CISO: Increase Effectiveness through understanding the Roles and Responsibilities
May 11, 2021

A CISO’s job is a challenging one. To increase effectiveness, understanding the roles and responsibilities that come with this position is crucial.

As the CISO of an organization, you are responsible for protecting and maintaining the integrity of organizational data. In this article, we will discuss what it means to be a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in an organization, as well as some tips on how to go about being more effective at your job.

What Is the CISO Role?

The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is an executive-level position, as the CIO. However, the attention of the CISO is primarily on the protection of data through the process of information and cybersecurity.

A CISO is responsible for identifying security risks to the organization’s information assets.

Protecting the data and intellectual property and reputation from both internal and external threats, as well as maintaining the integrity of organizational assets by identifying risks that could do harm to the company’s information systems.

Responsibilities of A CISO

The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) has many responsibilities within the information security rhythms such as:

    • Developing and overseeing the cybersecurity strategy.
    • Define the organization’s security goals and objectives
    • Create a plan to achieve the goals and objectives
    • Development of information security policies and procedures to protect the organization from cybersecurity harm.
    • Implement the security policies, procedures, and guidelines for employees to follow.
    • Conduct regular risk assessments of all systems and managing the organization’s cybersecurity.
    • Identify resources needed for prevention strategies.
    • Preparing budgets for cyber-security initiatives.
    • Coordinating cybersecurity initiatives with other members of management.
    • Establishing priorities among competing needs.
    • Planning for security breaches and develop an incident response plan.
    • Develop, implement, and manage the Information Security Awareness and Training Programs.
    • Ensure adequate staffing is available with the necessary skills to carry out tasks related to information security management.

While the CISO has many duties, they all revolve around one key mission:

Protecting organizational data from unauthorized access, damage, or theft.

The CISO is a key member of the organization’s leadership team. The role and responsibilities that they have are very important for an organization to protect their data from cyber-attacks.

They also serve as an advisor on all things related to information security, including establishing business objectives, policies, and standards; developing new products or services while balancing risk and security requirements; and implementing tools for identifying, monitoring, or preventing threats.

Positioning of The CISO Role in An Organisation

The organizational structure of an enterprise defines where its chief information security officer (CISO) fits in. The CISO’s responsibilities and functions vary depending on the size of the organization.

Large Enterprise

Typically, a large enterprise will have an IT department with a CIO or other senior-level positions like director of information technology (IT), vice president for computing services, head of Network Operations Centre, Systems Administration.

In such an organization the CIO is the most senior-level IT position responsible for all aspects of an enterprise’s technology resources and infrastructure (including hardware, software, telecommunications networks), It oversees other senior-level positions in that organization with responsibilities for computing services like network operations center or systems administrator.

In such an organization, there could be a CISO that reports to the CIO. Lately, it is common to have a CISO that reports directly to the CEO even in an organization with a CIO. This ensures information security is getting the full attention it deserves.

Medium-Sized Organization

Many medium-sized organizations do not have a CIO; instead, they have a CISO that reports directly to the CEO of the organization and oversee information security needs.

A chief information security officer (CISO) is responsible for protecting an enterprise’s critical business data, intellectual property, systems infrastructure, and reputation from cyberattacks by criminals, terrorists, or nation-states. The role requires a deep understanding of emerging risks.

In A Small Organisation

In a small company or start-up, for example, it may not be possible to have a full-time CISO handling security so, you often have someone handling security in combination with other managerial tasks like budgeting and strategic planning. This is not typically an ideal arrangement but can work if this person could be assisted by an external CISO or a Virtual CISO.

How Does A CISO Fulfil These Responsibilities?

The CISO also takes part in the design of a company’s security policies and procedures to protect its IT assets. This includes overseeing any disaster recovery or contingency plans that are executed, as well as serving on the team for assessing risks and vulnerabilities.

The CISO shares this information with executives so they can make sound decisions about their organization’s security measures.

This includes overseeing any disaster recovery or contingency plans that are executed, as well as serving on the team for assessing risks and vulnerabilities. He shares this information with executives so they can make sound decisions about their organization’s security measures.

To be effective a CISO must have a strong understanding of the organization’s business. The information security department is part of an organization and not independent of it, which means that they need to understand how all departments operate in order to best protect them.

