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22 Nov 2023
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The Imperative of Cybersecurity Incident and Governance Disclosure

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By Tyrone Showers
Co-Founder Taliferro


The recent proposal by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requiring public companies to report material cybersecurity incidents within four business days is a significant step towards enhanced transparency and risk management. However, this focus on public companies brings up an important consideration: the arguably more critical need for similar practices in private companies, especially those operating in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space.

The SEC's Proposal

The SEC's proposal mandates public companies to disclose not only cybersecurity incidents but also their risk management policies, governance practices, and board-level cybersecurity expertise. This move aims to standardize disclosures regarding cybersecurity risk management and incident reporting, enhancing investor and public confidence in how companies manage cyber risks.

Why It Matters More for Private Companies

Private companies, particularly in the B2C domain, often handle vast amounts of consumer data, making them prime targets for cyber-attacks. The impact of such incidents can be far-reaching, affecting not only the company's operational integrity but also consumer trust and privacy.

Higher Stakes in the B2C Realm

In the B2C sector, the relationship with the customer is direct and personal. A breach in cybersecurity can lead to the loss of sensitive customer information, resulting in severe reputational damage and loss of consumer trust, which can be devastating for private companies. The direct impact on consumers amplifies the consequences of such incidents compared to B2B businesses where the chain of impact is often less immediate or visible to the public.

Lack of Regulatory Oversight

Unlike public companies, private companies are not bound by the same level of regulatory oversight, leading to potential gaps in cybersecurity preparedness and response. The absence of mandated disclosure requirements can result in inadequate attention to cybersecurity measures, making these companies more vulnerable to attacks and less prepared for incident management and recovery.

The Case for Voluntary Disclosure

Given these risks, there's a strong case for private companies, especially in the B2C sector, to adopt voluntary cybersecurity incident and governance disclosure practices akin to those proposed for public companies. This voluntary approach could include:

  • Regular Cybersecurity Assessments: Conducting and disclosing the results of regular Cybersecurity risk assessments.
  • Incident Response Plans: Developing and sharing robust incident response plans that outline steps to be taken in the event of a breach.
  • Transparency in Incident Reporting: Voluntarily reporting significant cyber incidents to stakeholders, including customers, to foster transparency and trust.
  • Governance and Oversight: Establishing clear governance structures for cybersecurity, including the role of leadership and possibly board-level involvement in cyber risk management.

Benefits of Voluntary Disclosure

Adopting these practices can offer several benefits to private companies:

  • Enhanced Trust: Transparency in cybersecurity practices can enhance consumer trust, a critical asset in the B2C sector.
  • Better Risk Management: Regular assessments and disclosures can lead to improved risk management and preparedness.
  • Competitive Advantage: Companies that proactively manage and disclose their cybersecurity practices can differentiate themselves in the market, especially in industries where consumer data is a significant component of the business model.

Challenges and Considerations

However, the implementation of such practices is not without challenges. These include the cost of developing and maintaining robust cybersecurity systems, the need for skilled personnel, and the potential business risks associated with disclosing cybersecurity incidents.


While the SEC's recent proposal focuses on public companies, private companies, particularly in the B2C sector, should not overlook the importance of cybersecurity incident and governance disclosure. Given their direct interaction with consumers and the sensitive nature of consumer data, these companies stand to benefit significantly from adopting practices similar to those mandated for public entities. By voluntarily embracing transparency and robust cybersecurity governance, private companies can not only protect themselves but also build stronger, trust-based relationships with their customers.

Tyrone Showers