The Changing Role of a CISO in the Modern Digital Era


As the world dives deeper into the digital era, cybersecurity is becoming more prevalent than ever before. This analogy is quite evident if we look at the data breach statistics from the past couple of years. 2018 experienced countless breaches, resulting in over 500 million records being hacked.

2019 proved to be even more severe with the violations surging 33 per cent. This roughly translates to as much as 8 billion records being hacked. And it’s not only the small-time firms that were hacked. Organizations like Facebook, First American, LinkedIn, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon were breached too.

So what can a concerned organization do to avoid such breaches? Numerous deciding factors play a vital role, and one such essential element is the company’s CISO.

A CISO or Chief Information Security Officer can be defined as someone who is responsible for instituting and facilitating an organization’s goals, strategies, and proceedings, to ensure the security of technology and related assets.

A CISO is tasked with several duties, but as the world is advancing towards a digital era, his role in the cybersecurity domain has taken a drastic turn. However, cybersecurity is not merely restricted to a CISO’s role and position, as, according to John McClurg (Senior CISO and VP at BlackBerry), firms have to emphasize equally on its physical security too. John believes that undermining one factor would imminently hinder the other. Even a recently concluded report by Ponemon Institute firmly believes that a minor security breach can lead up to the demise of an entire organization.

Now that we’ve learned about the ever-growing threats to cybersecurity and a CISO’s importance in combating them, it is time to know what makes up a competent CISO. As per Stephen Katz (CISO during the ’90s at Citigroup), a capable CISO must adhere to the given responsibilities:

  • Security Operations: Analysing the cybersecurity threats in real-time and eradicating them via efficient means.
  • Cyber-Risk and Cyber Intelligence: Keeping tabs on the latest threats and aiding the board in comprehending their risks better, along with formulating operational workarounds to deal with the threats efficiently.
  • Data Loss and Fraud Prevention: Ensuring that the staff does not exploit or steal the data.
  • Security Architecture: Ensuring that the IT department is equipped with apt means to deal with future threats. Moreover, making sure that the network framework aligns with security measures.
  • Identity and Access Management: Securing data from unauthorised system access.
  • Program Management: Computing strategies like routine system patches to minimise risks and breaches.
  • Investigations and Forensics: Assessing the loopholes that caused previous breaches and working accordingly to prevent them in the future.
  • Governance: Ensuring each initiative stays on track and gets the desired funds alongside clearing up its importance in the higher-ups’ eyes.

The CISO must be a capable leader to face up to the adversities and aptly guide the team into fending them. Even the Harvard Business Review defines CISO as a leader capable of making the right decisions at the right time.

To Wrap It Up

A CISO is someone who acts as a shield against cybersecurity threats aiming to breach a company’s sensitive data. A study by Ponemon Institute can highlight the acknowledgement of a CISO’s increasing importance in the organisation’s cybersecurity.

Over 69 per cent of the reported participants believed that hiring an executive-level cybersecurity expert with firm-wide authority should be the most vital security measure. It further emphasises a CISO’s changing role and importance in the firms’ cybersecurity matters.

Therefore, every enterprise should press on appointing a competent CISO who not only fulfils the responsibilities mentioned above but also brings novelty and innovation onboard.



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