Features, Opinion, Security, Technology

Re-examining the role of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

Ezzeldin Hussein, Sales Engineer Director at SentinelOne tells Anita Joseph how the role of the CISO has evolved from being just a custodian of cybersecurity technologies and protocols to defining, communicating and collaborating the risk posture inside the enterprise.

Digital transformation is changing the business models of industries and enterprises. It is also changing the roles of employees, team leaders, and C-suite executives. Amongst them the role of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) has also come under pressure to change and adapt to the growing pressures of the macro environment, the position of the digital enterprise, and the future capabilities of the role of CISO.

At one time the role of the CISO focused on championing the implementation of digital security strategies. Previously, CISOs focused on technical aspects of security, such as implementing and managing security technologies. However, the sophistication of cyberattacks has created a need for a much broader approach to cybersecurity.

In today’s landscape, successful CISOs must now deliver the mantle of risk manager and communicator. Any CISO that can identify the risks that digital enterprises face as it transforms, and shares them effectively, in an actionable way inside the enterprise, is better suited to grow.

CISOs are not only instrumental in implementing and managing the enterprise’s cybersecurity strategy but also to ensure that employees are aware of cybersecurity best practices and are trained to identify potential threats. They also act as a link between employees and senior leadership and stakeholders, and CISOs are responsible for communicating effectively with both groups about the enterprise’s cybersecurity posture.

The capability of the CISO to deliver this role, namely understanding the risks in the digital landscape and communicating them internally, directly impacts the short and long-term security profile of the enterprise.

Other than regular security assessments and implementing the latest security measures, the role of the CISO now involves much more collaboration and coordination with other departments and partners. Cyber threats cross organizational boundaries, and effective cybersecurity requires a coordinated response from all parties.

Today’s role of the CISO is a balancing act across five different independent areas. The capability of the CISO to act and deliver needs to be balanced across all these five independent areas:

  1. Risk Management

Through regular risk assessments, CISOs can identify and assess potential risks to the enterprise’s assets, such as data, systems, and networks. A large part of the risk management strategy will cover how the enterprise will implement controls to prevent or mitigate identified risks.

  1. Strategic Communication

Successful CISOs exhibit communication skills and prioritize sharing the enterprise’s cyber strategy to build trust. CISOs are also masters of knowing their audience and are able to determine who needs to be informed about the enterprise’s cyber risk management strategy.

  1. Leadership in Managing Resources

Technical and IT teams will look to their CISO to implement cost-effective controls. Understanding the cost and benefits of different controls and having the ability to choose those that provide the most value for the enterprise is vital.

  1. Continuous Learning

It is important to offer a variety of training options such as in-person training, online courses, and webinars, to make it easier for employees to participate, and use real-world examples and case studies to illustrate the importance of cybersecurity and the potential consequences of security breaches.

  1. Security Expertise

Since the cybersecurity landscape is evolving, CISOs need the ability to adapt to new threats and technologies. Being up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the field allows a CISO to ensure their enterprise’s strategy is in tune with the times. Having sound technical acumen also allows someone in the role to take calculated risks.

Enterprises require multi-layered security strategies to combat advanced cyber threats. Bringing all the pieces together requires a CISO who understands what the business needs and translates that into security policies and processes. Critical success factors for CISOs lie in their ability to coordinate traditional implementation with modern security analytics and continuous improvement.

Today’s successful CISOs are highly skilled and knowledgeable leaders who possess deep understanding of technology, as well as business acumen and strong communication and leadership abilities. They are strategic thinkers able to anticipate risks and adaptable to the changing cybersecurity landscape. Most importantly, they must be ethical and trustworthy leaders who are committed to upholding the values of the enterprise business.

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