For businesses of every size and level of maturity, a strong cybersecurity strategy is crucial to protecting sensitive data and other digital assets. The right security measures are key to building resilience against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats in an interconnected world but must also be optimized for a company’s business. There is no one best practice that is applicable to every company. The focus on cybersecurity will continue to sharpen, and companies will rely more heavily on CISOs not just to set the overall strategy, but to continuously manage the organization’s risk and orchestrate targeted efforts that keep information and network resources safe.

To help further promote an organization’s security posture and ensure the company’s resources are applied most effectively, security leaders should consider these five things that can help them protect the business.

1. Continuous monitoring efforts need upgraded prevention capabilities.

Many CISOs have placed an increased emphasis on detection and response. Cybersecurity experts understand that no solution is perfect, and that leaders must have strong detection and response in place in the event a threat evades the set preventative measures. However, prevention is still a very powerful tool, and CISOs need to be sure they have explored some of the more recent developments that can help businesses prevent a vast majority of malicious activity from getting in the door. Firewalls are no longer enough to keep modern cybercriminals at bay. Threat actors are altering the signatures on their attacks just enough to sneak by traditional firewalls and anti-malware, forcing organizations to rely much more heavily on rapid detection and response, and putting more pressure on SOC teams. Modern preventative measures include advanced AI and machine learning that can see through zero-day attacks and recognize malicious activity even if it is new and has never been encountered before.

2. Cloud security falls on CISOs, not cloud service providers. 

Because Microsoft, AWS and other big cloud providers have great security measures in place, it’s easy to push the security of cloud environments onto these cloud service providers (CSPs). However, cloud security follows a shared responsibility model. The provider secures the underlying infrastructure, but organizations are still responsible for securing the data, applications and configurations within that infrastructure. With security risks arising from things like misconfigurations and zero-day exploits, the onus for proper administration falls squarely on the organization. The ease of cloud deployments also increases the risk as well-meaning employees can quickly deploy application instances to enable agile development without understanding the potential security ramifications. 

That quick and easy deployment characteristic means CISOs need to define and enforce a cloud security posture that aligns with any compliance frameworks that are in place. Many CSPs apply a templated approach to security, which may not align with the needs of all enterprises. In the event of a data breach, it’s likely the organization will be responsible for the damages, assuming the CSP has held up its end of the deal in securing the underlying infrastructure. Trusted cloud configuration expertise, strong authentication measures and transparency in how cloud security measures are applied help ensure an organization’s data remains secure.

3. The company’s culture of security relies on CISOs now more than ever.

A strong cybersecurity posture requires a user base that’s educated, aware and involved. To develop that foundation, companies need a strong communication mechanism that uses CISO-level insights to inform frontline employees about what they need to do — and not do — to maintain good security. It’s everything from IT keeping the software up to date to workers avoiding phishing links. Unfortunately, cyber threats are evolving so rapidly that many companies have already fallen behind with cybersecurity training programs. Simply training employees not to click on suspicious links is not enough anymore. Cybersecurity training needs to be diverse and comprehensive to account for the cunning new ways cybercriminals are tricking employees to divulge sensitive information. CISOs need to be a core sponsor not only of strategic programs such as incident response planning, but also of employee cyber training and other routine efforts to keep the entire business at the top of its cybersecurity game. The participation of CISOs helps everyone in the organization understand the value and importance of the role they play in preventing security incidents.

4. Tailored security solutions are the best way to protect the business.

Cybersecurity companies are selling more off-the-shelf tools, and it’s for one simple reason: better margins. Developing a solution for each of their thousands of customers is too costly and time-consuming. These generic tools are often cheaper, but many also come with less support and reduced capabilities. Some off-the-shelf solutions may not be sophisticated enough to handle the vulnerabilities of an organization’s specific IT environment. An astute CISO will regularly reassess risks to ensure there aren’t gaps (or expensive overlaps) in their solutions’ coverage. A tailored suite of cybersecurity tools vetted by the CISO and provided by an experienced Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) ensures they strike the right balance between cost and capabilities. Multiple offerings packaged within a unique service offering reduces complexity by minimizing the number of vendors CISOs must manage, optimizes the available budget against the threat landscape and aligns the organization’s security posture with its specific use case.

5. Protect the company’s reputation by increasing cybersecurity awareness.

The biggest vulnerability in business is the user. Removing user-centric vulnerabilities begins by ensuring the leadership team understands what’s at stake should a breach occur. CISOs should translate technical security risks into clear business impacts — that means quantifying the scope of potential financial losses from a cyberattack, along with the reputational damage and operational disruptions that may occur.

Everyone wants to save money and cut costs, but CISOs need to come to the table ready to defend the cybersecurity budget. It is important they have all the tools, staff and training necessary to adequately defend the business. CISOs that are not getting enough support should confirm that the board knows the risks that come with not dedicating an appropriate amount of budget to security. As cyber criminals employ new tactics, CISOs need to identify where the organization’s risk of a breach may increase and make sure the board understands the ramifications.

In addition, CISOs should work with the leadership team to develop a narrative to share in the event of a data breach. This helps demonstrate to the company’s workforce and customers — as well as senior decision makers — that the appropriate steps have been taken to protect the organization.

CISOs are in a unique position to orchestrate the right tools and processes necessary to protect their organizations against cybersecurity risks. They must demonstrate a broad range of business and technical skills to balance the rapidly changing requirements of the business against the constantly shifting threat environment. They must also be able to take the technically complicated and costly requirements of the solutions and persuasively convince executive leadership teams that there is a valid business need and return on maintaining an effective security posture. By ensuring everyone in the business participates in the cybersecurity program and optimizing technology through carefully vetted, tailored solutions, forward-looking CISOs can nurture a culture of security that's effective, efficient and adaptable.