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Empowering the modern-day CISO to excel as a security culture influencer

Gaurav Deshpande, VP – International Business & Global Lead- Integrated Cyber Threat Management Practice, Inspira Enterprise

Gone are the days when cybersecurity leaders were regarded as only technical experts responsible for implementing cybersecurity technologies and managing defense systems.  As time went by, the role of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) was established but was considered the youngest member of the C-Suite whose voice was not taken very seriously.  In those days when cybersecurity did not impact business decisions, the CISO was not provided a place at the table during board meetings.

In today’s digital age, organizations are willingly embracing digital transformation as it empowers them to become more efficient and adapt to evolving market dynamics driving growth and competitiveness.  However, this has also unfortunately exposed businesses to cybersecurity challenges that need to be addressed urgently to ensure digital transformation is indeed sustainable long term.  As cyber threats are growing in scale and sophistication, leading to financial and reputational damages besides having regulatory consequences, organizations and boards of directors have begun to take cybersecurity seriously.  Here, it is the CISO who has the expertise to protect the organization’s digital assets in the increasingly complex digital landscape. With businesses across industry verticals suffering major data breaches, cybersecurity is the new business imperative and CISOs are increasingly being called upon by the C-Suite to offer insights and guidance on matters related to cybersecurity.

In addition to possessing strong, technical, business, and leadership skills, the CISO should have expertise in key areas which are elaborated on in this article if they have to excel as the champion of the security culture.

Integrating AI in Cybersecurity

CISOs should begin to recognize AI as a powerful tool for enhancing cyber defense, automating threat detection, and improving incident response and infrastructure security.  AI also aligns security efforts with business objectives in addition to delivering advanced threat protection.  With the enabling of fast detection and mitigating threats, business disruptions are brought down significantly safeguarding revenue streams and establishing business resilience.  By streamlining incident response activities, AI helps in reducing downtime and costs as well.  The potential of AI is humungous in real-time data processing which enables CISOs to foresee online behavioral patterns that provide an indication of cyber threats.  With the automation of routine tasks, AI enables security teams under the CISO to focus on more complex threats and improve efficiency as well as effectiveness.  As it has the ability to continuously learn and adapt, AI can identify anomalies human cybersecurity experts miss, enabling quick and more accurate threat hunting and threat detection.

CISOs should agree that integrating AI into cybersecurity is more than just defense as business growth and innovation are enabled too.

However, the adoption of AI in security is not without challenges.  The use of AI which involves processing huge amounts of data often raises concerns about data privacy.  AI algorithms can inherit biases from training data, potentially leading to inaccurate outcomes.  CISOs have to ensure the ethical use of AI and fairness in AI-driven decision-making.  Many a time AI can generate false positives, where the security teams could get overwhelmed.  Here CISOs have to reduce false alarms by finetuning AI models.  CISOs can successfully integrate AI into their cybersecurity strategies by proactively addressing the challenges.

New Regulations and Huge Penalties

The cybersecurity landscape is getting reshaped with governments recognizing the need to protect sensitive data and critical infrastructure.  Many regulatory bodies across the globe have set comprehensive data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.  Huge fines are imposed on organizations that fail to comply, highlighting the importance of security compliance and monitoring. The Personal Data Protection Bill in India articulates obligations and penalties as enforcement measures for tech majors, fintech, or entities handling and processing data.  The Schedule to the Bill specifies penalties such as Rs. 250 crore for failure to take security measures to prevent data breaches.  As huge penalties are associated with non-compliance, organizations have to assess their readiness and implement the guidelines accordingly.

CISOs have to take a multifaceted approach to comply with the new regulations.  They are compelled to put in place, robust data protection measures and stringent data handling practices.  They should also have a clear understanding of the complexities involved in each regulatory measure in addition to the ability to modify security strategies accordingly.

Staying compliant with new regulations is the top priority for CISOs as not only substantial fines are imposed, but the organization suffers reputational damage too.  CISOs should put efforts into collaborating with legal teams to understand the implications of the new regulations.  By doing so, they can develop cybersecurity strategies that align with legal requirements and protect their reputation and bottom line.

Influencing the C-Suite

CISOs could have been the only C-Level executives who were not able to measure their ROI, demonstrate the business value of the cybersecurity program and its business resilience, and present it to the Board.  They sometimes have a challenge in communicating the importance of cybersecurity that will resonate with the Board’s priorities of business continuity and protecting the organization’s reputation.  This can however be addressed by showcasing clear data and metrics that indicate the organization’s cybersecurity posture and the effectiveness of security initiatives.  CISOs should be able to quantify the potential cost savings from avoiding data breaches or regulatory fines by speaking the language of business while presenting the cyber defense strategy.

They should take the role of an educator and help Board Members have a grasp of the cybersecurity landscape and the required cybersecurity strategy. By demonstrating how the tailored strategy aligns with the broader business goals, can the CISO earn the trust of the C-Suite.  There should be a stress on the importance of cybersecurity culture within the organization by promoting security awareness and best practices across all levels. 

By mastering the art of influencing the Board Members, CISOs will be in a better position to advocate for a cybersecurity culture and protect the organization from the increasingly complex cybersecurity landscape.

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