CISO series part 1: The top 5 CISO Cyber Security challenges- and how to overcome them


What is the role of a CISO?


The role of a Chief Information Security Officer covers a wide spectrum of Cyber Security responsibilities. A CISO is a security leader who offers strategic advice and expert guidance to help build the overall security strategy. This involves designing and implementing policies, identifying and mitigating security gaps, choosing the most suitable and effective security solutions, adhering to complex regulations and generally guiding businesses through ‘rough waters’ to safety and protection.

Whilst the role of a ‘CISO’ was only introduced in the mid-1990’s, Chief Information Security Officers quickly became an integral part of board level decision making. However, as always - with this great power comes great responsibility. As the ultimate protector of systems, data and processes, CISO’s are often faced with a great deal of pressure to juggle many security initiatives.

Why do CISO’s face challenges?

As a CISO, you must be able to quickly adapt to the changing threat landscape, whilst also maintaining a robust approach to security protection. Against the backdrop of a growing attack surface, exponential increase in cyber-attacks and a Cyber Security skills shortage, it is no surprise that many CISO’s suffer from stress, work long hours and struggle to maintain a work-life balance. As CISO's are often tasked with overseeing virtually all facets of their firms cyber-risk management strategy, they can be faced with a number of daily challenges. Read on to find out the top 5 Cyber Security challenges for CISO’s and how they can try to overcome them.

The top 5 CISO challenges and how to overcome them

  • 1. Being on call around the clock

The challenge:

As a CISO it is virtually impossible to ‘switch-off’. It is common for CISO’s to be responding to security alerts on Christmas day, in the early hours of the morning or during weekends. Unfortunately, bad actors are always looking to catch businesses off-guard, which means CISO’s need to be on high alert 365 days a year.

The solution:

Forming a partnership with a dedicated Cyber Security Managed Service Provider, can help to reduce the pressure on CISO’s to be monitoring and responding to threats at all hours of the day. By working alongside a specialist Cyber Security MSP, CISO’s can rest assured that incoming cyber-threats are being triaged by their IT support Cyber Security company and that they will be notified without delay if a p1 security incident occurs. This means that hardworking CISO’s can get some well needed ‘shut eye’, and breathing space to maintain a suitable work-life balance.

Another way to help alleviate the stress of always being on call, is by leveraging the power of automated Cyber Security threat intelligence and response. There are many security solutions which allow you to contain and remediate cyber-threats without the need for manual monitoring and response out of hours.


  • 2. Asset management, lack of updates and poor IT hygiene

The challenge:

An increase in bring your own device (BYOD), out-of-date devices, unpatched vulnerabilities, antiquated corporate systems, rogue AP’s, computers which should have been decommissioned which have poor security protections. These are just a few examples of challenges which keep CISO’s up at night. Although these may sound like failures of standard security best practice which should be routinely followed, a huge proportion of breaches are still caused by poor IT hygiene, lack of critical updates and the timely patching of vulnerabilities.

The solution:

For CISO’s to keep on top of developing vulnerabilities in your systems, applications and devices it is important to conduct regular cyber vulnerability management and CREST penetration tests. Undertaking regular certified CREST pen tests helps to identify security weaknesses, unpatched security flaws, out of date software and security misconfigurations- all of which can leave your business exposed to cyber-attacks. Another way to reduce cyber-risk is to carry out bi-weekly ‘patch-Tuesdays’ using a tool which allows you to roll-out mandatory updates and patches. Lastly, by starting a company-wide review of asset management procedures and the risk it poses to overall security, you can begin board-level conversations to help improve, strengthen and innovate the current processes.


  • 3. Increase in volume and sophistication of attacks

The challenge:

The ‘Voice of a CISO’ report which was published in 2021 discovered that 81% of CISO’s don’t feel prepared to tackle incoming cyber-attacks. CISO’s around the globe are faced with an increasing volume and sophistication of attacks, but how do they always stay one step ahead of these online criminals?

The solution:

Staying ahead of cyber-criminals must always start with visibility. After all, you can’t protect what you can’t see. If your business has multiple security dashboards and alerts which do not share information, your threat identification and response time will significantly increase. By combining security automation, threat intelligence and a SIEM to centralise your security feeds, you can quickly identify anomalies, respond to security incidents and contextualise threats laterally across your environment.


  • 4. Poor Cyber Security culture

The challenge:

Unfortunately, not all employees have a security driven mindset. Many aren’t thinking about the security implications of their actions or whether they are abiding by regulations. A CISO can have a particularly difficult job if the team isn’t used to being governed. This can often result in a CISO having to repeatedly remind employees about policies, procedures and security best practices. Sounds like a chore, right?!

The solution:

Employees need to be offered regular training to understand cyber-threats, so that they are part of the solution, not the problem. However, this should not be long, laborious presentations which result in lack of focus and employee engagement, the training should be straightforward, continuous and digestible, so that it can be easily put into practice in their day-to-day work routine. It can often be easy to forget that not every employee will understand ‘tech jargon’ or the latest cyber-threats, which is why it is vital to read the room and relate with employees across all departments. Building a strong Cyber Security culture is all about understanding that you are all working towards a common goal, you must communicate what is at stake, and that it takes every single team member to work together to safeguard the business. The reality is that a data breach is only one click away.


  • 5. Cyber Security skills shortage

The challenge

The Cyber Security skills shortage can pose a major challenge to CISO’s as it means that it is difficult to recruit and retain quality talent. CISO’s are already busy enough, without having to spend time on the lookout for new and dependable Cyber Security professionals.

The solution

By outsourcing Cyber Security services to a specialist company, you can alleviate the pressure on in-house IT and security teams, as well as save money from the cost of hiring an internal security professional. Using a third party Cyber Security supplier not only gives you access to a wide range of security expertise and skillsets, it also ensures that organisations aren’t left exposed when staff are off sick or on holiday.

How can Equilibrium help CISO pain points and challenges?

Here at Equilibrium we are Cyber Security experts with over 20 years industry experience. As a specialist security provider in the industry, we are well versed in helping Cyber Security leaders continuously strengthen security defences, minimise cyber-risk and protecting their brands from the ever-evolving threat-landscape. We are Cisco Premier Partners with an Advanced Security Certification, Splunk Partners, CREST Certified Penetration Testers and one of the few Cyber Essentials Certification bodies within the Midlands. As credible and highly qualified security experts, we are very well placed to offer support to CISO’s for all ongoing Cyber Security needs.


              Get in touch today

              If you would like to chat to a member of our team you can call us on 0121 663 0055 or email zoe@equilibrium-security.co.uk