By George Mack, Content Marketing Manager, Check Point.
Recently, a concerning trend has taken place – the scapegoating of Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) in the aftermath of cyber security incidents. CISOs are particularly vulnerable to blame or becoming the fall guy after a significant security breach.
What is CISO scapegoating?
The practice of “CISO scapegoating” is the act of assigning blame to security executives following a cyber security incident. Some hope it will motivate CISOs to be more forthcoming about breaches involving customer data.
For example, in 2016, a CSO belonging to one of the most popular rideshare apps was found guilty of attempting to cover up a data breach from the FTC. He instructed subordinates not to go public with news of the security breach and kept tight control over any sensitive information relating to it.
This act of secrecy made other CISOs look bad, as it sent the message that security executives will do anything to keep their own reputation clean (e.g. withholding information from the public or spending less money on security to impress the board), even if it were to the detriment of the organization. As a result, individuals are more likely to assign blame of any security incident to the CISO.
However, this blame game not only undermines the crucial role of CISOs in safeguarding their organizations but also hampers the overall effectiveness of security measures – putting unnecessary pressure on individuals who already experience a significant number of stressors and expectations in their daily responsibilities.
Here are four strategic tips to prevent CISO scapegoating and foster a culture of cyber resilience and collaboration:
1. Establish clear communication channels
Transparency is the foundation of effective cyber security leadership. CISOs should establish clear communication channels with executive leadership, IT teams, the board, and other stakeholders. Regular updates on the organization’s security posture, ongoing initiatives, and potential risks can clarify the CISO’s role and create a shared understanding of the challenges faced.
2. Align cyber security goals with business objectives
To prevent scapegoating, CISOs must align cyber security goals with broader business goals. This not only demonstrates the value of cyber security but also positions the CISO as putting the collective organizational success above his own personal ambitions or reputation. When security initiatives are seen as priority for business continuity and growth, the CISO becomes an ally rather than a target.
3. Foster a culture of collective responsibility
Cyber security is a responsibility that goes beyond the CISO’s role. By fostering a culture of cyber security in which all employees are trained and understand the importance of staying safe online, the blame for security incidents is no longer contained to one or a few individuals. Regular training and awareness programs contribute to a workforce that actively participates in improving the organization’s cyber security posture.
4. Document and demonstrate due diligence
CISOs should document their due diligence efforts, from risk assessments to the implementation of security controls. This documentation serves as evidence of the CISO’s commitment to maintaining cyber security best practices. In the aftermath of a security incident, having a well-documented trail of proactive security measures can serve as a powerful defense against arbitrary scapegoating.
In conclusion, the prevention of CISO scapegoating requires a proactive approach that requires communication, alignment, collective responsibility, and documentation. By following these strategic tips, companies can not only protect themselves from cyberattacks but also ensure that security executives are recognized and supported in their roles.
For more insights into CISO best practices, please see CyberTalk.org’s past coverage. Lastly, to receive timely cyber security insights and cutting-edge analyses, please sign up for the cybertalk.org newsletter.