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How To Be a Kick-Ass Chief Information Security Officer

You did it! You did everything you could to go after that Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) role you have always wanted – built your network, maintained your training, and logged in countless hours in the other information security role. Now, you’re ready to rock!

Board members and business executives will tell you the same thing: expectations when choosing the next CISO are very high. Why is that? Most senior management expects the CISO to have one eye always on the day-to-day security posture of the business and the other on the booming market trend and technologies that require strategic thinking. They also have to build and maintain strong relationships with not only the managers but all stakeholders. Not to mention, find time to create meaningful management reporting, fight for funding and manage a budget, be aware of new laws and regulations, and build get the right team. So many demands and responsibilities!

Below are some tips to help you surf the waves that will be hitting you as a CISO.

1. Business knowledge → technical knowledge

Now, why would they want you to know the business more than the technical side? Technical know-how is critical but it would not matter if you do not understand the industry you are in or the goals of your own organization. For CISOs, especially, understanding business process, being able to put security into a business context, and having the knowledge of external industry drivers who share company and industry is just as equally important, if not more, as knowing how to manage a pen test.

2. Relationships, relationships, relationships

Honestly, CISOs are the most important guys when it comes to stakeholder engagement most of the time. Developing and maintaining a synergetic relationship with the stakeholders inside and outside the parameters of your company is the key to your future success. Strong and communicative relationships will improve CISO’s ability to get the necessary funding and drive the changes to security policies that could have a positive impact on their business. During dire situations, having the stakeholders on your side could help seal the deal.

3. The spotlight shines brightly

Many of the newer CISOs are usually overwhelmed with how much time they actually have to spend on developing management reports and getting ready for presentations to the Board of Directors. Nowadays, the boards of many companies focus on risk profiles, threats, vulnerabilities, and the true effectiveness of spread out control of the company, rather than wishful cyber thinking. CISOs receive more calls from the big boys to present to them on a more frequent basis. They also are able to provide regular and constant near real-time security reporting. All are important, but it’s time-consuming work, so be ready to manage different tasks you are not accustomed to.

4. The future is bright – your thinking should be too

When you are in the role of a CISO, not only you think about the data breaches at hand, but you need to be ready to adapt to the unknown threats coming your way. Executives expect their CISO to be more than just a security guy; they are also meant to be business strategists. In a world where disruptive technologies turn “business as usual” upside down overnight, a successful CISO has to put some time and energy into the future as well as the present

5. The present is a gift you should always watch over

CISO needs to be able to effectively find and patch vulnerabilities with no or little problems. Why? Most executives want more patches to fix with the resources they have given the CISO in a timely fashion. Sometimes IT organizations tend to be lackluster in this area. Board members and executives want execution and leadership from the CISO to ensure organization. 

Now you are ready, you know what awaits you when you are CISO. Never lose sight of what needs to get done but have the knowledge of what’s coming next.

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