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How to Become a Chief Information Security Officer

Do you have extraordinary analytical skills? Are you creative, have an extensive computer security background, and have excellent communication skills? If so you might be on track to become a chief security officer.

A chief security officer (CISO) is a company executive responsible for the security of an organization, including personnel, physical assets, and both physical and digital information. With the continued expansion of information technology, the role of the CISO has become even more important to combat hacking, ransomware, and data theft. CISOs create and oversee online safety protocols, implement risk management strategies, and respond to security incidents. Some tech companies may have a chief information security officer (CISO) instead of a CISO. This distinction reflects their focus on cybersecurity. CISOs are increasingly in demand for the specialized nature of their skill set.

Sample job description

Because of our deep commitment to satisfaction, [Your Company Name] is looking for an experienced chief security officer. The CISO supervises assigned personnel, including making and monitoring work assignments, evaluating performance, providing training, corrective instruction and assistance, and conducting security meetings as needed. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience developing and implementing strategic security programs and managing the security of personnel and both physical and digital assets. As a leader and trusted advisor, the CISO will work to advance the organization’s mission, vision and core values.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Implements and oversees strategies to assess and mitigate risk
  • Safeguards the corporation and its assets
  • Crisis management
  • Develops, implements, and maintains security processes and policies
  • Fosters a culture of physical and digital security awareness by conducting training sessions and communicating with personnel
  • Identifies and reduces risks
  • Limits liability and exposure to informational, physical, and financial risks
  • Ensures the organization is compliant with local, national, and global health, privacy, and safety regulations
  • Researches and executes security management solutions to help keep the organization safe
  • Works with management to develop and implement appropriate budgets for security programs

Education and experience

  • A bachelor’s degree in safety management, information technology systems, or a similar field
  • 3+ years of experience working as a security manager

Required skills and qualifications

  • Exceptional knowledge of state and federal information security laws
  • Proficiency in developing physical and digital security protocols and procedures
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Solid interpersonal skills
  • Excellent managerial and leadership skills
  • Strong knowledge of information management systems and cybersecurity
  • Ability to research and stay up to date with security trends and changing government and state laws

Preferred qualifications

  • Industry-related security certifications 
  • Master’s degree in cybersecurity
  • A diverse IT background

Typical work environment

The CISO typically works in an office environment. They might spend their day implementing new security strategies, developing and implementing new security processes and policies, or identifying and reducing security risks. They also meet with the CEO and other executives where they discuss security measures, compliance, risk management, budgeting, and more. They might also give presentations on security awareness as part of their day.

Typical hours

CISOs typically work during regular business hours, from 9 AM to 5 PM weekdays. They might be required to work evenings or weekends to implement new strategies or address security breaches or threats. 

Available certifications

Chief security officers work in a variety of industries, and many institutions offer certifications that can help CISOs expand their knowledge and advance their careers. Here are three of the most common certifications for CISOs:  

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Earning the CISSP is offered by (ISC)² and demonstrates that you have the skills and knowledge to effectively design, implement, and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program. The CISSP is ideal for experienced security professionals, managers, and executives who are looking to prove their knowledge across a wide array of security practices and principles. To become certified as a CISSP, you are required to have at least five years of full-time, paid work as a security analyst in two or more of the eight domains covered in the CISSP, such as cryptography and software development security. Certification requires an annual maintenance fee, and you must take the test every three years to remain certified.
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM). Administered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), The CISM certification proves your expertise in information security governance, program development and management, incident management, and risk management. To be eligible, you need to have 5+ years of experience in information security management. The course covers 4 main aspects of information security: governance, risk management, program development and management, and incident management. The CISM is valid for 3 years and must be renewed to maintain certification.
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). The CISA is recognized worldwide as the standard of achievement for professionals who audit, control, monitor, and assess an organization’s information technology and business systems. Offered by the ISACA, the CISA shows your competence in incorporating privacy by design into technology platforms, products, and processes. CISA certification requires 5+ years of experience in IS/IT audit, control, assurance, or security. Topics include system auditing process, IT management, and protection of information assets. 

Career path

The steps to becoming a chief information security officer begin with earning a bachelor’s degree in information security, computer science, information technology, data privacy, or a related technical field. Many CISOs hold business degrees, such as an MBA, which are useful for CISOs working in the corporate world. CISOs generally have gained 5 or more years of experience working with computers and working in environments where they are exposed to various physical, cybersecurity, or information security issues. To advance to the CSIO role, candidates have shown excellent leadership and management skills as well.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1212

2020 Employment141,200
Projected Employment in 2030189,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 33% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift47,100 increase

Cybersecurity is at the forefront of any organization these days. Cyberattacks are continuing to rise, and CISOs must be prepared to keep information secure and minimize security risks. Malicious insider attacks have become more of a threat with the large increase in remote work and employee uncertainty in their jobs, brought on by today’s constantly changing circumstances. As many of these employees have access to critical data, they are in prime positions to become insider threats. 

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have introduced tremendous growth in automation and innovation, but AI is also a mechanism for cyber attacks when used maliciously. AI-based cyberattacks, such as model corruption, and high-level social networking mapping are expected to grow in the future. 

Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is becoming the new norm in providing controlled access to resources and reducing the surface area network of an organization. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) technology is going to be an essential part of zero-trust implementations. This combination will become the standard in business transformation because it will offer full visibility, control, and enablement for a secure cloud transformation.