Cybersecurity still seen as a tech issue, not a business imperative

Cybersecurity is now front and center on organizations’ boardroom agendas, but most chief information security officers (CISOs) have yet to earn a seat at the table.


According to a study by ISACA and RSA Conference, 82 percent of cybersecurity and information security professionals polled in the survey report that their board of directors is concerned or very concerned about cybersecurity, but only 1 in 7 (14 percent) CISOs reports to the CEO.

This gap between belief and actions at the highest levels of management is playing out in an environment where 74 percent of security professionals expect a cyberattack in 2016 and 30 percent experience phishing attacks every day, according to the ISACA/RSA Conference State of Cybersecurity study.

“While there are signs that C-level executives increasingly understand the importance of cybersecurity, there are still opportunities for improvement,” said Jennifer Lawinski, Editor-in-Chief, RSA Conference. “The majority of CISOs still report to CIOs, which shows cybersecurity is viewed as a technical rather than business issue. This survey highlights the discrepancy to provide an opportunity for growth for the infosec community in the future.”

The cybersecurity skills gap poses its own threat to keeping an enterprise safe. The past year saw a 12-point drop in the percentage of security professionals who are confident in their team’s ability to detect and respond to incidents, dipping from 87 percent in 2014 to 75 percent in 2015. Among those 75 percent, 6 in 10 do not believe their staff can handle anything beyond simple cybersecurity incidents.

In addition, the number who say that fewer than half of job candidates were considered “qualified upon hire” has risen from 50 percent to 59 percent in a year. Twenty-seven percent need six months to fill a cybersecurity position, up three points from 2014.

“The lack of confidence in current cybersecurity skill levels shows that conventional approaches to training are lacking,” said Ron Hale, Chief Knowledge Officer of ISACA. “Hands-on, skills-based training is critical to closing the cybersecurity skills gap and effectively developing a strong cyber workforce.”

Situational unawareness

The survey also highlighted a marked lack of situational awareness for professionals who report that cybersecurity or information security is their primary role:

  • 24 percent did not know if any user credentials were stolen in 2015
  • 24 percent did not know which threat actors exploited their organizations
  • 23 percent did not know whether their organization had experienced an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack
  • 20 percent did not know whether any corporate assets were hijacked for botnet use

Despite the fact that most CISOs report into an organization’s technology function, this year’s study shows encouraging signs that cybersecurity does earn respect. Among those surveyed, 61 percent expect their cybersecurity budget to increase in 2016 and 75 percent say their organization’s cybersecurity strategy now aligns to enterprise objectives.

RSA Conference 2016