CISOs Still Frozen Out of the Boardroom

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Cybersecurity is now front and center on organizations’ boardroom agendas (and budgets), but staffing shortages and lack of expertise persists, and most chief information security officers (CISOs) have yet to earn a seat at the table.

According to a study by ISACA and RSA Conference, 82% of cybersecurity and information security professionals polled in the survey report that their board of directors is concerned or very concerned about cybersecurity, but only one in seven (14%) CISOs reports to the CEO.

This gap between belief and actions at the highest levels of management is playing out in an environment where 74% of security professionals expect a cyber-attack in 2016 and 30% experience phishing attacks every day, according to the ISACA/RSA Conference State of Cybersecurity study.

“While there are signs that C-level executives increasingly understand the importance of cybersecurity, there are still opportunities for improvement,” said Jennifer Lawinski, editor-in-chief, RSA Conference. “The majority of CISOs still report to CIOs, which shows cybersecurity is viewed as a technical rather than business issue. This survey highlights the discrepancy to provide an opportunity for growth for the infosec community in the future.”

Worryingly, the survey also highlighted a marked lack of situational awareness for professionals who report that cybersecurity or information security is their primary role. The past year saw a 12-point drop in the percentage of security professionals who are confident in their team’s ability to detect and respond to incidents, dipping to 75% from 87% in 2014 to 75% in 2015.

More specifically, about a quarter (24%) said that they did not know if any user credentials were stolen in 2015—the same percentage also didn’t know which threat actors exploited their organizations. Keeping with the theme, 23% did not know whether their organization had experienced an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack, and a fifth (20%) didn’t know whether any corporate assets were hijacked for botnet use.

Most of this lack of threat intelligence can be traced back to the oft-reported, persistent cybersecurity skills gap.

Among the three-quarters that said they had some confidence in the team, six in 10 still don’t believe their staff can handle anything beyond simple cybersecurity incidents.

In addition, the number who say that fewer than half of job candidates were considered “qualified upon hire” has risen from 50% to 59% in a year. And, more than a quarter (26%) need six months to fill a cybersecurity position, up three points from 2014.

 “The lack of confidence in current cybersecurity skill levels shows that conventional approaches to training are lacking,” said Ron Hale, chief knowledge officer of ISACA. “Hands-on, skills-based training is critical to closing the cybersecurity skills gap and effectively developing a strong cyber workforce.”

There was one bright spot: Most organizations expect to spend some money on the issue going forward. Among those surveyed, 61% expect their cybersecurity budget to increase in 2016, and 75% say their organization’s cybersecurity strategy now aligns to enterprise objectives.

This is especially apropos given two emerging industry trends: artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things. Rather than viewing deep-thinking machines as their ally in detecting and combatting cyberattacks, respondents believe that AI will increase risk in both the short (42%) and long (62%) term. Less surprising was that more than half (53%) of respondents are concerned or very concerned that IoT will expand attack surfaces further and exacerbate cyber-risk.

Photo © LeoWolfert

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