Multi-skilling CSOs keen to share learnings with peers

The increasing complexity of legislative and security-enforcement responsibilities is pushing increasingly multi-skilled CSOs to ask how they can share security best-practices with peers and even potential competitors, an IBM survey has found.

The 2013 IBM CISO Assessment report found that security executives are increasingly being called upon to function in business domains as effectively as they have traditionally functioned in the technical domain, with translation skills that allow them to jump between the two as changing business cases require.

This has seen a high level of CEO involvement, with 80 per cent of CSOs aware of their CEO's security concerns and 70 per cent developing their security strategies in conjunction with other business strategies.

Given the magnitude of the modern security threat, a growing proportion of CSOs recognise that the sharing of information has become an essential part of keeping up with that threat. However, IBM Institute for Advanced Security director Glen Gooding told CSO Australia that many struggle to do so given the traditionally secretive nature of security discussions and the potential repercussions for oversharing.

“One of the biggest issues raised in the survey was the ability for like-minded professionals, from the same industry or across industries, to share information from what they're seeing on the network,” Gooding explained.

“I'm having many conversations where CSOs are talking about how they can comfortably share information about what they're seeing on their network – with what is in some cases a direct competitor – without compromising the business integrity or the competitive nature of the two businesses.”

Such sharing has become essential in helping businesses avoid being isolated and attacked individually by outside malicious hackers, or even by disgruntled staff whose modus operandi often carries similar characteristics regardless of the type of company they're working in.

Gooding sees a potential role for the federal government and large corporations to drive this sharing by building a culture in which it is encouraged for the greater good. However, with the IBM CISO Assessment report indicating that less than half of CSOs actually do share information in this way, he said, a core priority has to be the promotion of such sharing.

“We are going to be better prepared, as a country, to protect ourselves from any external malicious activity if we can share information across industry,” he said. “It's not a financial services, not a critical infrastructure discussion.”

As well as improving communications within and between businesses, the IBM research found that CSOs face a growing burden to keep up with evolving security postures. Fully 39 per cent of respondents, for example, are planning to develop an enterprise bring your own device (BYOD) strategy but only 29 per cent have actually done so. And while 71 per cent of CSOs track the impact of security on the overall organisation, almost two-thirds of them do not translate those metrics into a financial impact.

Future efforts to improve this visibility will help define the CSO's role in years to come. Consolidation of multiple, disparate and poorly or non-connected systems will, in particular, be a key part of this – both in an operational sense, and because consistency and interoperability provides measurement capabilities that have long been lacking.

“In the future, the task of the CSO is going to be understanding a measurement strategy that they can push back to the business to potentially enable technology or platforms that allow the business to more readily act with the sense that it has a secure framework behind it,” Gooding said.

“Slowly but surely, security is becoming not-a-cost centre. Businesses have to look at it s a way of giving trust back to the organisation.”

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