How to Become a Successful CISO

Terry Mann by Published On - 05.16.2022   CISO

How to Become a Successful CISO

The role of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) has evolved over the years. Now, the role is less about implementing IT security technologies, and more about identifying and managing risks and being able to communicate effectively with employees and executives about those risks.

The CISO must continuously update their knowledge and have a profound understanding of the regulatory landscape.

CISOs now have more responsibilities than ever, and thus they have an obligation to adhere to, and promote ethical practices. In order to become a successful CISO, there are four key areas that need to be considered, which are as follows;

1. Education

A successful CISO must stay up-to-date with changes to the technological landscape and remain in alignment with data security trends and compliance requirements. New threats are constantly emerging and the CISO must be aware of them, and understand the best ways to address them.

The CISO must also have a deep understanding of the business they work for, including how the changes they propose align with the overall goals of the business, and the attitudes of the executives.

The CISO should also be aware of their obligations when it comes to an understanding the security implications of any contracts the company has with their customers, business associates, and vendors, including cloud service providers.

It’s not just their own education that the CISO needs to be concerned about, but also the education of the employees. They will need to create a “culture of security”, which includes carrying out regular security awareness training to ensure that employees understand their obligations and the consequences of their actions.

2. Vision

One of the traits that distinguishes CISOs from regular IT staff is vision. The CISO will need to be able to make predictions about the future, including the types of threats that are likely to emerge, and the solutions that will emerge to combat them.

In some cases, the CISO may need to think outside of the box, and come up with their own innovative solutions to problems, before they become a reality.

3. Communication

It’s one thing to have a vision, it’s another thing to be able to communicate that vision with the relevant people. The CISO will often be required to communicate their ideas to non-technical people, including the board of directors. In order to do this, they must break down their ideas into smaller pieces, which the layperson can understand. And, they must be able to explain how their ideas will benefit the business.

This is not an easy task as data security doesn’t tend to yield any direct benefits to the company.

At the end of the day, the CISOs must accept that they are required to balance security and profitability, otherwise they will probably make themselves unpopular with the executives.

The CISO will also need to spend time building coalitions with other departments. For example, in order for the CISO to be able to accurately assess the implications of certain contracts, it helps if they have a good relationship with the legal department.

Given that many data security procedures tend to get in the way of productivity, the CISO must be able to communicate with regular employees about the reasons why the procedures are in place.

This is to ensure that employees are not left thinking that the CISO is making their lives harder for the sake of it.

4. Leadership

Companies expect strong leadership from the CISO before, during, and after any security incidents take place. In some cases, it’s better to be decisive than it is to be correct. And when they get things wrong, they should be willing to take responsibility for their decisions.

Of course, this is not something the CISO really wants, especially since people tend to blame the blame on them if something goes wrong. However, as long as the executive believes that the CISO has the situation under control, they will be more willing to trust them to make business-critical decisions, which means they can act faster to address security issues when they arise.

Naturally, the CISO must ensure that they have a tried and tested incident response plan (IRP) in place. Both executive and employees will likely forget that such a plan exists, which will give the CISO an opportunity to show leadership, when a security incident unfold.

If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help CISOs identify and manage security threats, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.