With more organizations turning to Information Technology solutions, security is becoming crucial. The Chief security officer (CSO) supports business operations by providing security to employees, physical assets, and data. All the protocols, policies, and frameworks needed to mitigate security threats are developed and managed by the CSO in collaboration with other stakeholders. Hiring CSOs is a rigorous process involving vetting candidates’ academic achievements, experiences, and attitudes. CSOs play critical roles in any organization providing both physical and logical security aimed at safeguarding assets and insuring business operations against disruptions.
The Objectives of a CSO to an Organization
The CSO occupies an integral position in the organizational structure with a mission of securing and auditing systems. In most companies, the security function is domiciled in the IT department. In such an arrangement, the CSO reports to Chief Information Officer (CIO), the person in charge of all the IT integrations. CIOs ensure that there is efficiency in information access to support business activities. They are in charge of data storage, retrieval, and movement within and outside the organization. In essence, the CIO controls information access, an objective that intertwines with the responsibilities of the CSO. The CSOs goal is to ensure that the data in storage or transit is secure to preserve its integrity (Whitman & Mattord, 2018). CSOs achieve this objective through active monitoring and regular auditing. It is from this backdrop that many organizations place CSOs under the CIO. However, there is a paradigm shift in IT security practice where the security function is now being considered an independent entity. The separation helps avoid a conflict of interest that arises from the differing objectives of the CIOs and CSOs, thus promoting efficiency in security protection.
The Roles of a CSO
The CSO is the overall security custodian of the organization but has specifically defined roles. The CSO is the general overseer of all the security issues in a company. Security from an industry perspective is broad and entails personnel and assets. The CSO has the responsibility of keeping all the employees safe from hazards. The hazards can arise from physical threats, electrical faults, and even the risk of falling to architectural mistakes. These threats affect the personnel, and it is the role of the security department to mitigate these risks. Other than protecting people, CSOs have an active role in safeguarding business assets, including buildings, computers, and information. These assets should be protected from such physical threats as floods, theft, and earthquakes. Assets like servers store critical information crucial for business continuity, and it is the CSO develops measures against identified vulnerabilities. With the adoption of cloud computing by businesses, one of the significant responsibilities CSOs have is to wade off cyber-attacks. Therefore, the CSO plays a holistic role in protecting staff physical and digital assets of an organization.
One way a CSO guarantees security to company assets and personnel is by drafting policies. Information security policies provide the necessary blueprint from where all the security functions are implemented (Whitman & Mattord, 2018, p. 588). For instance, a CSO will set access control policies to protect systems that hold critical data. A regular end user should not have the same rights and privileges as a CIO or a CEO to data stores. The CSO can also draft policies that guide employees on safe surfing. There are many risks online, and employees could click suspicious links that introduce malware to company infrastructure. A policy on how to safely use the internet and other media is necessary to mitigate such issues. Most CSOs are currently limiting the use of external storage devices like flash disks to avoid offline viruses. Other policies that CSOs draft touch on how to create strong passwords and the need not to share authentication details. Policies guide, direct, control, and bind personnel to the overall security objective. They reduce errors of commission or omission hence promoting a more secure environment for business operations and personnel.
Another essential role of the CSO is auditing company systems, eliminating vulnerabilities, and proactively building defense mechanisms against future threats. It is important to underscore that no system is foolproof. There is a need for regular checks for faults to eliminate a possible downtime. IT systems are vulnerable to online adversaries such as hackers and other cyber-attacks (Saban et al., 2021). Hackers exploit security holes or weaknesses in systems to launch successful attacks that compromise system confidentiality, integrity, and availability. One way to reduce the risks of successful attacks is to carry out audits. Auditing IT infrastructure and policies can reveal weaknesses that would inform proper security measures to remedy the vulnerabilities. Some of the actions taken against threats revealed by audits include software or hardware upgrades and system patches. It is important to note that auditing ranks high in priority for all CSOs. The process helps not only helps in identifying vulnerabilities but also in developing mitigating measures. Therefore, CSOs carry out audits as a major security role to discover breaches and also to build preventive mechanism.
