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Risk Management for CISOs: Own Your Information Security Program

The CISO’s job is a leadership role that includes setting clear expectations and knowing how to meet them. 

On the surface, it’s easy to imagine the Chief Security Information Officer as an executive with just one job: preventing cyberattacks.  

However, this oversimplifies the role and its responsibilities. 

It’s true that preventing security incidents is one of the major goals that CISOs strive towards, but nobody can guarantee that outcome.  

The cybercrime industry is full of new, emerging, and unknown threats. CISOs must address these threats with limited budgets and incomplete data. The CISO’s actual role is less about preventing every attack and more about efficiently managing cybersecurity resources to develop a successful framework for managing cyber risk. 

This distinction is important because it accepts hard realities about the nature of information security itself. There are no silver bullets. No solution can prevent 100% of all cyberattack attempts. Part of the job description includes being prepared to mitigate the damage successful cyberattacks cause. 

Approaching the CISO role from a risk management perspective can subtly change the priorities that come along with it. Owning your information security program is the key to developing and maintaining a successful security posture. 

Reducing the Risk of Serious Attacks: Risk Management 

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Integrating Risk Management into the System Development Lifecycle 

Organizations are incredibly complex and dynamic entities. Almost every element of the modern enterprise undergoes near-constant change. Employees are changing positions internally while new ones are being onboarded. Developers are building, implementing, and updating software. Leaders are making strategic decisions and establishing relationships with vendors and partners of all kinds. 

Every single one of these activities introduces an element of risk into the organization’s infrastructure. Employee user account privileges must follow strict rules to avoid compromise. Developer updates must account for potential security vulnerabilities. Business partners must adhere to compliant security standards. 

Developing and implementing robust security policies is one of the primary responsibilities security leaders must perform. CISOs and their teams must dedicate time and energy to identifying business risks associated with the development and implementation of new systems. Each of the five phases of the system development lifecycle must receive support from risk management activities: 

  • Initiation. When the need for a new system is expressed, security leadership must take on a strategic role, conceptualizing how that system will fit into the existing security framework of the organization as a whole. 
  • Development or Acquisition. When new systems are being designed, purchased, or developed, security leaders must analyze the way that system’s architecture may impact the existing framework, and make decisions on trade-offs between the security and usability of the new system. 
  • Implementation. This stage presents numerous opportunities to identify and mitigate security risks prior to operating new systems in a live production environment. This environment should be modeled with scrutiny and care so that unforeseen vulnerabilities can be addressed early. 
  • Operation and Maintenance. Production systems should undergo periodic assessment and accreditation for their security performance in the context of the organization’s current security posture. This is especially true when major changes are made, either to the system itself or to the network it is a part of. 
  • Disposal. Discarded system components can contain a wealth of sensitive data on enterprise operations and personnel. This residual data must be handled appropriately, under the operational guidance of information security leadership. 

Information Security Risk Management Goes Beyond Technology 

While the CISO’s role is a technology-oriented one, cybercrime risks are not limited to technical exploits and zero-day vulnerabilities. Email phishing attacks are still one of the biggest risks enterprise organizations face, and social media impersonation attacks are on the rise. Many companies are unaware their executives’ identities are being spoofed on social media, presenting a significant business risk that firewalls and DNS filters aren’t equipped to mitigate. 

To manage information security risk effectively, CISOs need to look at the big picture. Enterprise security policies must address company culture, communication protocols, and even hiring practices. These are areas where technology plays a supporting role, behind human expertise and insight. 

Create a Ransomware-Ready Disaster Recovery Plan

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Gain Visibility and Control Over Your Security Posture 

Many CISOs inherit information security programs that are complex and difficult to change. These programs may be the result of years of ad-hoc security implementations performed on an as-needed basis. After all, most businesses do not start out with an executive-level security officer on board. 

As a result, security leaders may not even have visibility into how their security systems work on a granular basis. Streamlining a fragmented collection of technologies into a coherent whole is difficult enough – without visibility into the way technology and policy interact, the task is monumental. 

Castra is a managed detection and response vendor that provides unlimited visibility to security leaders. By leveraging our expertise in security information and event management solutions, CISOs can regain control of their security posture.


Be proactive about identifying and mitigating business risk with our help – contact a Castra specialist to find out more.