2/13/2010
07:38 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary

CISOs Help Deliver A Better Business

Most organizations with Chief Information Security Officers that function independently from, but work closely with IT operations, experience less data loss, less business downtime, and also ease some of the pain associated with regulatory audits. Oh yeah: they also help deliver higher revenue, profit, and retain customers.



Most organizations with Chief Information Security Officers that function independently from, but work closely with IT operations, experience less data loss, less business downtime, and also ease some of the pain associated with regulatory audits. Oh yeah: they also help deliver higher revenue, profit, and retain customers.That's the (somewhat) surprising results from a recent study published by the IT Policy Compliance Group.

What about those businesses that don't have a CISO in place? They are a mirror image of those that do: They suffer higher rates of data theft, data loss, more problems with regulatory audit, and more business downtime due to IT failures and disruptions, according to the group's findings.

What are the driving factors behind the differences of these two camps? Of course it's partially attributed to having someone at the helm running a risk management program as well as the separation of the conflicting interests between IT security (confidentiality, integrity, and availability) and the demands for the rapid adoption of new technologies by the business. That's to be expected. However, the report shows that companies with CISOs have a different culture that those without one.

From this blog highlight of the report:

One of the unique traits found among organizations with CISOs is a relentless focus on business value, in data, information, business procedures, and IT procedures. Simply stated, organizations with CISOs tend to know where critical information, systems, and applications are located, the value of that information, and how these relate to critical business procedures.

In contrast this type of knowledge is much less evident among organizations where the information security function is treated as a technology-plumbers function that is not being supervised by a dedicated CISO. This contrast further helps to explain the value of the CISO position and is another reason that organizations with an active CISO are delivering better business outcomes.

That reads to me that organizations that have independent CISOs are better in part because they have a CISO managing risk - but they're also inherently better organizations.

Here's another eye-opener from the study:

Organizations without CISOs are 4 to 8 times more likely to experience the worst outcomes for security, while organizations with CISOs managing the information security function are 10 times more likely to experience the best outcomes.

This is not to say that businesses with CISOs will always outperform those without: the report found that 20 percent of those with CISOs didn't fair any better. Why? The reasons for that could be having the wrong CISO in charge or perhaps not enough power behind to the position to enforce change.

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