CSOs also play a primary role in drawing backup and disaster recovery strategies. There are times when security breaches happen, and the scale of damage is huge. Such security breaches could lead to data losses which could threaten business continuity. Planning ahead is vital to avert such a crisis, and it is the CSO that guides the process through backups and disaster recovery plans. Backing up information provides a safety net to a company in case of severe security breaches and disasters arising from natural disasters. Other than policymaking, it is the responsibility of the CSO to make decisions on how often backups should be done in the organization. In addition, they are responsible for developing and reviewing recovery plans. For instance, if a hacker succeeds in destroying data, an organization would need not worry since the CSO would restore all its operations from the last backup. Other important roles of the CSO include budget making, collaborating with other staff on security issues, and being the official spokesperson in security matters. These roles performed by the CSO are critical to business continuity.
Hiring and Qualifications
As security threats increase, every organization finds it necessary to hire in-house CSOs. Because the role is new, the qualifications as still broad and unclear. Quite often, organizations prefer individuals with a security-related degree. Computer Science, Information Technology, military science, and criminology graduates are top considerations for most companies. However, a new crop of cybersecurity experts is joining the labor market as more institutions align their training to industry demands. Other than academic qualifications, experience is another important consideration when hiring a CSO. Organizations require the ideal candidate to possess considerable industry security skills. In addition, legal knowledge is vital because security infrastructure and policies must conform to existing laws and legal provisions. The CSO’s personality matters and organizations want to hire individuals with the right attitude. Team players are preferred because security is a collaborative issue that calls a holistic approach (Whitman & Mattord, 2018, p. 586). It is also essential to pick a CSO with a proactive personality because security is evolving. Professional qualifications such as CISM are crucial qualifications for CSOs. Finally, the right CSO should possess knowledge in policymaking, budget preparation, and understanding of corporate operations.
Importance of CSO to an Organization
The importance of the CSO to an organization is tied to the essentiality of paying attention to information security. There is a need to secure the hardware, software, and physical assets directly related to data silos. The goal is to safeguard the integrity of the information through risk assessment in support of top management decisions (Kappers & Harrell, 2020). The person who ensures this objective is met is the CSO. It would be chaotic and disastrous to invest significantly in IT and fail to secure the systems. Drafting sound security policies and making the correct budgetary projections requires matching expertise. A company that ignores the role played by a CSO exposes its assets to risks, especially with the rise of threats. In addition, the CSO is instrumental in offering legal guidance to an organization concerning security issues. The interpretation of data protection laws requires a security expert. This will shield the company from avoidable legal battles that waste time and money. CSOs also train and protect employees on security matters. Employees have been identified as the weakest link in information security threats (Zuopeng et al., 2021). Thus, the importance of the CSO spans the protection of assets, legal support, and training of company staff on security safeguards.
Organization Expectations from CSOs
The high investment in security management comes with higher expectations from the CSO. A company would typically expect that the CSO implements the best security practices in line with emerging technologies. For instance, with the rise in the use of the Internet of Things (IoT), CSOs are expected to develop appropriate measures against the flaws of the technology. Business owners look forward to fewer disruptions to operations caused by security-related issues. Another expectation from CSOs is providing updated legal counsel to the company on how to handle information protected by law. Organizations have found themselves in court because of wrongly handling customer data. In addition, CSOs expected to align security strategies to the overall company strategic plans. The board of directors trusts that CSOs can integrate security measures to the long-range goals of the business. These expectations are sometimes unjustified, especially where the security function is left to the CSO alone. However, a holistic approach ensures that the CSO delivers according to the company expectations, thus the need for stakeholder collaboration.
In conclusion, the role of a CSO is integral to the operations of any organization. They are in charge of short, medium, and long-range security measures to protect staff physical and digital assets. CSOs draft policies that guide usage, storage, and retrieval of information and other essential assets. They also audit systems for threats and vulnerabilities and hence take appropriate actions. Other specialized roles of a CSO include budget making and acting as the spokesperson of the security function. Because of this critical role, companies often hire graduates with a solid background in security management. The overall objective of every CSO is to help an organization preserve the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of company information.
Kappers, W. M., & Harrell, N. (2020). From degree to chief information security officer (CISO): A framework for consideration. The Journal of Applied Business and Economics, 22(11), 260-288. Web.
Saban, K. A., Rau, S., & Wood, C. A. (2021). “SME executives’ perceptions and the information security preparedness model”. Information and Computer Security, 29(2), 263-282. Web.
Whitman, M. E., & Mattord, H. J. (2018). Principles of information security (6th Ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Zuopeng (Justin) Zhang, Wu, H., Li, W., & Abdous, M. (2021). Cybersecurity awareness training programs: A cost–benefit analysis framework. Industrial management & data systems, 121(3), 613-636. Web.