October 3, 2022

What makes for a great cybersecurity leader?

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The need for talented cybersecurity leaders is more urgent than ever. With cybersecurity now ranked as the most serious enterprise risk in 2022, businesses in all sectors are seeking to fill critical cybersecurity leadership positions with candidates who are proficient not only in setting strategy, but also in building and sustaining a culture of cybersecurity throughout an organization. According to the 2021 Gartner, Inc. Market Guide for Managed Detection and Response Services, 88 percent of company boards consider cybersecurity to be a business risk instead of solely an IT issue. Accountability for this risk is shifting away from IT and onto multiple members and departments throughout organizations since cybersecurity is now more likely to be viewed as everyone’s responsibility.

In addition, the increasingly distributed nature of IT operations has resulted in less direct control over decision-making. Cybersecurity leaders, from the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) on down, need to be highly skilled in threat analysis and mitigation, resource allocation and procurement, people management, communications, and operations. Not every cybersecurity leader possesses all these skills, but those who do are highly coveted in today’s market.  

C-suite executives are beginning to understand the critical nature of developing a culture of cybersecurity within their organizations, according to the Gartner report. This culture is needed to drive innovation and continuing improvement as control over decisions becomes more horizontally allocated. The leaders who master the right skills and leverage the right technologies will be the ones who achieve the greatest success.

Cybersecurity Skills

Today’s cybersecurity leaders already wear many hats, and this is likely to continue to increase. For example, the ability to apply risk analysis to multiple areas such as business strategy, IT operations, and security will become more important in the coming years. CISOs and their teams will also need to develop efficient information security (IS) programs that mitigate risks while reducing operating costs with data analytics. They must also communicate the capabilities and requirements of these programs at the board level.

Cybersecurity leaders need to help guide and manage human resources (HR) to maintain productivity and implement new technologies. They also bear greater responsibility for developing strategies to continually protect their organization’s digital assets from both internal and external threats as they evolve over time. Ensuring that team members have easy access to training opportunities will also become more important, due to the accelerating development of malware. Furthermore, the increased need to create a working environment with security by default will come under the purview of the cybersecurity teams.

Cybersecurity will become an even greater priority in the coming years for organizations that are growing more and more dependent on their digital and cloud-based platforms. The Gartner report predicts that most C-level executives will have performance indicators for cybersecurity risk at the departmental level by 2026. As a result, cybersecurity leaders need to develop a strong background in C-suite management, IS, data analytics, and regulatory compliance.

The increasing complexity of cybersecurity threats makes it essential for leaders to understand the attack surfaces in modern systems, which include applications, data, and cloud platforms. In particular, the shift towards cloud computing requires cybersecurity leaders to have a clear understanding of these trends to develop strategies for staying ahead of cloud-based threats. Thought leadership in cybersecurity will also become a more valuable commodity in the future, allowing businesses to reassure customers and vendors that their data will be adequately protected. Cybersecurity team leaders should therefore regularly communicate their expertise on forums such as industry blogs, panels, and webinars.

Acquiring and retaining team members with the skills needed to implement the best security protocols will also be a key challenge for the near future. Wolf Hill Group specializes in executing successful searches for businesses across a range of sizes, including startups, growth-stage, and established enterprises. We secure talented leaders and specialists with expertise in asset security, network security, identity and access management, security assessment, security operations, and software development security. We work with organizations in many sectors, including banking, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and public utilities as well as cybersecurity products and services.

Cybersecurity Technology

Cybersecurity leaders need to leverage technological advances to perform routine tasks automatically, allowing team members to focus on more challenging tasks. This is already the norm for many small to mid-size enterprises (SMEs) and larger organizations, but it will become more common for smaller enterprises in the future. Automation can solve a lot of problems in security, including those related to accuracy, capacity, and team experience. Furthermore, it can produce positive results very quickly, provided the automation tool provides clear, actionable insights into the issue. Yet even great technology has its limits and must be leveraged and managed by people.

Cybersecurity automation tools improve operational efficiency and reduce response times by filtering out false positives, which reduces alert fatigue. They also help organizations achieve regulatory compliance with data privacy laws more easily, which is an increasingly important responsibility for cybersecurity leaders. Technology can also help departments collaborate more effectively during various stages of software development, while identifying security risks. For example, runtime application self-protection (RASP) software can identify and mitigate threats at runtime that other cybersecurity solutions might overlook. All these technologies can help mitigate the impacts of the current skills shortage in cybersecurity, allowing cybersecurity leaders to focus on other high-priority areas.

Summary

Cybersecurity leadership roles like CISO, CSO, and CTO have always provided a critical layer of protection for organizations, but other members of the C-suite are beginning to assume larger roles in these critically essential activities. Maintaining an effective cyber defense is most certainly a team effort.

Finding and retaining talented cybersecurity leaders and specialists will remain a challenge, but Wolf Hill Group can connect you with the talent you need to fill critically important cybersecurity positions. Contact us online or call 866-245-WOLF (9653) to learn more about how we can work with you to secure the most qualified cybersecurity leaders for your organization.

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