availability for recovery in case of a security incident or system failure (helping business continuity).

17. Average vendor security rating

Tracking the average security rating of third-party vendors helps with managing supply chain risks. Different tools offer security rating features that enable organizations to track the security postures of their vendors in real time, with quantified ratings determined through an objective and reliable calculation mechanism.

You can proactively mitigate risks and assurance and achieve a robust security stance throughout your business by diligently monitoring average vendor security ratings.

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18. Mean time for vendor incident response

Measuring the responsiveness of vendors during security incidents helps to understand their effectiveness in addressing potential threats. 

The Mean Time For Vendor Incident Response metric evaluates the speed at which vendors respond to security incidents. Tracking this metric enables organizations to evaluate the speed at which their vendors can detect, analyze, and mitigate security incidents.

This data is indispensable for making well-informed decisions regarding vendor partnerships and ensuring that vendors are fulfilling their contractual obligations in terms of incident response.

19a. Cybersecurity awareness training: Completion rates

Monitoring employee completion rates for cybersecurity awareness ensures that personnel and stakeholders are cognizant of issues within the network and take steps to address them, indicating the efficacy of training.

Keeping track of completion rates allows organizations to determine whether employees are actively participating in the training and completing it within the stipulated timeline. This data assists in recognizing any knowledge gaps or areas where extra training may be necessary.

19b. Cybersecurity awareness training: Results

Evaluating cybersecurity training through test results ensures that employees have the necessary knowledge and skills to protect the organization from cyber threats. 

Effective cybersecurity awareness training tests include:

  • Phishing simulations
  • Social engineering tests
  • Online security quizzes
  • Simulated cyberattacks
  • Tabletop exercises
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Incident reporting and response assessments
  • Awareness surveys
  • Real-life scenario discussions
  • Continuous monitoring

Monitoring the results of these tests enables organizations to pinpoint areas needing improvement and adopt proactive measures to boost their overall cybersecurity performance through a well-designed cybersecurity program.

How to choose the right cybersecurity metrics

We get it: That’s a lot of KPIs to choose from (and the list above could have gone on!) So, how do you decide which ones are right for your organization? When choosing cybersecurity metrics, consider factors such as:

  • Industry standards
  • Security requirements
  • Regulatory protocols
  • Guidelines
  • Established practices
  • Risk tolerance

It is also essential to ensure that non-technical stakeholders easily comprehend the chosen metrics, as this will enable effective communication of cybersecurity performance and facilitate informed decision-making.

Avoid ‘squishy’ KPIs that are not comprehensible to business-side colleagues. Instead, focus on metrics that provide a clear narrative and are directly related to the organization’s security objectives. Selecting the appropriate cybersecurity metrics enables organizations to:

  • Gain a better understanding of their security landscape
  • Identify areas requiring improvement
  • Make informed decisions to strengthen their defenses against the rapidly evolving cyber threats

Building a cybersecurity KPI dashboard

Once you’ve selected the right KPIs to track, it’s advisable to build a dashboard to easily visualize and track your performance at a glance. By visualizing these metrics in an easily understandable format, the dashboard allows organizations to:

  • Make informed decisions on security measures and investments
  • Identify areas of improvement
  • Monitor the effectiveness of security controls
  • Track progress toward security goals
  • Communicate security performance to stakeholders

Different tools can be used to create a visually appealing and user-friendly dashboard. Be sure to update the dashboard regularly to ensure that the data remains accurate and up-to-date.

Also keep in mind that the KPI metrics you choose should also be reviewed on a frequent basis. As your organization scales and evolves, new KPIs may become more relevant.

Executive reporting: Making cybersecurity metrics meaningful

KPIs are all well and good, but tracking KPIs does not alone improve cybersecurity. It’s about what you do with them. And that often requires getting buy-in from senior executives and board members.

Presenting your organization’s cybersecurity KPIs in a meaningful and understandable way to non-technical stakeholders is crucial for ensuring that the entire organization is aware of the security landscape and can make informed decisions. 

When creating executive reports on cybersecurity metrics, focus on the key metrics that matter most to the business and provide a clear narrative. Keep the report concise by avoiding technical explanations and unnecessary details, and ensure that the reader can immediately understand the terms and concepts mentioned in the summary. If applicable, include a plan to execute the needed steps for remediation.

An effective executive summary for cybersecurity performance should include:

  • A short paragraph that captures the main points of the cybersecurity performance 
  • Simplified and focused key metrics to effectively communicate the performance to executives and stakeholders
  • Enable informed decision-making about security measures, investments, and overall risk management

These reviews typically occur on a periodic basis and must be reviewed and approved by management.

Conclusion: Improve your cybersecurity key performance indicators over time

KPIs are most valuable when teams use them to make informed and data-driven decisions on security measures. Metrics can also be employed to set performance targets, benchmark performance, and detect deviations for continual optimization.

By selecting the most relevant and impactful metrics, building a cybersecurity KPI dashboard, and effectively communicating your cybersecurity performance to stakeholders, organizations can make data-driven decisions to bolster their defenses against ever-evolving cyber threats. 

Stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay one step ahead of cyber attacks.

Oro provides content designed to educate and help audiences on their compliance journey.

More FAQs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are an important metric for tracking the success of a cyber security program, and some common KPIs include MTTD (Mean Time to Detect), number of security incidents, time taken to detect and respond to incidents, and vulnerability assessment results. Scroll up for a comprehensive list of KPIs your organization can choose from.

Metrics in cyber security are pieces of data that a company tracks and analyses on an ongoing basis in order to assess its security status. Also known as key performance indicators (KPIs), these metrics can be used to drive decisions as well as to gain insight into trends over time.

As a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), using key performance indicators (KPIs) is an essential way of tracking progress and identifying areas for improvement. KPIs, as well as key risk indicators (KRIs) and security posture assessment, help you understand the effectiveness of your security team over time and make better decisions for future projects.

An effective cybersecurity KPI dashboard should include metrics and KPIs aligned with security objectives, provide an at-a-glance view of the organization’s security posture, and visually present these metrics for stakeholders to assess performance.

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