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Security Governance Checklist for CISOs

Five milestones to expect when establishing and building a data-driven security governance program

Gutsy Staff | March 21, 2024

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For security leaders new to an organization, there is a universal truth when it comes to priorities.

Priority number one: understand your organization’s established security processes.

Priority number two: find the data needed to justify building new processes or reworking old ones to ward off evolving threats.

Here are five milestones you will likely encounter when you join an organization - and insights on how to handle each one from experts who have already been there.

Schneier details the milestones he expects CISOs to encounter when building or improving their organization’s security posture.

Assessing Existing Processes

Delving into the organization’s existing security processes is crucial for effectively managing risks. As discussed previously, elevating your security posture is both a professional and a personal matter for CISOs.

Your assessment should focus on:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of current security protocols in mitigating threats
  • Identifying any gaps or areas for improvement
  • Researching tools, techniques and platforms that close those gaps

This assessment is about understanding the ins and outs of existing processes so you can see how they align to existing security organizational goals and resources.

Taking Ownership of Security Processes

The transition from inheriting legacy processes to owning and refining them is a significant step. Collecting the evidence you need to prove whether existing processes are the right fit, and whether they’re delivering the business outcomes that you need them to, is no small feat.

Ownership includes balancing security needs with operational efficiency. As the new CISO, it's your responsibility to lead the charge in enhancing security measures, and optimizing the resources you already have while maintaining organizational productivity.

Related resource: Datasets revealing how efficient your organization is currently operating should be prioritized in the ownership stage.

Leaning on Communication Skills

In the late 90’s, a lot of CISOs were hired for their technical prowess. Oftentimes, the job went to the most senior person on a technical team, or whoever was most experienced with the firewall or antivirus software.

In the 2000’s the job description shifted to favor those with a risk management or assurance background.

Here we are in 2024, and communication is widely considered a critical skill for an effective security leader capable of dealing with today’s threats and realities.

You should understand the socio-political dynamics of security decision-making then be able to communicate that context to internal stakeholders.

Yes, technical knowledge is always going to be essential, but the ability to advocate and navigate complex trade-offs will heavily weigh your success.

Finding the Catalyst for Change

Once you know what is working and what needs to be fixed, it’s time to find a catalyst to justify your security initiatives.

A hook. A headline. A reason to make big changes at this moment.

The catalyst you’re looking for can be a lengthy compilation of existing data, leveraged audit findings, or a breach (yours or someone else’s).

Regardless, it then becomes your job to communicate the importance of security investments in clear, compelling terms. Highlight both the potential risks of what happens if your team does nothing, and the benefits if they do.

Effective communication is key to gaining buy-in from senior leadership and other stakeholders.

Related content: From Protector to Influencer: CISO Strategies for Boardroom Success

Building a Data-Driven Security Culture

You’ve laid the foundation. Now it's time to continue building a security culture rooted in data analysis.

The long-term goal here is to have a team that is continually gathering and analyzing relevant security metrics to demonstrate improvements in your organization's security posture over time.

When you stay ahead of the data, it is easier to answer ‘fire drill’ questions about sudden industry struggles and how your team is going to continue reducing risk at a rate that outpaces your competition.

Foster a culture where security decisions are based on data, not conjecture.

Related resource: Make multi-team collaboration easy with clarity and data-driven views into your security processes

How a Security Governance Platform Can Help

CISOs are stewards of security, entrusted with protecting the organization's most valuable assets. When defending a security investment, data is a security leader's best friend.

Using process mining to visibly demonstrate how your security governance tools, teams and processes are currently interacting allows you to see what is working, and fix the security executions that don’t.

Gutsy pioneered the application of process mining in cybersecurity.

From providing data-driven insights into how your security stack is truly operating, to presenting resolutions to security gaps before an audit failure, learn more about why more security leaders are turning to process mining for cyber to ensure the trustworthiness of their internal and external security operations.

Understand how process mining for cyber will improve your security governance by reading our ebook, "Process Mining: The Security Angle."

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