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Most CISOs Lack Direct Line to the Boss


When the Obama administration announced last month plans to name the first-ever federal chief information security officer, officials said the notoriously behind-the-curve federal government would finally join a trend many businesses adopted years ago.

The CISO is “a key role that many private sector companies have long implemented and is good practice for the federal government,” federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott told reporters at the time.

But new research shows the role still has room to grow in the private sector, too.

Fewer than a quarter of company CISOs have a direct line to their company’s top leaders, according to a survey published by the nonprofit ISACA and the RSA Conference.

Just 21 percent of CISOs surveyed said they report to their company CEO or board. Most -- 63 percent -- instead report to their company CIO.

(In a similar vein, Scott, the federal CIO, told reporters the incoming federal CISO would report directly to him.)

So, what’s wrong with reporting to the CIO?

“This reporting structure is unfortunate,” the ISACA report argued, “as it positions security as a technical issue rather than a business concern.

Aside from the CIO role, most respondents -- 54 percent -- said it took their companies at least three months to fill open cybersecurity positions.

“While most organizations are eventually able to hire professionals into cybersecurity and information security positions, most applicants submitting resumes do not have adequate skills to meet the needs of the business,” the report stated.

Sixty percent of respondents said at least half their new hires weren’t qualified when they were hired, and 86 percent of respondents said they’re investing in increased on-the-job training.

The online survey of 461 cybersecurity professionals was conducted in November and December.

As for the new federal CISO, a new poll by The Christian Science Monitor finds most cybersecurity experts are optimistic about the appointment.

Seventy-seven percent of experts polled said the incoming CISO could improve the federal government’s cybersecurity posture. Still, there are lingering concerns about the CISO devolving into a figurehead role.

“If it’s another figurehead role, it will be a waste of time,” Mark Weatherford, former DHS undersecretary for cybersecurity, told The Christian Science Monitor.  

The federal CISO job opening closed Feb. 26. Administration officials said last month they hope to hire and onboard the new security chief in the next 60 to 90 days.

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