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A seat at the power table: The new role of the CISO

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By Saugat Sindhu, Senior Partner and Global Head, Advisory Services, Wipro Ltd

In the evolving cybersecurity landscape, GenAI emerges as a double-edged sword: bolstering threat detection and response yet inviting risks like data breaches and AI-targeted attacks. With the rise of shadow AI, unauthorised tech usage in workplaces, the Chief Information Security Officer’s role becomes crucial in guiding and protecting the organisation against these sophisticated threats grows ever more critical.

Threats, challenges, and the need for vigilance

Organisations must build resilience into their business processes to withstand and recover from cyber incidents. The numerous challenges that arise with AI require a comprehensive strategy integrating robust regulatory compliance, data privacy measures, and strong AI governance. Addressing this necessitates the CISO’s involvement in strategic planning and risk management at the highest levels of the organisation.

The CISO’s role has transcended beyond traditional IT security to become crucial in corporate governance and here’s why the CISO should have a permanent seat at the boardroom table:

Awareness building for strategic decisions: They translate technical risks into business terms, helping board members understand the financial, reputational, and operational impacts of technology / cyber threats. This awareness is crucial for informed investments and strategic decisions.

Regulatory compliance: They keep themselves updated with evolving regulations and ensure that the organisation adheres to laws and standards, mitigating legal risks and avoiding penalties.

Risk management: They identify, assess, and alleviate cyber risks, integrating these efforts into the overall corporate risk management framework. Effective risk management includes not only preventing breaches but also preparing for and responding to incidents to minimize damage and recovery time.

Building cybersecurity awareness among employees

CISOs must cultivate a security-conscious culture across the organisation. Traditional annual training sessions are no longer sufficient.

Effective strategies could include:

Interactive training programs: Engaging employees through gamified learning and scenario-based exercises. These interactive methods make training more engaging and memorable, increasing the likelihood that employees will retain the information and apply it in their daily activities.

Leadership engagement: Top executives actively participating in cybersecurity initiatives to set an example. When employees see that cybersecurity is a priority for leadership, they are more likely to take it seriously and follow best practices.

Continuous education: Regular updates and refresher courses to keep employees informed about the latest threats and best practices.

Expanding responsibilities of the CISO

Beyond the boardroom, CISOs play a pivotal role as they are responsible for:

Incident response: Developing and implementing strategies for responding to and recovering from security breaches. This includes having a well-defined incident response plan and conducting regular drills to ensure preparedness.

Vendor management: Ensuring that third-party vendors adhere to the organisation’s security standards. Supply Chain security is a significant concern, as breaches can occur through vulnerabilities in vendors’ systems.

Data governance: Implementing policies and procedures to ensure the proper handling of data, including data classification, storage, and disposal. This is crucial for protecting sensitive information and maintaining regulatory compliance.

Looking ahead: The future of cybersecurity

As we look to the future, the role of the CISO will continue to expand, with new roles like the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) emerging to work alongside CISOs. This collaboration ensures a comprehensive approach to risk management, integrating cybersecurity with broader business risks. In Fortune 100 and Fortune 50 companies, this trend is already visible, with CISOs and CROs jointly providing an integrated view of organisational risks.

Generative AI will play a central role in shaping the future of cybersecurity. Its ability to recognize patterns, make decisions based on data, and identify false positives will enhance threat detection and response capabilities. However, the potential for misuse and misinformation necessitates strong governance and regulatory oversight. Organisations must establish clear guidelines and controls to ensure that AI technologies are used responsibly and ethically.

Conclusion

The integration of GenAI into business processes heralds a new era in cybersecurity, one that requires vigilant oversight and innovative strategies. The CISO’s presence in the boardroom is essential for aligning Cybersecurity with business objectives, ensuring regulatory compliance, and fostering a culture of security awareness. As cybersecurity threats evolve, so must the strategies to counter them, underscoring the importance of dedicated and proactive Cybersecurity leadership at the highest levels of an organisation. The collaboration between CISOs and emerging roles like the CRO will be crucial in providing a comprehensive and integrated view of risks, ensuring that organisations are well-prepared to face the challenges of the future.

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