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CISO (chief information security officer)

What is a CISO (chief information security officer)?

The CISO (chief information security officer) is a senior-level executive responsible for developing and implementing an information security program, which includes procedures and policies designed to protect enterprise communications, systems and assets from both internal and external threats.

The CISO may also work alongside the chief information officer to procure cybersecurity products and services and to manage disaster recovery and business continuity plans.

The chief information security officer may also be referred to as the chief security architect, the security manager, the corporate security officer or the information security manager, depending on the company's structure and existing titles. When the CISO is also responsible for the overall corporate security of the company, which includes its employees and facilities, he or she may simply be called the chief security officer (CSO).

CISO role and responsibilities

In addition to responding to data breaches and other security incidents, the CISO is tasked with anticipating, assessing and actively managing new and emerging threats. The CISO must work with other executives across different departments to align security initiatives with broader business objectives and mitigate the risks various security threats pose to the organization's mission and goals.

The role of the CISO

The chief information security officer's duties may include conducting employee security awareness training, developing secure business and communication practices, identifying security objectives and metrics, choosing and purchasing security products from vendors, ensuring that the company is in regulatory compliance with the rules for relevant bodies, and enforcing adherence to security practices.

Other duties and responsibilities CISOs perform include ensuring the company's data privacy is secure, managing the Computer Security Incident Response Team and conducting electronic discovery and digital forensic investigations.

CISO qualifications and certifications

A CISO is typically a skilled leader and manager with a strong understanding of information technology and security, who can communicate complicated security concepts to both technical and nontechnical employees.

CISOs should have experience with risk management and auditing.

Many companies require CISOs to have advanced degrees in business, computer science or engineering, and to have extensive professional working experience in information technology. CISOs also typically have relevant certifications such as Certified Information Systems Auditor and Certified Information Security Manager, issued by ISACA, as well as Certified Information Systems Security Professional, offered by (ISC)2.

CISO salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information systems managers, including CISOs, earned a median annual salary of $131,600 as of May 2015. According to Salary.com, the annual median CISO salary is $197,362.

CISO salaries appear to be increasing steadily, according to research from IT staffing firms. In 2016, IT staffing firm SilverBull reported the median CISO salary had reached $224,000.

This was last updated in October 2021

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