How to be a CISO: A Quick-Start Guide
Last Updated : 21 Apr, 2023
Around 2,200 cyber-attacks are launched per day — that’s every 39 seconds! (Source: getastra.com)
The numbers are high, and so are the risks. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest concerns for businesses and organisations in the contemporary tech-driven world. Put simply, while the rising adoption of IT solutions and technologies is making operations more advanced, it’s also opening up more avenues for cyber-attacks and threats.
Businesses need to adopt a powerful cybersecurity infrastructure to safeguard their critical data, including passwords, customer details, confidential product information, etc. And, a specialised security infrastructure demands a specialised security professional, such as CISO (chief information security officer) – for managing, maintaining, and implementing these measures.
Who is a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer)?
CISOs are C-Suite Executives who are endowed with the responsibility of framing and implementing cybersecurity initiatives to protect an enterprise from complex cyber attacks. These professionals often work alongside a Chief Information Officer (CIO) to safeguard data assets and monitor as well as maintain the safety of applications. CISOs also take care of disaster recovery of lost data.
CISOs are often referred to as the security manager, the Chief Security Architect, or the Information Security Manager, depending on the existing titles and structure within the company.
Why Are CISOs in Demand?
According to Garter’s CISO for Digital Business, close to 88% of businesses “say they recognize cybersecurity is a risk to the business” (Source: gartner.com). Earlier, IT security was handled by other senior IT leaders within the organisation. These executives collaborated with cyber security experts in the IT team to create a 360° digital defence. But we need more specialised support now.
Cybercrime continued to create havoc in 2022. In India alone, 16 lakh cybercrime incidents have been recorded in the previous year (Souce: aninews.in). During the pandemic, close to INR 29.01 crores were lost to cybercrimes. Worse, cybercrime incidents are not only increasing in number but also in scale. Hackers and cyber attackers are more advanced now- as of 2023, cyber attacks need a more sophisticated line of defence. Thus, there is a growing demand for specialised cybersecurity experts like Chief Information Security Officers or CISOs.
Regarding the package, the CISO salary in India is quite high. These security specialists usually earn an average of INR 35.7 LPA (AmbitionBox, 2022). However, the remuneration can vary, depending on the company’s size and the job’s nature.
What Does a CISO Do?
CISO professionals are primarily responsible for optimising the protection of data assets from hackers. They also shoulder the task of framing security strategy for an organisation for regulatory compliance.
But the role of a CISO is gradually evolving as the cybersecurity landscape becomes more technical and complex.
Key Responsibilities for a CISO Professional:
- Developing security infrastructure for their organisation
- Handling risk management
- Supporting business strategy and recommending relevant cybersecurity measures to run them
- Researching and approving technology investment for the company
- Supervise regulatory compliance
- Run and supervise cybersecurity awareness and training for existing and new employees
Skills and Experience
Since CISOs manage and manoeuvre resources to protect the organisation’s critical assets, they must possess a deeper knowledge of IT security and experience in risk management and leadership skills. Also, those who hold experience in auditing would have a better edge in the market.
Here is a breakdown of relevant skills recruiters look for in a CISO
CISOs should be well-versed in managing complex IT architecture. These executives need to regularly oversee the entire IT operational tasks, starting with vulnerability scans and penetration tests to web application security assessments. The key technical skills that recruiters want in CISOs are
- Disaster recovery planning
- Crisis response and remediation
- Data and information management
- Security architecture development
2. Risk and compliance management
CISOs are responsible for locating as well as mitigating potential cybersecurity risks of an organisation. Thus, when a business is hiring a CISO, the employer looks for professionals who hold expertise in risk management. CISO designations also demand skills in compliance management.
3. Communication and leadership qualities
CISOs need to work in collaboration with CIOs and other related professionals. Senior CISOs often have to lead a team of security professionals, especially if it’s a large corporate organisation. Thus, employers also look for strong communication skills and leadership qualities while hiring CISOs.
Education and Qualification
Although not mandatory, these executives usually come with bachelor’s degrees ideally in
computer science, computer administration, information security or business development with foundational cybersecurity skills and knowledge. These programs assist graduates to pursue an entry-level cybersecurity security position and build a future position in CISO-based roles. For C-suite executives such as CISOs, additional education is often expected. A master’s degree in the infosec domain is always appreciated in the corporate ladder.
Certifications and Courses
Cybersecurity certifications demonstrate a candidate’s in-depth understanding of cybersecurity principles and management experience. When it comes to hiring CISOs, employers majorly prefer certain credentials such as EC-Council’s CISO certification or CISM certification by ISACA. But these are advanced-level CISO training courses you can pursue after completing the fundamentals or entry-level courses in cybersecurity.
Ideally, professionals transitioning into cybersecurity roles need to enhance their skills with foundational cybersecurity certifications. Someone starting with cybersecurity can always begin with Certification In Ethical Hacking or Cybersecurity Essentials. These certifications validate the IT operational and technical support skills of the professionals and can come in handy during day-to-day operations.
The majority of employers need CISO job applicants to hold advanced degrees in cybersecurity coupled with in-depth experience in IT. Most often, certifications like Pentesting for Security Engineer and Advance Penetration Testing offer training opportunities and certifications for learners aspiring for these C-suite roles. These advanced degrees qualify learners to earn higher wages and reduce the experience requirements for CISO positions.
Also, certifications may require regular renewals. Many companies prefer professionals with a zeal for learning and upskilling. Individuals who regularly work on skill-building always have better chances of employment.
Career Path and Advancement
The CISO career path could be different based on the organisation’s internal hierarchy. For some CISO roles could be a terminal career, while for others it could be a stepping stone to other executive roles. But corporations often expect candidates, aspiring to rise through the ranks, to bring additional experience and training to the table. Often CISOs with strong cybersecurity know-how find CEO roles more accessible in tech-based industries.
6-Steps Career Roadmap for CISO
- Acquire a bachelor’s degree
- Complete an internship
- Gain entry-level experience
- Develop cybersecurity experience
- Obtain management experience
- Pursue professional certifications
A CISO is a senior-level role, responsible for running and implementing cybersecurity initiatives to protect an enterprise from internal and external threats. With a high salary and entry to the elite C-suite club, this role could be a stepping stone towards bigger and more important leadership roles.
But there are no shortcuts to attaining the esteemed designation of a CISO. An aspiring CISO professional has to go through consistent learning and skill development to upskill as s/he progresses in his/her career. Alongside this, relevant industry-recognised certification would add a higher competitive edge to your resume and nudge your career in the right direction.
Do you have it in you to become a CISO? DataSpace Academy could help you in your pursuit.