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September 21, 2023

Does Your Business Need a CISO?

You have attracted an incredible team of talented and experienced professionals to the c-suite of your business, but you might be forgetting one critical member: the Chief Information Security Officer, or CISO. If your business hopes to be a powerful force in your marketplace, you need to consider what a CISO can do for your organization in the Digital Age.

What a CISO Does

Because the CISO is a relatively new addition to the c-suite, the exact responsibilities of the CISO tends to vary from organization to organization. Traditionally, a CISO focuses on creating and leading a business’s information security program, which should include protecting assets, applications, systems and other technology while supporting business goals and outcomes. Under the umbrella of this broad objective and in addition to it, a CISO might have any or all of the following duties:

  • Building and driving a cybersecurity framework and strategy
  • Developing and implementing processes and systems for preventing, detecting, mitigating and recovering from cyber attacks
  • Evaluating and managing the risk posture of the organization on a continuous basis
  • Implementing and managing the governance, risk and compliance process
  • Reporting to senior levels of the organization, to include other c-suite executives and the board of directors
  • Evaluating, developing and justifying cybersecurity investments
  • Developing and implementing security awareness and education trainings for the entire workforce
  • Educating business leaders about technology risk to improve security collaborations with different departments
  • Implementing disaster recovery protocols and business continuity plans in the event of attack

There are a few c-suite executives that have overlapping responsibilities with the CISO. The CIO, for example, oversees the entire IT strategy of an organization, which may include cybersecurity. Yet, in an age when highly targeted cyber attacks launched against businesses can cost an organization millions of dollars to recover from, it might be worthwhile to have a dedicated executive focused on strategies to reduce security risks. Another similar c-suite member to the CISO is the CSO, or Chief Security Officer. Businesses may opt to roll together the CISO and CSO roles if they have ample physical security concerns in addition to their cybersecurity needs.

Of course, CISOs are not cheap. Because cybersecurity expertise is in high demand, experienced professionals are demanding high salaries. Smaller and younger businesses that lack the budget for a permanent CISO position may consider bringing on a virtual CISO, or vCISO. These professionals do not work directly for the organization but rather lend their knowledge and skill to accomplish security-related projects for the business. Often, vCISOs are employed in designing initial security and compliance programs, transitioning to zero trust, managing security and compliance during mergers or acquisitions and hiring security IT staff — to include a permanent CISO.

Why More Organizations Are Relying on CISOs

A recent survey found that 45 percent of companies do not have a CISO on staff on a full-time basis, but that figure is starting to drop. As cybercriminals shift their focus away from individual home users and toward businesses, which harbor a greater concentration of sensitive data as well as larger financial accounts, organizations begin to face substantial risks by not investing in their own cybersecurity. No company wants to be the only vulnerable business in their industry, so the integration of the CISO into the c-suite is occurring rapidly.

While some smaller organizations can manage security with merely a dedicated IT manager or information security director, there are major benefits to bringing security professionals into the c-suite. By interacting more regularly with a security-minded officers, other executives can more efficiently factor security protocols into their projects and procedures, leading to lower risks all around. Having a CISO also signals to the rest of the workforce and the target audience that an organization is focused on delivering high-quality security to the best of its ability, which is a benefit to employees and customers alike.

Your c-suite should be constantly evolving, gaining new members as your organization grows and its objectives shift. Adding a CISO to your c-suite might be the step your company needs to take to reduce its exposure to cyber risks and develop comprehensive security strategies that allow it to continue competing in your marketplace for years to come.

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