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What is a CISO and Why are They Important for Organizations?
Businesses, as well as their customers, are interacting with digital platforms like never before. But this digital disruption has exposed a number of vulnerabilities in the cybersecurity space for organizations. This is why the demand for experienced cybersecurity professionals is at an all-time high. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, between 2013 and 2021, the number of vacant cybersecurity positions worldwide grew by 350% to 3.5 million. They also predict that between 2021 and 2025, the number of companies with board members and C-suite executives from a cybersecurity background will increase from 17% to 35%, respectively. As a result, the leading cybersecurity role, of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), will be in high demand in the coming years. It makes it important for anyone interested in this space to understand what is a CISO and why they matter.
What is a CISO?
CISOs are executives who are responsible for the cybersecurity strategy of an organization. They head cybersecurity teams that ensure the data assets of their business are well protected. CISOs work on identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities and providing security assurances to board members. They work closely with the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to ensure that business operations do not compromise security.
Evolution of the Chief Information Security Officer Role
While it is clear how vital the CISO role is today, this wasn’t always the case. Even in the IT and cybersecurity industry, there used to be considerable confusion regarding the role of a CISO when a CIO already existed. Since businesses had limited cybersecurity vulnerabilities, they rarely hired CISOs. Further, given the back-office nature of their work, a CISO who did their job correctly would not get noticed as much.
But the world has changed, and as we’ve already discussed, the role of the CISO has acquired considerable importance. Initially, the CISO was limited to focusing only on security strategy but now they are expected to consider long-term business strategies and have a higher-involvement role in the leadership team. They need to proactively consider threats and implement preventative measures to combat them while keeping the business goals in mind.
What Does a CISO Do?
CISOs plan strategies to ensure that their organization is completely safe from cyberattacks. They put processes in place to investigate potential security threats to strengthen network security. Apart from that, they review reports from their subordinates to assess the effectiveness of security policies and protocols. They also organize audits of the network and new hardware and software products.
How Important is a CISO?
Since the pandemic, the stature of CISOs in organizations has grown considerably. The Accenture State of Cybersecurity 2021 report found that more CISOs than ever are directly reporting to CEOs or Boards and given more direct control over their budgets. Moreover, with every security breach or cybersecurity incident, the role of the CISO in the modern organization grows stronger.
Key Differences Between a CISO and CIO
While they may sound similar, there are considerable differences between the roles of a CIO and a CISO. Most importantly, the CIO role is more of an IT generalist while the CISO role focuses on cybersecurity. Next, CIOs are included in discussions regarding company-wide business initiatives, while CISOs are usually consulted only during security discussions. Lastly, while CIOs leverage the company’s data to formulate IT strategy, CISOs need to take proactive steps to ensure that the same company data does not fall into the wrong hands. Learn more about the Chief Information Officer role here.
What are the Qualifications Needed to Become a CISO?
CISOs are usually people with strong leadership qualities and a background in information technology and security. In addition, they are required to have experience in risk management and auditing.
Most organizations hiring CISOs look for candidates with advanced degrees in business, computer science, or engineering. In addition, candidates need to have extensive work experience in information technology.
Candidates who secure CISO jobs in the U.S. also usually complete certifications such as Certified Information Systems Auditor and Certified Information Security Manager, issued by ISACA.
How to Gain the Skills to Become a CISO?
Building the skills needed to be a great CISO is vital to your success. You need to be up to date on industry standards and know what security threats are frequently faced by companies operating in your industry. It may be wise to take courses in information security to boost your knowledge of the domain. For instance, you can explore the plethora of cybersecurity courses on Emeritus.
In addition, you can obtain many professional certifications to keep upskilling yourself. The CCISO certificate (Certified CISO Program) as well as certifications offered by organizations such as OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional) are great for any aspiring CISO.
Leadership skills are also essential for aspiring CISOs. You are not a one-person army in charge of the organization’s cybersecurity efforts. Any good CEO needs to be backed by a talented team of cybersecurity experts. A strong personality is required to motivate your personnel into meeting the organization’s goals. That apart, businesses today look for individuals who can bring a unique perspective to their team of executives and innovate in every aspect of the business. Learn more about how to become a CISO.
What Makes a Great CISO?
To understand what a CISO is better, let’s go through the very particular set of qualities you need to possess to be a great CISO. They are:
- An understanding of business operations
- Elite communication skills
- Excellent technical skills and expertise in cybersecurity
- Time management skills and a solid set of project management skills
- Ability to lead
- An understanding of recruitment and training to help you build the perfect team
Having learned what is a CISO, if you aspire to secure this top position in a successful business, you need to learn the skills needed to perform tasks that the role demands. On the one hand, upskill by taking up courses related to cybersecurity on Emeritus. On the other hand, hone your leadership skills through the wide range of leadership courses on Emeritus.
Check out New York Tandon School of Engineering’s exclusive Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Program.
By Tanish Pradhan
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