6 skills that make a great CISO

We take a look at the CISO’s responsibilities and what it takes to be a great CISO.
We take a look at the CISO’s responsibilities and what it takes to be a great CISO.

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In the past, a Chief Information Security Officer’s main responsibilities have been defined as looking after a company’s information and data security. However, in 2021, their responsibilities extend beyond dealing with firewalls and antivirus software.

A CISO focuses on understanding the security challenges in the current and future state of a business’s operations. They must also prepare the organization with the right tools, skills, resources, relationships, and capabilities against growing information security risks. Instead of waiting for a data breach or security incident, an organization tasks the CISO with predicting new threats and actively working to prevent them from occurring.

So, what does a CISO do today? 

Let’s go through some of the responsibilities they will need to undertake to ensure their companies remain safe.

1. CISO’s need to overlook all security operations. 

Throughout the day, a CISO will have access to real-time analysis of immediate threats. They will need to have a triage plan for when something goes wrong, and have people ready as soon as they need to respond.

2. Remain abreast of security threats that may occur during the day. 

Board members must understand the potential security problems that may arise, and it is the CISO’s responsibility to ensure that they have all of the details they need to make big business decisions if required.

3. A CISO must also spearhead the company’s IT security hardware

CISOs do this by planning, buying and rolling out security software and hardware throughout the business. In addition, the company’s IT and network structure need to be designed with best security practices in mind. 

4. Ensure regular audits

CISOs need to implement new programmes and run regular checks to ensure no holes that cybercriminals can compromise. As part of this, existing IT infrastructure must be audited and assessed for any security risks.  

5. identifying the source of a breach

If there is a security breach, CISO’s need to determine how it happened, how to deal with it, find out who was responsible for it and plan to avoid similar breaches. 

6. Staff training 

All IT staff or other IT security personnel need to be trained and up to date with all security processes and must be ready to attend to a security risk as it is happening.

7. Monitor identity and access management

A CISO must check on identity and access management every day to ensure no unauthorized staff members or unknowns access restricted data and systems. Internal staff can be a great security risk for any company. Due to this, a CISO needs to monitor staff regularly to prevent situations where an employee goes rogue due to internal disputes, studying and identifying suspicious behaviour, and providing a fair work environment for everyone.

8. Staff management

CISO’s are also responsible for hiring IT personnel, creating necessary policy direction to protect the company from emerging threats, and directly managing senior IT team leaders.

9. Physical security

If a CISO’s job wasn’t hard enough already, a CISO’s job is not limited to IT-based security; they are also responsible for ensuring that companies’ offices and properties are safe from physical security threats and invasions. 

According to IDG’s 2020 Security Priorities Study, 42% of top security executives say they have had physical security duties added to their plate in the past three years. Another 18% expect to take on that role within the next 12 months.

10. International responsibilities

CISO’s of international companies such as Total and BP need to ensure a strategy to protect their business and employees worldwide. Furthermore, this strategy needs to be ready and waiting should a potential threat either starts or is imminent.

The skills that make an excellent CISO

Now that we know what responsibilities a CISO has let’s go into what skills a CISO needs to succeed in 2021.

1. A CISO needs great communication and presentation skills. 

This helps them interact with staff, management, and board members in an effective manner. They will also be able to gain trust with all internal departments. One of the most important skills a CISO needs is to articulate IT security and technical issues in an easy-to-understand, non-threatening manner to non-technical employees and management.

2. Exceptional planning skills

On top of having great communication and presentation skills, a CISO will need financial, planning, and strategic management skills to ensure all requirements are in place to ensure the company is safe from attacks. Every department within a company needs finance to move forward with their ideas; a CISO is no different. To get the software and programmes to protect a company, the CISO needs to show how they will use the money through planning and implement each aspect.

3. Remain on top of policy changes

CISOs need to understand policy development and the current and upcoming legislation that the government will be enforcing. By knowing policy development, a CISO can contribute to the policy-making process that the company will put together. The CISO will research, analyze the data, implement critical thinking, and present their proposed policy or changes to policies to either government or the board. In addition, by understanding the government and the legislations, regulations and standards that are in place for specific industries and security requirements, CISO’s can ensure that their company is always complying and updating as they go.

4. A leader that can be a team player

Another skill that a CISO will need to be successful is to have collaboration expertise. Collaboration helps a CISO to open new channels of communication with internal employees as well as other companies. A CISO can help bring people together to learn more from each other and solve problems together by having good collaboration. In addition, by having more open and engaging communications, the organization’s morale will improve, fostering more efficient employees.

5. Excellent supervision skills

To be an effective leader, a CISO needs to have great supervision skills. Once again, good communication is essential to being a good supervisor. In addition, having good supervision skills means that the CISO will have the following skills; conflict management, critical thinking, time management, sense of priority, sense of diversity, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, good mentorship and willingness to learn.

6. Incident management skills

When something goes wrong, CISO’s need incident management skills to provide immediate support by triaging the situation, assessing the impact of the incident, diagnosing the problem, and collecting data on it; finally, they will be able to provide a solution to fix the problem.


An increasingly popular position

In closing, not every company has a CISO; however, having a CISO is gaining popularity to protect against information security risks. No matter how big or small a company is, a CISO has a massive task ahead of them every day to ensure they are safe from online and physical attacks.

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Amber Donovan-Stevens

Amber is a Content Editor at Top Business Tech

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