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5 ways spreadsheets are sabotaging your cybersecurity

Josh Jackson |

February 9, 2021

5 ways spreadsheets are sabotaging your cybersecurity


Cybersecurity management is no small task, whether you are an in-house CISO, a vCISO, or a consultant. As the complexity of the many security standards (i.e., NIST, ISO 27001, and CMMC) grows, so does the amount of data you must store and track. So for those performing the many functions and despite the increasing efforts to manage cybersecurity, attacks still occur regularly.

What often holds cybersecurity professionals back is an application that resides on almost every hard drive or in the cloud. Chances are you have already used this application today. That application is the spreadsheet.

Without a doubt, Excel and Google Sheets do a brilliant job managing data within themselves. But compliance with security standards requires input from multiple stakeholders - anyone from internal users to suppliers (not to mention scope... but a topic for another time.) Therefore, cybersecurity management ultimately involves not just one, but many spreadsheets.

But why is this an issue? 

Here are five critical reasons spreadsheets when used for cybersecurity compliance make your organization less secure:

1. Too much customization

Valuable Excel reports don't build themselves. With hundreds of questions and controls per compliance standard, just creating a usable workbook template can take time and easily overlooked human errors.

Each control set entails its own set of questions and answer options of which needs to be entered and formatted correctly. That's a lot of work to do before you've performed your first assessment.

2. Accountability gets lost in versioning

The more cybersecurity standards requirements you have, the more staff hours are needed to manage them. The challenge is that compliance standards apply to your entire organization and supply chain. In practice, companies find themselves with multiple security professionals updating the same file. What if one analyst saves over the updates of another? How much of an audit trail is there?

Experts Guide to Cybersecurity Compliance

3. Combining data can be scary

The larger the spreadsheets get, or the more you work with, the riskier it is to combine them. For example, to achieve compliance, you may need to send the same question set to ten vendors.

When you bring together these multiple data sources, what will happen? How about when you increase to twenty or fifty vendors? Combining workbooks introduces the chance a simple human error can throw off an entire dataset. And sometimes, this can occur just in time for you to deliver reports to senior management, per-assessors, or regulatory bodies.

4. Risky data duplication

It stands to reason that when accepting data from multiple spreadsheets at once, massive amounts of data duplication can occur. Spreadsheets, unfortunately, do not have the intelligence to aggregate and analyze information like databases can. Therefore, as the security manager using spreadsheets, you may miss valuable insights like which control mitigates more risk than others that you could otherwise have visibility into.

5. Little room for growth

Companies can rely on spreadsheets when they have only a handful of compliance questions to ask. But today's cyber compliance standards often entail tens or hundreds of them. While there is something to be said for simplicity, a non-scalable tracking system can jeopardize compliance with standards like NIST, ISO, or CMMC.

As a result, your company can lose its ability to do business with entire governments or other large organizations. Suddenly, an inexpensive or free spreadsheet application can end up costing your company significant money.

A better way forward

Fortunately, there is an alternative to spreadsheets - a GRC platform. While the concept of such a tool is not new, the idea of an out-of-the-box cloud solution pre-loaded with the latest security standards is something new.

6clicks offers a cybersecurity and compliance platform that is built to both empower and simplify your risk, compliance and trust efforts. Pre-loaded with an ever-growing library of risk and compliance standards, 6clicks enables you to begin performing assessments within minutes.

For more information, Book a demo with us today! 

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