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The Traits of a Good CISO: What Makes a CISO Effective?

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Discover the crucial responsibilities and traits of an exceptional Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in today's digital landscape and how they should contribute to your organization's success.

A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is a critical role for any organization, as this individual is responsible for safeguarding the company's information assets and ensuring the security of its systems and data. When looking for a CISO, consider the following key factors:

What to Look For:


Look for candidates with a proven track record in cybersecurity and information security. Typically, CISOs should have at least 10-15 years of relevant experience in roles such as security management, risk assessment, and incident response across different industries.

Education and Certifications:

Many CISO candidates hold certifications like Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Office (C|CISO) and are often preferred.

Leadership Skills:

A CISO should be a strong leader who can build and lead a team. They should also have excellent communication skills to interact effectively with executive leadership, employees, vendors, auditors, and external stakeholders.

Strategic Thinking:

Your CISO should be able to align the organization's security strategy with its overall business goals. They should be capable of developing and implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that mitigates risks and supports the organization's growth.

Risk Management Expertise:

The CISO must have a deep understanding of cybersecurity risks and be able to assess, analyze and prioritize them. They should develop risk management strategies and ensure that security measures are aligned with the organization's risk tolerance.

Technical Proficiency:

While the CISO role is more strategic, a strong technical background is a must have. They should understand the technical aspects of cybersecurity and be able to evaluate and select appropriate security technologies, strategies and tools.

Regulatory and Compliance Knowledge:

Depending on your industry, there may be specific regulations and compliance requirements that your organization must adhere to. A CISO should be well-versed in these regulations and ensure the organization remains in compliance.

Incident Response and Crisis Management:

The ability to handle security incidents and crises is crucial. Look for candidates with experience in incident response planning, execution, and post-incident analysis and have been through events and incidents.

Vendor Management:

Many organizations rely on third-party vendors for various aspects of their business. The CISO should have experience in vendor risk management to ensure that external partners meet security standards.

Continuous Learning:

Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field. A good CISO should be committed to continuous learning and staying up-to-date with the latest threats, vulnerabilities, and security best practices as well as the overall security landscape.

Cultural Fit:

Ensure that the CISO candidate's values and approach align with your organization's culture. They should be able to work collaboratively and effectively with your existing teams.

References and Background Checks:

Always conduct thorough reference and background checks to verify the candidate's claims and assess their past performance.

How They Should Contribute:


Once you've hired a CISO, they should contribute to your organization in several critical ways:

Establishing a Security Culture:

The CISO should foster a security-conscious culture throughout the organization, making security awareness a part of daily operations.

Risk Management:

Develop and implement a risk management strategy that identifies, assesses, and mitigates cybersecurity risks.

Security Architecture:

Oversee the design and management of a secure information technology infrastructure, including networks, systems, and applications.

Incident Response:

Lead the development of an incident response plan and coordinate the organization's response to security incidents.

Compliance and Governance:

Ensure that the organization complies with relevant regulations and industry standards and establish governance processes to maintain security.

Security Training:

Educate employees about security best practices and conduct regular training and awareness & educational programs.

Vendor Management:

Evaluate and manage the security posture of third-party vendors and contractors.

Security Technology Management:

Oversee the selection and deployment of security technologies and tools to protect the organization's assets.

Budgeting and Resource Allocation:

Manage the cybersecurity budget and allocate resources effectively to meet security goals. Build the right team.

Develop, Track and Report Key Metrics:

Track key risk & security metrics and report them to the leadership team to drive effectiveness of the security program.

Reporting to Leadership:

Provide regular updates to executive leadership and the board of directors on the organization's security posture, emerging threats, vulnerabilities, risks, and key metrics. It's not important who the CISO reports to, what's important is that they are committed to protecting and securing the organization and its assets.


In summary, hiring a CISO is a strategic decision that requires careful consideration of experience, skills, and cultural fit. Once in the role, the CISO should play a crucial role in shaping and maintaining the organization's cybersecurity strategy to protect its assets and reputation. This individual needs to interface with all areas of the business at all levels.

One of the key responsibilities of a CISO is to secure the organization's information assets. This involves identifying and assessing potential risks, implementing appropriate security controls, and monitoring the effectiveness of security measures.

CISOs are responsible for developing and implementing information security policies, procedures, and guidelines that align with industry best practices and regulatory requirements. They must ensure that the organization's data and systems are protected from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, alteration, or destruction.

In addition, CISOs work closely with legal, compliance, and privacy teams to ensure that the organization complies with applicable laws, regulations, and industry standards. They also oversee the implementation of data protection measures, such as encryption, access controls, and data loss prevention strategies.

Securing the organization's information assets is an ongoing process that requires a proactive and holistic approach. CISOs must constantly adapt to emerging threats, evaluate the effectiveness of security controls, and implement necessary changes to protect the organization's valuable information.

About the AuthorShane Henszey

Shane is a long time technology leader and CISSP. He is an advisor and strategist for clients offering long term solutions and specific business strategies. As a technology visionary with concentration on Cybersecurity, innovation, security assessments and industry specific compliance knowledge, Shane is dedicated to solving Cortrucent Technologies client’s toughest challenges and transforming the way they do business.