Cybersecurity implementation remains a top challenge among organizations in 2019. Cyberattacks, both domestically and globally, are on the rise.
Data breaches involving personal information, bank records, and credit card numbers continue to be a source of critical concern in business and government. As a result, the demand for chief information security officers (CISOs) continues to grow.
Being a CISO requires a wide range of IT experience, education, strong leadership and communication skills.
If you want to know how to become a CISO, there are some critical steps you can take to align your résumé with the security skills and experience companies are actively seeking out.
What Is a CISO?
A CISO is a C-level executive who manages information security in an organization. This role is responsible for ensuring all IT technology and information assets are adequately protected and in line with company goals.
The day-to-day duties of a chief information security officer vary widely depending on the company and organizational structure. Responsibilities can include:
Hiring and managing security and IT professionals
Collaborating across multiple departments to develop and maintain a secure IT infrastructure
Working with executive teams to create strategic IT security plans
Leading the development of information security solutions
Managing cybersecurity incidents from the initial response to resolution
Leading employee education programs
Planning, monitoring and forecasting security budgets
Overseeing software launches and upgrades
Establishing a process for onboarding remote workers
Ensuring network upgrades and significant IT projects proceed without disabling or compromising security
A true CISO focuses exclusively on security, but the lines between a chief information security officer and a chief information officer (CIO) can blur across organizations.
Top CISO Skills
The CISO role goes beyond expertise in information security. It relates technology and security needs to the overall vision and business goals of an organization.
While the daily role varies, skills for this position fall into three distinct areas:
1. Risk and Compliance Management
Organizations rely on a wide range of applications, tools, third-party vendors and managed security services to automate and alleviate their work processes.
The IT security landscape is no longer contained within an organization. It incorporates a broad network of vendors, partners, remote workers, tools and processes that present new security challenges and make risk management a critical skill set for CISOs.
CISOs need to fully understand the flow of all data within their organization and must define and manage security policies to protect against information loss, damage, harm or theft.
Need to sharpen your skill set in risk management? Check out related training courses from New Horizons.
Compliance is another key focus area for chief information security officers. They are expected to keep up with changing industry regulations, such as FINRA, HIPAA and PCI, and also ensure their policies and data practices are compliant.
Compliance-related issues that organizations face also include personal mobile device management, software and patch management, GDPR and the Internet of Things (IoT). These tasks could also fall under the watch of the CISO.
2. Technical IT Expertise
CISOs need to be well-versed in managing complex IT architecture. Although they may not be involved in the daily execution, they regularly oversee a wide range of IT operational tasks including vulnerability scans, penetration tests and web application security assessments.
Some of the top technical skills requested by employers include:
Security architecture development
Mobile and remote device management
Disaster recovery planning
Network security and firewall management
Crisis response and remediation
Application and database security
Data and information management (classification, retention and destruction)
3. Communication and Leadership Skills
A CISO is one of the most visible IT positions in an organization. CISOs must work closely with operations teams, designers and developers to achieve security objectives.
The influence of a chief information security officer also extends beyond technical teams. They must be comfortable addressing fellow executives, employees, shareholders, investors and security professionals. Strong communication skills are a critical component of this role.
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Rising salaries and demand for CISOs underpin the integral role they play in modern organizations. The median CISO salary in the U.S. is above $158,000, according to PayScale.
The employment outlook for this industry continues to be promising. By one estimate, there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings by 2021.
How to Become a CISO
Becoming a CISO isn’t a linear path. But there are several steps you can take to help you cultivate the skill set needed to prepare you for a CISO role.
Step 1. Obtain Your Bachelor’s Degree
CISO education requirements generally include earning a bachelor’s degree. Select a degree in computer science, information technology, business or a related field.
Step 2. Get IT Security Experience
On average, the CISO role requires 7-10 years of progressive IT security experience. Jobs in programming, information security, risk management and government are all great building blocks for CISO positions. Roles as security analysts, ethical hackers and security architects are also ideal for aspiring CISOs.
Step 3. Complete IT Security Certifications and Training
There isn’t one particular CISO certification that will ultimately qualify you for this role. However, investing in security-focused IT certifications and training programs demonstrates your commitment to the field and helps sharpen your IT acumen. Here are a few relevant cybersecurity certifications to earn:
Certified Authorization Professional (CAP)
The CAP certification proves you have the abilities and skills required to authorize and maintain information systems.
Earning a CAP certification equips you to secure information systems and minimize exposure to potential risk, damages or assets. It’s geared toward IT, information security and information assurance practitioners who use the Risk Management Framework (RMF) in government, military or private sector organizations.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
The CISSP is a globally recognized information security certification that covers the technical skills to implement and manage a security program. It’s an ideal certification for security auditors, architects, system engineers and CISOs. Candidates can follow this certification with a management, security architecture or systems engineering specialization.
Step 4. Build Your Management Experience
The majority of CISO positions require extensive management experience. Once you’ve established a foundational IT security background, seek managerial IT positions overseeing security teams.
Earn Your CISO Certification With New Horizons
Becoming a chief information security officer requires a unique blend of IT and leadership skills. As a worldwide leading training center, New Horizons has the technical and leadership courses you need to prepare you for a fulfilling, long-term career. Whether you’re just starting your IT security career or want to hone your skills, New Horizons has the courses to help you achieve your objectives.
Advance your career today with leadership and cybersecurity courses from New Horizons.