The chief information officer’s (CIO) role in security extends beyond managing the systems and processes that run the enterprise. Certainly, it’s important to assure that operations are effective and data is properly housed. Even though the direct line of responsibility for data security may lead to the chief security officer (CSO), the CIO has several important roles to play alongside and in support of these efforts.

Boosting the CIO’s Role in Security

The CIO should take charge for two reasons. First, he or she is in the best position to understand the complexities and specifics of the IT infrastructure and services that run the business. This level of understanding allows the CIO to consider all implications, even those stemming from or affecting operations, technology and events outside the enterprise.

Secondly, CIOs are often held responsible for high-profile breaches. This extra pressure is excellent motivation for a CIO to make enterprise security a personal top priority.

Specifically, the CIO’s role in security should extend to three different areas to maintain a strong security posture.

1. Understand Key Vulnerabilities

Running enterprise IT demands a working knowledge of business operations. But identifying business vulnerabilities requires deeper knowledge of line-of-business operations. Each business practice has its own nuances and, consequently, its own vulnerabilities. As Kris Lovejoy wrote in a previous article, the CIO “must be attuned to countless technology threats, but also to strategic business issues.”

As a key security leader, the CIO needs to understand how business facilities can provide opportunities for intrusion or disruption. Then he or she must devise methods to counter any efforts to capitalize on those weaknesses.

2. Create Internal Awareness Programs

Nontechnical users may not know it, but their actions can be instrumental in preventing or enabling cyberattacks. CIOs must constantly advise employees regarding their online activities and make them aware of known threats, scams and red flags. The advice should be delivered in simple terms and in contexts all staff members can relate to. These advisories should be distributed on a regular basis to reinforce the message.

3. Maintain Ongoing Communication

As CIOs develop understandings of their enterprise operations, they should align that with knowledge of current events involving data breaches around the globe. It is the CIO’s responsibility to analyze the information gained from these arenas to create intelligence specifically pertinent to his or her enterprise. This information must be shared as an ongoing dialogue with top-level management, including senior-level executives and the board of directors.

CIOs should increase their visibility and authority by delivering regular updates about security through internal communication media. They can take advantage of existing internal newsletters, social media or project communication presences such as Slack to become part of ongoing conversations. They need to participate in this conversation on a regular and ongoing basis to build and maintain credibility. This has the added bonus of constantly reminding employees of security, which will only serve to enforce best practices and build safer habits.

As organizations are breached at higher frequencies and with greater impact, they need more and deeper information to help them plan for and prevent damage. The CIO is the right person to assemble the knowledge resources and create a clear-cut strategy for preventing and responding to data breaches.

More from CISO

Bringing threat intelligence and adversary insights to the forefront: X-Force Research Hub

3 min read - Today defenders are dealing with both a threat landscape that’s constantly changing and attacks that have stood the test of time. Innovation and best practices co-exist in the criminal world, and one mustn’t distract us from the other. IBM X-Force is continuously observing new attack vectors and novel malware in the wild, as adversaries seek to evade detection innovations. But we also know that tried and true tactics — from phishing and exploiting known vulnerabilities to using compromised credentials and…

What’s new in the 2023 Cost of a Data Breach report

3 min read - Data breach costs continue to grow, according to new research, reaching a record-high global average of $4.45 million, representing a 15% increase over three years. Costs in the healthcare industry continued to top the charts, as the most expensive industry for the 13th year in a row. Yet as breach costs continue to climb, the research points to new opportunities for containing breach costs. The research, conducted independently by Ponemon Institute and analyzed and published by IBM Security, constitutes the…

Cyber leaders: Stop being your own worst career enemy. Here’s how.

24 min read - Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your favorite audio content. We’ve been beating the cyber talent shortage drum for a while now, and with good reason. The vacancy numbers are staggering, with some in the industry reporting as many as 3.5 million unfilled positions as of April 2023 and projecting the disparity between supply and demand will remain until 2025. Perhaps one of the best (and arguably only) ways we can realistically bridge this gap is to…

Poor communication during a data breach can cost you — Here’s how to avoid it

5 min read - No one needs to tell you that data breaches are costly. That data has been quantified and the numbers are staggering. In fact, the IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach estimates that the average cost of a data breach in 2022 was $4.35 million, with 83% of organizations experiencing one or more security incidents. But what’s talked about less often (and we think should be talked about more) is how communication — both good and bad — factors into…