According to Marlin Hawk's Global Snapshot: The CISO in 2021 report, 53% of CISOs have been in their roles for two years or less, and 64% were hired from another organization. It is crucial to consider that many security specialists working for smaller businesses do the duties of a CISO without having the title. Organizations hiring a CISO for the first time find it challenging to define the role.

An organization's information security depends on every individual's contribution, but the responsibility for it is placed on the CISO's shoulders. CISOs work on protecting organizations from new, unknown threats daily. However, their expertise goes beyond overseeing how security teams manage and mitigate security incidents.

Below are some top operational areas that CISOs oversee. Their involvement levels may vary depending on their organization's size, industry, and security maturity.

  • Security operations center
    • CISOs manage a tireless group of analysts constantly working on anomaly detection, threat mitigation, and incident management.
  • Third-party security risk management
    • CISOs oversee various vendors and third-party providers for digital risks, PII, and privacy.
  • Product security
    • CISOs ensure security through design. Along with the company's security architecture, the CISO also significantly influences the creation of secure software building architecture that is impenetrable.
  • Pen testing and red teaming
    • The CISO often has direct responsibility for penetration testing and red teaming exercises that continuously test and bolster the organization's security posture.
  • Compliance regulations
    • CISOs manage the legal ramifications of breaches, including privacy concerns, and maintain compliance with government and other cybersecurity regulations.
  • Disaster recovery planning
    • A successful data breach can halt the business's operations, damage its reputation, and incur regulatory penalties. A crucial responsibility of a CISO is disaster recovery planning, which enables business continuity and impact reduction.

In addition to short-term KPIs, such as the MTTD, MTTR, number of incidents mitigated, and breach costs, the success of a CISO should also be measured as part of your security strategy. On LinkedIn, we looked for job posts for CISO positions from well-known firms, like Cisco, Barclays, DBS, and Citi, and consolidated the top requirements listed in the job descriptions.

Here are the criteria you should weigh when assessing and measuring the long-term success of a CISO:

Cybersecurity framework development: The CISO must develop and establish a successful cybersecurity management program that aligns with the organization's strategic vision over the years. This includes revamping organizational policies and building appropriate teams and processes.

Cybersecurity culture cultivation: The CISO must cultivate a strong cybersecurity environment where managers and end users are well-trained and aware of digital risks. This culture had to be developed via innovative employee training, workshops, benchmarking, and periodic assessments.

Stakeholder management: A CISO should be an effective liaison who communicates information and ideas about cyber risk management, the business vision, and security requirements with management, internal teams, and business partners. This also entails maintaining solid relationships with different security vendors.

Security budgeting: This criterion focuses on the budget that the CISO manages during their tenure and the workforce they directly manage. Delivering a return on investment for cybersecurity investments is a crucial goal. Success also depends on the CISO's ability to evaluate numerous vendors and negotiate contracts with them for different business functions to align with organizational needs.

Global exposure: A CISO must manage an international team across geographies. A successful CISO should not be confined by the organization's security needs. They should keep up to date with global trends and practices in cybersecurity.

In most cases, a breach of an organization can be the result of the previous CISO. It is thus vital to give a new CISO time and measure their success in the longer term. CISOs are participating in board meetings more frequently than ever before. However, it's critical to understand that the CISO should be an integral component of your organization's security culture from the beginning, not just when things become grim.

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