COVID-19 has caused mass disruption for cybersecurity leaders. First, they had to deal with securing distributed workforces: With enterprises now largely operating remotely, the attack surface opened the door to new threats. Then they had to address heightened risk from increasingly sophisticated threat actors. The World Health Organization reported a fivefold increase in cyberattacks during 2020, and the creation of new ransomware samples increased by 72% during the pandemic, according to research by Skybox Security. On top of this, cybersecurity leaders are working hard to advance accelerated digital transformation initiatives — all against the backdrop of a recession that has led to increased budget scrutiny.
This isn't to say that budgets will be slashed. While 73% of organizations anticipate budget changes to their cybersecurity program, 32% of those organizations expect an increase in funding to help them respond to expanded threats, according to EY. As these businesses and their executive teams assess the necessary components needed to right-size (or expand upon) their security infrastructures, they'll look to their CISOs to ensure that this is done in a way that not only protects their employees and proprietary data but also contributes to the organization's larger digital transformation.
CISOs have achieved a position of greater influence and interaction with their CEOs and company boards than ever before — and now is the opportunity to leverage their seat at the table to demonstrate the importance of embedding security considerations into wider business initiatives. To do so, they need to make smart investments that will drive efficiency within their function and provide them with the capabilities to secure digital transformation and deliver the insights into their ecosystem needed to take decisive action.
How to Drive Efficiency with Focused Automation
The enduring cybersecurity skills crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing CISOs today, compounded by the move to distributed workforces and accelerated digital transformation programs. If security teams carry on with the same processes and priorities that they did before the pandemic, they will likely buckle under the strain of their increased workloads. This is why increasing efficiency is a business-critical priority — one that is best addressed with the deployment of targeted automation.
Over half (55%) of organizations are already increasing their investments in automated technologies. For these firms, it's crucial that they take a step back and form decisions based on how each new investment can increase workplace efficiency and reduce costs.
When thinking about where to focus investments, automation should be the CISO's first port of call — the question shouldn't be whether or not to make automation a priority for their organization but how to ensure it will be a consistent value driver.
Ultimately, security leaders must gain a complete understanding of their attack surface and then determine how to automate the right set of actions that continuously strengthens their overall security posture across hybrid and multicloud environments. This ensures that change and automation processes will be efficient from resource and security-strengthening perspectives. Having intelligent security automation processes in place will free up valuable cybersecurity resources so security leaders can focus on enabling key business initiatives without increasing business risk.
Driving Value Through Digital Transformation
In terms of delivering value to a business as a whole, CISOs must embed themselves within businesswide digital transformation initiatives. Companies want to convert three-year road maps to three-month sprints to maintain business continuity and support a newly minted distributed workforce. Despite being a top priority for many businesses, the vast majority have yet to determine how to effectively and securely digitize their organizations. While 87% of senior management consider digitization to be a primary objective, only 40% have made it scalable. The CISO needs to have the tools, time, and influence in order to help them to turn this around.
CISOs also must drive security transformation to help them to gain a better holistic understanding of their organization's infrastructure. When looking at which technology in which to invest, CISOs must prioritize solutions that enable them to integrate data, gain visibility of all vulnerabilities and assets within their expanded infrastructure, and deliver insights that will empower them to take decisive action. When thinking about creating a high-value security program, they need to move away from assessing the benefits of each solution in isolation and instead consider how any new investments can work with existing technologies to support and improve the security program as a whole.
How to Demonstrate Value Through Actionable Insight
There is no single security solution that offers organizations permanent protection. However, strategic investments made over time can contribute to a more resilient and value-driven infrastructure that's designed for long-term success. The better prepared organizations are for an attack and the more control they have over the deployment of new transformation initiatives, the more likely they'll be able to stop the business from falling prey to heavy fines from regulatory bodies (or from having to pay steep ransomware bounties).
However, demonstrating this value to the board can be tricky — the biggest mark of success in cybersecurity is when nothing happens. It's crucial that they are informed through prescriptive analysis, providing a better understanding of the organization's security environment. These insights can go a long way to demonstrate value — whether through data showing how many exposed vulnerabilities have been remediated or how proper configuration has contributed to the success of ongoing transformation initiatives.
This is a pivotal moment for CISOs. As their influence increases, so does the pressure for them to make the right decisions. When driving change within the business and demonstrating value, these decisions should advance the organization's strategic goals. Each investment they make needs to be considered in terms of how it will benefit the business, how it enables new initiatives, and how its value can be communicated.