Essential CISO Learnings

Essential CISO Learnings 

March 29, 2023
| Career and Leadership

With cyberattacks on the rise, it’s no surprise that many enterprises are searching for a CISO to mitigate their security risk and bolster their defenses. Between 2021 and 2025, the percentage of Fortune 500 company board members with cybersecurity experience is predicted to rise from 17 percent to 35 percent (Lake, S. 2022). A chief information security officer (CISO) is a senior executive in an organization who is in charge of the organization’s information security. These individuals are hired by security-conscious businesses that want to protect their valuable information assets.

The CISO must leverage both non-technical and in-depth technical skills to protect the organization’s IT systems. Much goes into the CISO learning process, and effective CISOs must draw on their knowledge and experience to keep data and assets safe. This article will discuss everything you must know about the CISO position: roles, responsibilities, skillset, and the qualifications and certifications needed to be a CISO.

CISO Learning: Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a CISO will vary significantly between organizations. For example, a large enterprise with countless legacy on-premises systems and massive amounts of confidential data will have very different security concerns from a tiny startup using software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing.

However, several typical functions tend to emerge when comparing the CISO job across businesses. Below are the most common roles and responsibilities you should be aware of during the CISO learning process:

  1. Developing and implementing an IT security program: CISOs must establish policies, procedures, and standards to improve the security of the organization’s IT systems, networks, resources, and data.
  2. Ensuring regulatory compliance: CISOs must verify that the organization is compliant with the relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards, including any updates to these laws and regulations.
  3. Protecting data and assets: CISOs must prevent malicious actors from gaining unauthorized access to sensitive data and IT assets, which would result in a cyberattack or data breach. To do so, CISOs implement security controls such as firewalls and data encryption to make it harder for attackers to steal information undetected.
  4. Drafting incident response plans: After a security breach or other incident, the CISO is responsible for leading and coordinating the organization’s response, ensuring appropriate measures are taken to minimize and rebound from the event.
  5. Managing IT security professionals: The CISO oversees other information security professionals in the organization. They set overarching goals and objectives for the IT security team and may be involved in hiring and training new team members.
  6. Communicating with key stakeholders: The CISO acts as a spokesperson for information security concerns to senior leadership, such as other executives and the board of directors.

CISO Learning: The 5 Domains of a CISO

The field of information security is vast, so there’s a lot on your plate during the CISO learning process. For this reason, CISOs often obtain a cybersecurity management certification to prove their knowledge. To be effective in their jobs, CISOs should be familiar with the following five domains:

1. Governance, Risk, and Compliance

CISOs may be responsible for:

  • Defining and implementing an IT governance program
  • Establishing a framework for monitoring the governance program’s effectiveness
  • Defining and implementing a risk management policy framework
  • Assessing the organization’s risk profile
  • Knowing compliance issues, laws, and regulations

2. Information Security Controls and Audit Management

CISOs may be responsible for:

  • Implementing IT system controls that align with business processes and objectives
  • Conducting regular testing and monitoring to evaluate these controls
  • Understanding IT audit standards and successfully executing the audit process

3.  Security Program Management and Operations

CISOs may be responsible for:

  • Developing the scope, schedule, budget, and resources for IT system projects
  • Hiring, training, and managing IT security personnel and teams
  • Establishing communications between IT teams and other personnel
  • Resolving personnel and teamwork issues
  • Negotiating and managing vendor agreements
  • Measuring the effectiveness of IT systems projects
  • Communicating project performance to key stakeholders

4. Information Security Core Competencies

CISOs may be responsible for:

  • Implementing access control procedures to govern information access
  • Understanding social engineering concepts and protecting against them
  • Designing plans for defending against and responding to phishing attacks
  • Creating standards and procedures for protecting physical IT assets
  • Making plans for disaster recovery and business continuity to maintain operations
  • Selecting and implementing firewalls, IDS/IPs, and network defense systems
  • Identifying common vulnerabilities and attacks associated with wireless networks
  • Protecting against viruses, Trojans, malware, and other malicious code threats
  • Ensuring the use of secure coding best practices and securing web applications
  • Hardening operating systems against common vulnerabilities and attacks
  • Developing a strategy for encrypting data and assets
  • Crafting a regimen of regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing
  • Responding to security incidents and determining their cause with digital forensics

5. Strategic Planning, Finance, Procurement, and Third-party Management

CISOs may be responsible for:

  • Defining a strategic plan for the enterprise’s IT security architecture
  • Analyzing and forecasting the IT security budget
  • Monitoring the costs and ROIs of IT security purchases
  • Collaborating with stakeholders on procuring new IT security products and services
  • Designing the process of selecting and assessing third-party partners

CISO Learning: CISO Key Skills

To fulfill the roles and responsibilities across the five domains listed above, you must draw on several technical and non-technical skills during the CISO learning process.

CISO Technical Skills

The technical skills of a CISO may include:

  • Familiarity with cybersecurity frameworks, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the ISO 27001 standard
  • Knowledge of best practices surrounding network security, cloud security, data encryption, identity and access management tools, and security protocols
  • Experience in security testing methodologies, such as penetration testing and vulnerability scanning.

The CISO learning process should impart a broad range of technical skills to move smoothly between tasks—everything from business analysis and budget management to security architecture and digital forensics. Before being a CISO, individuals often served in a technical capacity for many years. CISOs may have served in technical roles such as security engineers, security analysts, network engineers, and software developers.

CISO Non-Technical Skills

As a leadership role in the C-suite, the CISO must also have many non-technical skills. The CISO learning process should develop a candidate’s communication abilities since much of the work of a CISO involves making presentations to other executives and key stakeholders. CISOs should also be skilled at administration and conflict management, acting as leaders and mediators across the organization.

CISO Qualifications and Certifications

Getting C|CISO certified is an excellent way to demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to take on the chief information security officer role. EC-Council’s Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO) program offers the skills and training you need to assume the mantle of CISO. It covers all five C|CISO domains discussed above in detail and has been created by existing CISOs who know what it takes to serve as chief information security officers.

Ready to start down the path to your career as a CISO? Get in touch with us today to learn more about the C|CISO certification and begin the CISO learning process.


Lake, S. (2022, August 26). Chief information security officers land nearly $1 million pay packages. Fortune.

About the Author

David Tidmarsh is a programmer and writer. He’s worked as a software developer at MIT, has a B.A. in history from Yale, and is currently a graduate student in computer science at UT Austin.

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