The Shift in Power from CIO to CISO: The Rise in Cyber Attacks Enables Greater Resources and Budget Allocation

By Jaye Tillson

[By Jaye Tillson, Field CTO at Axis Security]

In today’s technology-driven world, cyber-attacks have become an ever-increasing threat to organizations across all industries. If that’s not bad enough. these threats are becoming more sophisticated while continuing to escalate in number. Often when we talk about the impact of these cyber threats, we inevitably focus on the wallet as well as how they can tarnish a business’s reputation. But there is another result that is reshaping the corporate landscape and in doing so altering the distribution of power within the C-suite.

Here I’ll explain why. Traditionally, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and their team were responsible for managing an organization’s information technology infrastructure. However, the escalating frequency and severity of cyber-attacks have shaken things up and in doing so are driving the need for dedicated expertise and resources to fight back. As a result, we are witnessing the beginnings of a shift in power from the CIO to the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and the wider security team.

Let’s look at some of the key reasons behind this shift and how the rise in cyber attacks has enabled the CISO to gain more power, resources, and budget.

Evolving Cyber Threat Landscape

Over the past decade, the cyber threat landscape has evolved significantly. Attack vectors have become more sophisticated, encompassing various tactics such as ransomware, social engineering, and advanced persistent threats. The impact of attacks can be severe operational, reputational, and financial damage to an organization. In fact, Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that the cost of cybercrime will jump from $3 trillion in 2015 to a projected $10.5 trillion in 2025. Numbers like this are why, over the last few years, more and more businesses have committed to establishing a more dedicated cybersecurity focus which in turn has, led to the emergence of the CISO role.

The Need for Specialized Expertise

Combatting modern cyber threats requires specialized knowledge and expertise. CIOs do possess a broad understanding of technology and its integration within the organization. But, cybersecurity demands a more targeted and in-depth approach to protect against cyber threats. CISOs and their teams bring the specialized skill set required. This includes knowledge of threat intelligence, risk assessment, incident response, and security frameworks. As cyber-attacks have grown in complexity, organizations have recognized the importance of having a dedicated CISO to navigate the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. This importance will continue to grow in 2024 with CISOs upgrading cloud security investments, deploying new API securities, upping their commitment to Zero Trust architecture, and much more.

Board-Level Accountability

High-profile cyber attacks and data breaches have placed cybersecurity on the radar of boardrooms worldwide. Executives and board members are increasingly held accountable for the security posture of their organizations. Consequently, the CISO’s role has gained prominence that extends beyond the C-Suite to boards who are seeking direct access to their expertise and insights. In fact, CISOs have gained a position at the table which has enabled them to influence key decisions related to cybersecurity strategy, resource allocation, and budget. Looking forward it will be essential that CISOs effectively communicate clearly and help ensure that businesses make the right decisions.

Regulatory Compliance and Legal Requirements

The regulatory landscape has witnessed a surge in measures aimed at protecting consumer data and ensuring critical infrastructure security. Legislation such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have heightened the need for robust data protection measures and a failure to comply can be costly. In the case of GDPR, an infringement that’s considered serious could result in a fine as high as €20 million. The CISO plays a vital role in ensuring compliance with these regulations, mitigating potential legal risks, and safeguarding the organization’s reputation.

Impact on the Bottom Line

The financial implications of cyber attacks have amplified the urgency of investing in cybersecurity measures. The costs associated with recovering from a cyber attack, including incident response, remediation, and reputational damage control, can be astronomical. Executives and boards recognize that allocating adequate resources to cybersecurity is a proactive approach to protecting the organization’s financial stability. Consequently, CISOs have gained greater leverage in budget discussions, as their expertise is essential for minimizing financial risks associated with cyber threats.

To conclude, the rise in cyber attacks has disrupted the traditional power dynamics within organizations, shifting influence from the CIO to the CISO. The evolving threat landscape, specialized expertise requirements, board-level accountability, regulatory compliance, and financial implications have all contributed to this shift.

As organizations recognize the criticality of robust cybersecurity measures, the CISO has emerged as a vital figure with access to increased resources and budget allocations. Embracing this shift in power and providing CISOs with the necessary support is essential to fortify organizational defenses and safeguard against the growing menace of cyber attacks.

Jaye Tillson, Security Director, Axis Security

Jaye Tillson is a Director of Strategy at Axis Security and has 20+ years of experience implementing strategic global technology programs, helping organizations achieve digital transformation, and guiding businesses through their zero-trust journey. Jaye is passionate about working with large enterprises on their strategic journey towards zero trust, where he can bring forth real-world experience on issues and problems.


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