A successful Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) must wear multiple hats. CISOs are accountable for risk management, data protection, and security infrastructure oversight. But that’s not all: a successful CISO must also possess specific traits that distinguish them from other industry leaders.
The advancement of the CISO profession in recent years has been nothing short of spectacular. Until recently, it was the responsibility of the CTO or CIO to ensure that a company’s technology was safe. However, as the importance of security has grown, the majority of businesses now employ a dedicated security officer who reports to the board of directors on a regular basis.
To be effective, a CISO must possess the following qualities.
Within the firm, the CISO must serve as a bridge between business and technology. CISOs must not only know technology, but they must also consider the demands of the company. A thorough understanding of the business and its objectives is critical for CISO success. CISOs who demonstrate a strong business mind-set are better able to connect with colleagues outside the realm of technology and facilitate business-related conversations.
Proficiency in aligning security to business objectives
CISOs require the support of and access to their CEOs and boards of directors in order to properly integrate cybersecurity initiatives with business objectives. To achieve alignment, CISOs must make relationships with business units a primary component of their security strategy. But the collaboration needs to go beyond ensuring internal initiatives. CISOs must collaborate to ensure client demands and expectations are met, as well as to support go-to-market initiatives. CISOs and their security teams must be well-versed in market trends, disruptive technologies, and business strategies. However, security can accomplish this only if they have worked diligently to create personal ties outside of the security team.
Strategic management and planning skills
The CISO should first consult with the senior leadership team to confirm that information security planning activities are in line with the organization’s strategic plan and intended risk posture. The CISO should then be aware of all ongoing and planned technological projects within the firm. The information security program may then work to completely integrate into the system development life cycle of each project. Finally, in response to industry innovation, the CISO must plan for technological advancements and alter the information security program accordingly.
Aligning with corporate objectives necessitates contact between the CISO and other stakeholders. Additionally, CISOs must understand the demands of all stakeholders in order to design incentives that benefit everyone. A successful CISO will develop excellent relationships with company executives in order to foster inter-departmental collaboration.
Given that the majority of stakeholders are not IT professionals, CISOs must communicate with them on a non-technical level. They must customize their communications to their audience and avoid obscure jargon. With effective communication, security leaders can build a more responsive audience, which benefits their security efforts, whether they are introducing new programs or responding to an event. Communication is a necessary component of effective leadership. Strong communication skills that will excite and motivate those around them, is critical for security. Clearly the security chief needs to be in possession of this power, but this impact only lasts so long – CISOs must embed security into the fabric of the workplace. They should particularly be able to convey the business impact of a breach on the leadership team, particularly the CEO and the CFO- to ensure they understand that investment in security needs to be on high priority.
Additionally, fostering a cybersecurity culture from the top down, ingraining the concept of security throughout the enterprise and fostering an organizational culture of cybersecurity knowledge, can be top jobs on a CISO to ensure the security of the organization by reducing the risk of insider threats.
Risk assessment and management buy-in
There needs to be a clear communication channel between the CISO’s team and the risk assessment processes. Since risk ownership is always a C-Suite/Board Level/Executive Leadership problem, it’s critical to create a business-level channel of communication between executive leadership and the information security program. To be effective, the risk management program and its results must constantly be aligned with the business.