The CISO should also have knowledge on what would be detrimental for the company if exposed or compromised.

The CISO also advises on how to respond in an emergency, such as a data breach or cyberattack, so that recovery is swift and effective. A well-trained cybersecurity team can minimize damage to company information assets from malicious insiders who are looking for ways to profit by selling trade secrets.

The chief security officer often has knowledge of investigations into disasters because they have access to valuable forensic evidence if it’s required in order to assess damages and losses incurred by the company due to sabotage, espionage, or terrorism.

They may be called upon during legal proceedings following any incident where IT was compromised during periods when systems were not up to date with patches or other anti-malware software.

Risk Management

Information Security Risk Management

The CISO is responsible for performing risk assessments to identify the potential vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches and recommend solutions in order to limit harm or damages. This includes developing policies, procedures, and standards of security operation needed by all company employees with regards to access control, identification management, and privileged user roles.

Identifying and implementing safeguards, controls, or countermeasures to protect information assets from unauthorized access. This includes identity management, data loss prevention (DLP), firewall/intrusion detection systems, and encryption technologies.

The Chief Information Security Officer is also responsible for managing the vulnerability assessment and penetration testing programs. These initiatives are designed to identify, manage risks through a set of methods such as scanning networks, reviewing codebases or performing manual tests on applications, operating systems, networks, or other IT assets.

A good CISO must be able to spot potential risks and vulnerabilities in an organization quickly. It is important that the CISO maintain his awareness of current threats and exploitations to know how best to protect the information assets. It is critical that the CISO is aware of current threats and exploitation and be informed of how best to protect the information assets in helping the organization decide on the controls to implement.

The Development of a disaster recovery plan

The CISO should understand how the business operates, to be able to provide advice on the extra protection measures needed for its valuable information assets, especially during a disaster.

The CISO is responsible for developing a disaster recovery plan to safeguard company assets in case of emergencies, such as natural disasters and hacking attacks. Oversees any disaster recovery or contingency plans that are executed, as well as serving on the team for assessing risks and vulnerabilities. Shares this information with executives so they can make sound decisions about their organization’s security measures.

Overseeing protective controls against electronic threats on enterprise networks like malware, viruses, ransomware, and DDoS attacks; monitoring online activity 24/hours per day with real-time alerts so that employees know when an attack is underway before it can do damage to computers’ systems.

Help Organisation Comply with Regulations

A chief information security officer’s (CISO) functions include ensuring adherence to both government regulations such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and industry standards such as ISO 27001:2013, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).

Internal and External Auditing & Review

A CISO helps the organization to coordinate internal security audits, including periodic reviews of the company’s security policy documents. The CISO may be involved in overseeing external auditors who review their compliance with industry standards such as ISO 27001 and SOC. The CISO will provide feedback to executives on any areas that need improvement or changes.

Web Monitoring

In today’s ‘world of high competition and social media, it is important to ensure proper management of the reputation of an organization online. The Chief Security Officer should have measures in place to monitors the internet and social media sites for malicious content that could negatively affect the organization.

Processes have to be put in place to use Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) to monitor for threats, vulnerabilities, and information leaks. OSINT is the discovery and analysis of information about individuals or organizations using open sources on the internet. This can include social media, blogs, etc. It helps to discover areas that are not readily available in the public domain.

OSINT can help you to:

  • Understand your competition and adversary better.
  • Identify up-and-coming trends that could affect the security posture of your organization and customers.

Cybersecurity Training and Awareness

The CISO should ensure staff has a general awareness of the risks around cybersecurity as well as how they should respond in a crisis. The goal is for every employee to understand their role and what they can do to help protect company information.

Security awareness programs are designed to help employees identify and avoid cyber threats. These types of security programs help your employees to be situation-aware so they can react to both current and future cybersecurity threats. It is important for all members of an organization to have this knowledge to the protect organization’s assets.

Intellfence-Cybersecurity Awareness Training Module

Skills to be an Information Security Officer

A CISO must have strong knowledge and understanding of IT, computer security, information technology law, information systems. The ability to think strategically about the potential risks that could threaten business operations.

Superior analytical capabilities with an ability to conduct comprehensive assessments of risk levels for various vulnerabilities or threats in order to protect data from accidental damage or loss as well as an intentional intrusion by hackers into organizations’ networks, computers, and databases containing sensitive user data such as passwords or credit card numbers are required.

