Understanding the Responsibilities of a Chief Information Security Officer
When a breach hits a high-profile organization, it tops the headlines. Every time, we seem to ask the same questions: How did it happen, and who is at fault?
However, if organizations really want to defend themselves, the better questions would be: Why have other companies not been as vulnerable to cyber breaches? What are they doing differently to secure themselves? And whose responsibility is it to manage and ensure company-wide information security? A possible answer to this last question is the chief information security officer (CISO).
What Is a CISO?
Every company needs to secure its information technology (IT) facilities to comply with industry regulations and prevent data theft. CISOs are executives responsible for protecting an organization’s IT infrastructure, crucial data, and other company assets against malicious actors.
Securing company data is possible through implementing security policies and defenses as well as conducting trainings and creating awareness among employees. Cyberthreats are not only external—they can also originate from within the organization. Therefore, a CISO needs to stay informed about the security threat landscape both inside and outside the organization.
The Responsibilities of a CISO
In short, CISOs bear the responsibility for ensuring security across all levels of the organization, including corporate strategy, operations, and budget. The CISO’s scope of work can also extend to law enforcement insofar as it relates to security matters and incident investigations.
CISOs are C-suite officers who oversee the security policies and procedures of the company, which are meant to protect the business from internal and external threats. They are senior-level executives responsible for establishing a culture of security and providing optimal cybersecurity awareness training to all employees.
CISOs are required to oversee security policies and procedures and design them in alignment with the company’s core objectives. They must remain informed about the latest trends and technologies in cybersecurity and how current best practices can be effectively utilized within the organization.
Communicating with other C-suite executives and company board members is a major part of a CISO’s duties. They highlight cybersecurity needs throughout the organization and receive a sanctioned budget to support those requirements. Depending on the size of the company, a CISO might work alongside or report to the chief information officer or chief technology officer, who would then all report to the chief operations officer.
CISOs make crucial organizational decisions that affect company-wide security. Many online tools, for example, might pose a threat to internal networks or to web browsers, causing negative repercussions for the company’s safety. When a CISO is aware of such vulnerabilities, they can utilize defensive techniques, such as installing a firewall at the initial stages of production.
How to Become a CISO
Becoming a CISO doesn’t happen overnight. Those interested in pursuing the role should be prepared to gain intensive experience in the cybersecurity domain beforehand.
Recommended Career Path
Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field, like IT, computer science, or business.
Step 2: Begin a career in programming or an entry-level cybersecurity position, such as security analyst.
Step 3: Attain industry certifications to enhance your knowledge and validate your cybersecurity expertise.
Step 4: Seek out leadership roles, particularly any that involve overseeing a security team.
Step 5: Obtain higher education, such as a master’s degree with a specialization in executive leadership in information assurance.
Step 6: Seek promotion to the CISO role.
Essential Skills for CISOs
An aspiring CISO should be proficient in cybersecurity, team leadership, compliance and risk management, and problem-solving, in addition to remaining up to date with the latest developments within the industry. All of these skills can be acquired by being a constant learner, developing close relationships with mentors, and gaining real-world exposure.
- Education. CISOs need a strong academic background in technology and business, such as a Master of Science in Cybersecurity (MSCS). It’s also helpful to have industry-relevant certifications, such as EC-Council’s Certified CISO (C|CISO).
- IT experience. CISOs need to be able to craft security policies, understand security in the context of networking and applications, and know how to test security solutions.
- Risk management. CISOs should be aware of potential vulnerabilities and familiar with incident response standards.
- Business experience. In addition to technical expertise, CISOs should have experience with auditing, governance, compliance, strategic planning, finance and budgeting, system controls, and operations management.
- Financial acumen. CISOs need to be able to articulate the return on investment of security policies and select security measures in line with their organization’s budget and overall strategy.
- Communication skills. CISOs regularly need to communicate with other executives and managers, participate in board meetings, and interact with other internal and external stakeholders.
How EC-Council University Can Help You Become a CISO
EC-Council University (ECCU) offers a 2-year, completely online MSCS program that includes a choice of five specializations. Students aiming to become CISOs can opt for the Executive Leadership in Information Assurance specialization during their master’s program. The specialization focuses on providing the fundamental skills necessary to assume the position of a C-suite information security executive, including global business leadership, project management, and executive governance and management.
The Executive Leadership in Information Assurance track is also mapped to three industry-recognized EC-Council certifications: the C|CISO, the Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH), and the Certified Network Defender (C|ND). To qualify for the C|CISO exam, candidates must have 5 years of experience in each of the five C|CISO domains, as defined separately in the exam eligibility application. More details about the program can be obtained on ECCU’s Executive Leadership in Information Assurance program page.