Cybersecurity tools are important for lowering the risk of a data breach. However, if those tools are put in place without considering business outcomes, it can harm organizational goals and even, in some cases, cost lives. In the healthcare industry, for example, steps taken to recover from a data breach can lead to a drop in the quality of care. However, no matter the industry, if cybersecurity tools and businesses goals are not aligned, there will almost always be negative consequences for that business.

A study published last year in the Health Services Research Journal found that after a hospital experienced a data breach there was, on average, an additional 36 deaths from heart attacks per 10,000 patients. One of the main factors that contributes to this is a delay in treatment because of new security policies following a breach. Common tools used after a breach include additional sign-in measures such as multi-factor authentication, or automatic logout after a period of inactivity. So if someone comes into a hospital with chest pain, for example, these extra security measures delay the ability for doctors and nurses to register the patient and access health records. This is especially important to consider now, given that hacks against the healthcare industry have risen since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Of course, this isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be any additional security measures in place after a breach Instead, the point is that it is important to align cybersecurity processes with overall business goals — even when the stakes aren’t as high as saving a life. The key is to begin with your desired business outcomes and look at the cybersecurity risks that can negatively impact those goals.  Then, only once you know your specific risks do you design or apply tools that limit those risks without negatively impacting the business. This requires strong governance and communication between IT and business leadership.  Failure to focus on the interplay between cybersecurity and business goals both weakens the security posture and weakens business outcomes. And that’s not a prescription for a healthy strategy.