Characteristics of effective security leaders

A new IBM study of security leaders reveals that they are increasingly being called upon to address board-level security concerns and as a result are becoming a more strategic voice within their organizations.

The findings reveal that a constantly evolving threat landscape, emerging technologies and budgetary restraints are requiring security leaders to play a more active role in communicating with C-suite leaders and with their boards, as the rise in security incidents impacts brand reputation and customer trust. Additionally, cloud and mobile adoption continues to grow as a focus area for the majority of security leaders.

The 2013 IBM Chief Information Security Officer Assessment takes the pulse of security leaders from Fortune 100 and mid-sized businesses. Among the findings:

Technology Trends – Moving beyond the Foundational: Mobile security is the number one “most recently deployed” initiative, with one-quarter of those surveyed deploying it in the past 12 months. According to the findings, while security leaders are looking to advance mobile security beyond technology and more about policy and strategy, less than 40% of organizations have deployed specific response policies for personally owned devices or an enterprise strategy for BYOD.

Nearly 76% of security leaders interviewed have deployed some type of cloud security services – the most popular being data monitoring and audit, along with federated identity and access management (both at 39 percent). While cloud and mobile continue to receive a lot of attention within many organizations, foundational technologies that security leaders are focusing on include identity and access management (51%), network intrusion prevention and vulnerability scanning (39%) and database security (32%).

Business practices – Catching the Vision: The security leaders interviewed stress the need for strong business vision, strategy and policies, comprehensive risk management, and effective business relations to be impactful in their roles. Understanding the concerns of the C-suite is also critical as more seasoned security leaders meet regularly with their board and C-suite leaders. The top trends that they discuss include identifying and assessing risks (59 percent), resolving budget issues and requests (49 percent) and new technology deployments (44 percent).

When asked what advice they would give to a new security leaders, respondents recommended a strong emphasis on vision, strategy and policies, comprehensive risk management and effective business relations.

“Building the trust of the C-suite and the board is critical to the success of a security officer, said Ken Kilby, ‎Chief Information Security Officer, BB&T Corporation, one of the largest financial services holding companies in the United States. Beyond internal relationships, developing relationships with law enforcement, industry partners and legislators is crucial in fostering greater public and private communication and will ultimately help to reduce the total attack surface and protect an organization’s data.”

Measurement – Providing the Right Feedback: Security leaders continue to use metrics mainly to guide budgeting and to make the case for new technology investments. In some cases, they use measurements to help develop strategic priorities for their security organizations. In general, however, technical and business metrics are still focused on operational issues. For example, over 90 percent of respondents track the number of security incidents, lost or stolen records, data or devices, and audit and compliance status – fundamental dimensions security leaders would be expected to track. Far fewer respondents are feeding business and security measures into their enterprise risk process even though security leaders say the impact of security on overall enterprise risk is their most important success factor.

“It’s evident in this study that security leaders need to focus on finding the delicate balance between developing a strong, holistic security and risk management strategy, while implementing more advanced and strategic capabilities such as robust mobile security that includes policies for BYOD,” said David Jarvis, co-author of the report and manager at the IBM Center for Applied Insights.

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