These cybersecurity professionals need strong social engineering prevention background because they may also be involved in training and awareness efforts to safeguard against social engineering.

Being vast in technology is also essential to implement security measures that will protect systems from intrusion, leaked data, or other breaches. A chief information security officer should possess the ability to understand how computer systems work, be able to properly assess their vulnerabilities, and know what action is required when they are under attack or compromised in some way. Have a good understanding of different technologies.

These professionals must have excellent problem-solving skills because they will constantly need a solution for whatever security challenges come up in the organization. An effective CISO needs an understanding of what constitutes sensitive information, how that can be compromised, and how one might go about fixing such a violation.

Interpersonal skills

A good chief information security officer must have excellent interpersonal skills to deal with other members of the staff properly. The ability to maintain composure under pressure is another crucial requirement because he/she may have to coordinate multiple teams during an emergency situation; such situations could include software outages or cyberattacks against computer systems within the area of control.

Strong Communication Skills

A CISO needs to have strong communication skills: verbal; written; presentation and facilitation skills and interpersonal skills. Some two key people the CISO interacts with are the CEO and CFO, CIO, so they need to be able to articulate their strategic plan for security in a way that is comprehensible without jargon or acronyms.

They also need good listening skills – being able to understand not only what is being communicated to them, but also the tone of voice used.

Strong Leadership Skills

Chief Information Security Officers wear many hats daily and must act as a leader at times while still being flexible enough to handle unexpected situations; developing these qualities helps create an effective CISO in an organization.

An effective CISO needs strong leadership skills to manage and oversee a team of engineers as well as project managers.

Good People Skills

The CISO interacts with a lot of people, both internally and externally. The ability to communicate effectively can help foster goodwill among the employees. Those who are particularly skilled at this may raise trust levels in others when they speak on highly sensitive issues.

A good relationship with external partners is also important as it helps build rapport and establish a sense of confidence as to the organization’s ability to keep data safe.

Experience needed to be an effective CISO in an organization:

The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is an important role in any organization that deals with sensitive data and computer systems, but not all CISOs have the same responsibilities or duties. Therefore, the requirements are also different depending on the organization.

For example, some organizations require their CISO to hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science while other companies do not mandate such qualifications if they can prove five years of experience working on IT-related projects.

The most common requirement across industries is relevant to work experience and training; however, there is not much standardization when it comes to educational requirements because each company has different needs depending on its size and industry sector.

Industrial Standard Certifications:

The CISO needs to be vast in lots of topics that are not only in security but business-related. Some of the security certification programs that try to cover the technological aspect of this are:

ISC2 Certifications

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This is a globally recognized certificate for professionals in the information security arena. Although, there have been lots of questions raised as to the relevance of this certification for professionals to who demonstrate a deep technical understanding of cyber threats and how to design and implement cybersecurity solutions.

ISACA Certification

Certified information security manager: The leading credential for information security managers, the CISM is designed for people who design, build, and manage information security programs.

Certified in risk and information systems control: (CRISC) The CRISC is a credential for security management professionals and project managers responsible for information security. It covers risk identification, risk assessment, response and mitigation, and control monitoring.

Certified in the governance of enterprise IT (CGEIT) certifies your understanding of enterprise IT governance principles and practices. The CGEIT certification helps you to establish your credibility and expertise in governance, risk management, strategy formulation, compliance issues, and the latest IT innovation.

Tips to be a Successful CISO

    • Be a good communicator
    • Knowledgeable about the business side of software and hardware
    • Experience in managing security, IT projects, or related jobs
    • Familiarity with the company’s technical infrastructure. This includes networking, firewalls, databases, and operating systems.
    • Be proactive and understand the direction of the industry.

With so much data at stake, it is important that the CISO’s responsibilities are carried out with as much seriousness as possible. An organization cannot afford to have its sensitive information compromised because someone did not take proper precautions.

If all of this sounds intimidating and you want help enacting these principles, let us know. Our team of experts is ready and waiting to partner with you to help train and mentor you to create a stellar cybersecurity plan for your business or organization that will protect against future attacks on organizational assets by malicious actors.

More Articles