The role of the Chief Security Officer, or CSO, has evolved as information security has reached a higher state of concern over digital threats, such as systems hacking, viruses, and coordinated security assaults on network infrastructures. Information is the primary asset for most companies. Intellectual property is often a target of information thieves seeking to capitalize on the work of others. Recent news reports of hacking groups exposed security flaws for several banks, credit agencies, healthcare agencies, and many others with a primary responsibility of protecting highly confidential information.

Businesses must consider if they can afford to implement a CSO, and in the case of companies dealing with potential privacy concerns, they must consider if they can afford not to have a CSO.  When breaches occur, confidence is lost and clients may leave. It is the role of the CSO to find these flaws and eliminate them before such a breech jeopardizes the company. Without a chief security officer, companies do not have a central individual who is responsible for a coordinated security plan. When the moment hits and systems are attacked, the lack of a central security expert can lead to devastating losses that can quickly eclipse the savings of not hiring a chief security officer.

A CSO today must work with businesses to align the business goals and objectives with the needed security and compliance requirements. While there will be similarities between organizations, each will require special considerations in regards to balancing security and accessibility. The CSO will analyze the infrastructure and design a security strategy to meet these needs.

In this highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry choosing the right chief security officer can be a bit of a challenge. With such a large content area, security professionals have become specialized with most focusing on cores areas of interest, such as healthcare, military, corporate, network design, etc. The industry has developed several credentials that will allow a company to choose a qualified security professional based on the skill set that is needed for their company.

The CSO should be certified within their area of focus. The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC) offers certification opportunities, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)- The CISSP is an information security credential based on topics including cryptography, physical security, software development, access control, and others.

As technologies continue to evolve and new security concerns emerge, the role of the Chief Security Officer will continue to grow in order to keep up with the demands of protecting sensitive information in an age where intellectual property and customer information is continually on the attack. The Chief Security Officer will be the first line defense in the ongoing battle to secure systems and prevent detrimental outcomes that could ruin a company’s reputation and expose it to civil liabilities.

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