Role of the Chief Information Officer in Cyber Security

  • November 15, 2021
  • By Cyberarch Admin

Today, information security has become one of the chief concerns for business entities all across the globe. The staggering cases of cyber-attacks and data breaches in the last few years have cost billions and caused irrevocable damage to a vast number of companies cut across verticals. It is observed that approximately three-quarters of cybersecurity breaches often go undetected. Thus, it is apparent that management teams heading cybersecurity and information security cannot be complacent anymore. 

Since the pandemic began in 2020, the security incidents have grown exponentially, and many C-level executives and boards have started to realize the inevitability of cyber-attacks. Moreover, it has become a high stake issue that can have a drastic effect on brand reputation, market share, shareholder value, and business stability. As you can understand, cybersecurity cannot remain within the confines of the IT department anymore. It is now a complex mix of people, policies, technology, compliance, privacy along with security team, audits, training, business value and much more. This is where the role of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) as a Digital Leader has gained significance in recent times. 

The Role of a CISO

Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is a leader who has the overall responsibility of laying down essential cybersecurity and governance practices and, at the same time, developing a framework that can help in business growth without risks. However, more specifically, there an extensive range of responsibilities that comes under the ambit of a CISO. It may include information security, regulatory compliance, cybersecurity, IT controls, security architecture, privacy, security team, security operations, response and recovery and much more. 

CISO Archetypes

It is important to note here that the role of a CISO is a multi-dimensional one. The recent studies and insights have helped in identifying different archetypes of CISOs that have emerged from different companies. The most common ones are those with a technical background who has turned into an executive. Their primary focus is on developing and implementing technical architectures that are secure, using innovative solutions for countermeasures and laying strict security standards throughout the organization. These technologists often design architectures that can meet the standards for future security as well.

Secondly, a top-level executive, who has the responsibility to oversee the existing security status of an organization, analyse whether the processes are advantageous and monitors the overall security program. They also play an active role in sharing the security reports, budgets and concerns with all stakeholders. 

Thirdly, a CISO can be a strategist who is well-versed with the necessary cyber risk investments and understands in-depth about the business. It is his/her job to align the security objectives with the business goals. In other words, a CISO strategist will provide business-focused suggestions to utilize security management tools. 

A CISO often acts as an advisor. They play a key role in understanding the evolving security threat landscape, identify the latest cyber risks and advise the organization to take necessary steps to mitigate such risks. 

Although these may not be the precise representation of the CISO profile, they are certainly close. Also, the CISO leadership can include the perfect mix of all the responsibilities mentioned. However, in the current scenario, a CISO with technology expertise and business acumen should be the most preferred choice to take the mantle and drive the company towards secure and risk-free business processes. He / She should be a bridge between business stakeholders and the information security team and bring out the best. The concerned individual is more or less required to broaden their approach once appointed as a CISO to achieve the set company objectives.

CISO Responsibilities

CISOs need to work towards creating a culture of cyber risk management across the organization. Thus, the broad range of responsibilities of a CISO is discussed.

Developing the Workforce

The workforce under the CISO should be educated and up skilled regularly as per the demands of changing cyber threat landscape. Keeping with the goals and needs of the organization, a CISO should prioritize training programs and awareness meets for the team. Whatever be the organizational structure, a comprehensive strategy must be laid down covering top-level executives, stakeholders and the information security team.

Research shows that data breaches are caused mostly due to human errors. Hence, educational programs should help employees working in an organization avoid actions that cause security risks. Moreover, it is essential to groom future leaders and develop a succession plan. Such talents need to be identified and should be provided cross-training in other departments as well. 

Security Initiatives

As mentioned before, CISO should lead by evaluating the threat landscape, designing security strategies, preparing policies and standards, prioritising auditing and compliance initiatives and blend it with the vision, mission and objectives of the organization. The main aim is to develop a security culture and a smooth transition to it. Often the executives and information security team are at loggerheads over the budget. CISOs should act as a bridge and plan the budget allotment in consultation with CEOs. They should take decisions regarding partnership with experienced trainers and cybersecurity experts, strategic development of the team in collaboration with thought leaders.  

Compliance

As the cybersecurity landscape is evolving across the globe, the standards and regulations are changing as well. A CISO must ensure that the organizational capabilities and security initiatives meet the compliance regulations. Make sure that the focus is given to cyber risk management as well. 

Documentation

A CISO should take the initiative to document the best security practices, policies and procedures to equip the team and concerned managers to follow and respond in any security situation. The CISO leader should make sure that documentation is relevant and up to date. 

Communication

Cybersecurity today is not an IT issue but has become a business issue. Thus, meaningful communication with the concerned stakeholders and business executives must be carried out by the CISO. The challenges and how they can affect business must be strongly conveyed. Some of the major talk points can be over cybersecurity risks today, defence mechanism and current standing of the company against threats, latest tools and trends, audit and regulations, partnerships and collaborations with security experts and consultants. 

As you can see, it is high time that businesses realize the importance of a full time Chief Information Security Officer who can act as a digital leader and pave the way for business to grow.

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