CISO Top Roles and Responsibilities [Checklist included]

Many people mistakenly think a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) is simply the head of technical security operations – sort of like an IT manager – and that’s the extent of their role. The truth is that while CISOs must be tech-savvy, their responsibilities demand much more.

They must be excellent communicators and leaders, as well as incredibly good at understanding the big picture.

We’ll explore some of the top responsibilities that belong to an organization’s CISO and discuss how an information security program can help.

Legal Compliance Translator

A CISO’s duties are about more than simply eliminating threats that could be dangerous or inconvenient for the organization itself. They’re also charged with ensuring that the organization is in compliance with legal requirements that internal counsel or compliance deem applicable to the environment.

Whether it’s making sure all information handled by a medical organization is in compliance with HIPAA, or ensuring that use and storage of all credit card information is PCI-compliant, a CISO is key in keeping an organization from unintentionally running afoul of the law.

Ever-Alert for Security Threats

Part of a CISO’s responsibilities is building a team that will help assess existing threats, as well as identifying new potential threats. This will help determine what steps need to be taken to prevent data breaches, theft, viruses, and other threats to an organization’s assets, as well as employee and client information.

Effective Communicator Between IT Operations and Leadership

It’s key that a CISO have excellent communication skills. One of their biggest roles will be as a liaison between the technical operations side of the organization and the leaders who steer the business itself.

When a CISO identifies an investment need to be made in order to prevent a threat, it’s important that they be able to effectively communicate – in business terms – how this threat may affect the big picture and the organization’s bottom line.

Usually, business leaders don’t know technical-speak and IT specialists in an organization don’t know how to address the business side of things. A CISO must be able to move fluidly between the two worlds and speak both languages.

Help Train Employees and Implement Policies

Threat-reduction strategies are only effective if they're put into consistent use. In order for this to happen, a CISO needs the entire team on board.

This means all employees need to help implement policies that will reduce threats and improve security. It could mean properly password-protecting their work laptops if they remove them from the office, or knowing what patient information is protected under medical privacy laws.

A CISO's task is to help all employees clearly understand why certain policies are in place, as well as helping to train them in information security and to use any new software or devices that are necessary to ensure security and legal compliance.

How Does an Information Security Program Support a CISO with Their Role & Responsibilities?

An information security program involves layers of procedures and policies that are put in place to protect an organization from various security threats. Instead of playing catch up after an incident or a breach has already occurred, security programs are designed to mitigate threats before they become real problems.

A CISO can’t design and implement an information security program alone. Instead, they need their entire team to work together – from the members of the CISO’s security group and the business leaders who design and approve procedures and policies to employees who work to adhere to them for the benefit and well-being of the organization.