Not every organization needs a dedicated CISO in-house, but all companies need Information Security to protect their digital assets and manage risk exposure.
This is easier said than done, however, especially in a competitive job market where experienced and educated information security professionals are hard to find and expensive. Who will communicate an information security strategy at the board level or within the C-suite at your company? For large enterprises, it’s feasible to hire a full-time Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to fulfill these responsibilities, but at smaller companies, there’s not always the budget or even the need for a full-time executive. Yet without a leader, someone who can take ownership of the organization’s security strategy, it’s likely that the program will falter, or worse, never take shape.
There are several telltale signs that reveal when an organization needs a professional strategic advisor. Below are some, but not all, of the traits exhibited by an organization struggling with security leadership:
#1: Status and Direction Unknown
Without a dedicated security executive within the organization, no one is responsible to regularly keep management and the board informed about the status of material risk exposures that could harm the business, and what corresponding action plans are needed to manage cybersecurity risk. A CISO will build a strategic roadmap, advocate for the importance of setting strong security policies, define security requirements for business initiatives, and ensure that risks are appropriately managed. Without clear ownership and active planning for security, the business will remain in reactive mode and struggle to make meaningful progress with their information security program.
#2: Stalled Remediation Efforts
After a security incident such as a data breach or ransomware, or after a security assessment brings to light new security gaps, the organization knows what improvements are needed, but fails to get long-term traction on remediation. Open, stalled security issues are indicative of a lack of ownership or a failure in management to review, prioritize and remove roadblocks. An experienced CISO understands that incidents will happen, but that the organizational response must be swift, sustainable, and focused on treating root causes.
#3: Tools Galore
Organizations often fall into the “Tools Trap”; purchasing hardware and software to address security needs, but failing to establish policies, standards, and procedures for governing how the tools are to be utilized. Equally important is ensuring that staff members are properly trained so that the benefits of the toolset are realized by the organization. A seasoned security leader knows that implementing tools and failing to surround them with well-designed processes, trained individuals, and performance reporting is an ineffective use of company resources and can lead to a false sense of security.
Know When to Call in an Outside Expert to Provide Information Security Leadership
Today’s cyber risk landscape is inherently complex, and the most significant risks may not be readily apparent. This means it can be hard for organizations to understand when they need help or if an investment will be worthwhile. The benefit of having a trained leader on board is that they bring the immediate experience required to sort through complex risks, simplify them, and set an achievable course of activities to establish a suitable security program.
An effective CISO Advisory practice delivers a fractional team member who can work with your organization to build and run a comprehensive information security program or help your existing staff execute on their strategy and know what refinements to make along the way.