Leading an Effective Security Program
January 31, 2021
25 min read
We’ve written previously about a CISO’s roles within an organization, and one of them is making informed security decisions with executive leadership and stakeholders. A CISO needs data and foresight to determine how to approach risks that should be addressed, and the best ways to mitigate them.
An effective security program is the key to helping a CISO — and the entire team — make informed decisions about their current state.
The CISO’s Role in a Security Program
A security program is a system of policies and procedures put in place to protect sensitive data, as well as evaluating applicable risks and the potential impact these risks and vulnerabilities might have on the organization in the event of their exploitation.
An effective cyber security program should also include various measurement activities to evaluate how efficiently the security program itself is performing these tasks.
The security team is tasked with implementing, managing, and executing each of the activities in this system with specific roles leading specific program areas.
The CISO is the leader of the security program — their role is to understand what’s going on in the security program and how it fits into the bigger picture of the organization.
Other members of a security team include the security architect, who leads the construction and deployment of the network’s security and the associated tools and solutions used throughout the organization.
Security engineers might be responsible for the configuration and management of preventive and detective technologies within the organization. Security analysts might work with the team to evaluate the performance of the current security program to determine any areas that need changes in anticipation of any new regulatory requirements or threats.
An effective CISO bridges the gap between these security roles and the business side of the organization. CISOs advocate for security projects to key decision makers and prioritizes those projects that address critical risks and vulnerabilities according to organizational goals, as well as those that address any newly identified threats.
Measuring and Understanding Risks to Make Decisions
The security program not only protects an organization from applicable threats, but it also provides insight and visibility into the current state of the environment. This is valuable to understanding any existing risks and vulnerabilities.
Regular measurement of the security program itself will also identify potential gaps in policies and processes, highlighting areas of non-compliance for improvement or remediation.
Threats to an organization’s security could come from a number of things, from employees failing to lock their work laptops while traveling or staff not properly handling credit card numbers while using a point-of-sale system.
Measuring a security program’s performance will highlight each of these risks before they’re exploited. This gives the organization the opportunity to address them strategically through updated policies, processes, or technology.
A CISO’s role is one that encompasses many tasks and responsibilities. Building and leading a security program that identifies potential threats and measures them is only part of the task at hand.
CISOs need to be ready to gather and analyze the data that comes from a security program to be able to make informed decisions about security and the impact it has on the organization’s big picture. From there, they need to be ready to communicate findings succinctly with the board and other decision-makers to decide on and execute projects to continue improving the organization’s security program.