Chief information security officers (CISOs) have plenty to keep them awake at night. Security threats have more or less doubled in just the last year. Attacks are ongoing and constant — the state government of Michigan alone records a staggering 730,000 attempted attacks each day. And as new technologies evolve and go mainstream, the security challenges are growing, from the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile to the ongoing problems surrounding the human factor.
Fortunately for organizations, CISO strategies for overcoming these threats are also evolving. The power of encryption is being harnessed to safeguard data in every stage of its life cycle. Organizations in government and the private sector are coordinating to build security into the IoT from the start. Policy strategies for the mobile era are emerging and being implemented. Looking ahead to 2020, the CISO environment of tomorrow is coming into view.
A Changing Security World Means New CISO Strategies
Dan Lohrmann, former chief security officer (CSO) for the state of Michigan and current CSO of Security Mentor, outlined some of the key emerging elements of CISO strategies at Infosec Island.
The cloud is now pervasive, and it’s becoming more integral to business operations. CISOs have been uneasy about cloud security for the simple reason that they cannot fully control data in the cloud, but the advantages of cloud computing are too great to stand aside. And one basic security strategy is emerging as the key to protecting data both in and out of the cloud: encryption.
Data needs to be encrypted at all times. Security standards and frameworks such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and its British counterpart G-Cloud are providing access to cloud services that meet stringent security standards so CISOs can safeguard their data while leveraging the power of the cloud.
Unlike the cloud, the IoT is only just beginning to go mainstream, but its potential security challenges are already testing CISO strategies. Attacks that steal or destroy data are bad enough, but we must plan now against future attacks that could cause mass freeway pileups — or worse. The key to building an effective strategy for protecting the IoT is learning from the past. The security challenges that have emerged in the cloud or mobile devices have much in common with the earlier challenges of Wi-Fi. Security cannot be bolted on as an afterthought; it needs to be built in from the start as an integral part of the architecture.
The Challenges of Mobile and the Human Factor
Purely technological issues are neither the only nor even the primary factors that are now shaping proactive CISO strategies. The human factor in security continues to be the greatest CISO challenge of all.
The fastest-growing obstacle in recent years has been the explosion of mobile and the resulting spread of a culture of bring-your-own-device (BYOD). Mobile operating systems such as Android or even iOS pose their own technical issues, but the biggest challenge is coping with company data on employees’ personal devices.
Lohrmann does not try to sweeten this pill. “We need to enforce device policies with mobile device management programs,” he wrote. This means being able to “lock devices automatically, have the ability to remotely wipe data and encrypt sensitive data on mobile devices.”
Chris Preimesberger of eWEEK outlined the elements of an effective BYOD policy. No one should be surprised to hear that “the easy part is rolling out the policy; enforcing it is another matter.” A policy unenforced is no policy at all. Employees need to be brought on board. In some cases, firms may have to bite the bullet and issue company devices for sensitive uses.
Other personnel challenges are ongoing, such as training employees to be on guard against spear phishing and other attacks. The key to success for CISOs here is to recognize that they are teaching people to protect themselves. Attackers may be after company data, but the first victim of a social engineering attack is the person who was tricked into clicking a malicious link or opening a malicious email.
The job of a CISO is not easy, and it will not get easier. But adopting best-practice CISO strategies now will make for a better night’s sleep tomorrow — and in 2020.