A chief security officer (CSO) is a department leader responsible for making sure that his or her organization is safe from all kinds of digital threats. The CSO directs the organization’s infosec team in educating employees about cybersecurity by carrying out strategies to protect the company’s network and intellectual property from threats, including choosing the right security tools.
Think of a CSO as a foreman in a house construction project. The foreman is responsible for leading the entire construction crew to complete the house within a specified time frame and budget while meeting the homeowner’s expectations.
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About a decade ago, CSOs were unheard of. However, the evolving digital threat landscape paved the way for the position to be created and later on become in demand. The job is, however, not that easy to take on. A CSO requires stringent qualifications.
What Does a CSO Do?
CSOs are responsible for ensuring the overall security of their organizations. That said, their roles and responsibilities include:
1. Overseeing day-to-day security operations
Part of a CSO’s duty is to check if appointed individuals are implementing security strategies to mitigate risks and safeguard the organization and its assets. CSOs also need to deal with crisis management, which includes threat identification and coming up with effective methods to overcome dangers.
2. Improving overall security posture
A CSO ensures that the entire organization is free from threats and the risks that come with these. As such, CSOs need to develop, implement, and maintain security policies and processes. They also need to carry out threat identification to limit liabilities and exposure to physical and financial risks.
3. Ensuring compliance
Organizations need to adhere to several security regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), depending on their industry. CSOs are responsible for making sure that their organizational processes follow local, national, and global regulations at all times or risk paying fines.
How Does One Become a CSO?
First of all, a CSO requires the right credentials. One of which is having substantial working experience with computers and resolving various kinds of security issues, regardless of type—virtual or physical. A CSO must also have a good grasp of the industry that his or her organization belongs to. Most importantly, he or she should understand in-depth threat analyses to make the right decision regarding any security issue.
Given all these, most CSOs are executives with an extensive background in both business and security management. Some multinational corporations (MNCs) require their CSOs to have doctorate degrees or experience in law enforcement and computer training. The good news is that a U.S.-based CSO earns between US$77,000 and US$267,000 a year, depending on their experience.
What’s the Difference between a CSO and a CISO?
A chief information security officer (CISO) is a recently established organizational position. His or her main task is to track and assess the threats his or her company faces to ensure corporate information and data stay protected.
A CSO, meanwhile, is responsible for corporate safety. His or her primary duty is to make physical and technological stability a reality. As such, he or she needs to recognize what tools are needed and how to acquire them.
While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, note that CISOs can report to CSOs. The latter depends on the former to perform security-related tasks.
These days, there is a significant imbalance between the available talents and the need for CSOs. Many experts thus believe that the position would remain in high demand for several more years. Those interested still have years to brush up on their IT skills or get advanced degrees in business and security management.