Top 3 Priorities for Today’s CISO: Safeguarding the Digital Frontier

By Jaye Tillson

Jaye Tillson, Field CTO at Axis Security

In an era where cyber threats are evolving at an alarming pace, the role of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) has never been more critical. Today, CISOs are the guardians of an organization’s digital assets, and in this role are facing a very daunting task–they are being called to protect sensitive data, maintain customer trust, and ensure business continuity. With an ever-expanding threat landscape, the ability to deliver on these three fronts has never been more challenging. As a result, it’s essential for CISOs to establish clear priorities to navigate these turbulent waters successfully.

In my role, I have the opportunity to meet regularly with security professionals from a variety of businesses all over the globe. Over the past six months in particular, that includes some extremely informative discussions with a sizeable group of CISOs. In this article, I wanted to share what I believe are the top three priorities that are at the forefront of their agenda.

Cyber Resilience

Today we are all operating in an interconnected world and many of the CISOs I spoke to believe that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ a cyberattack will occur. It’s hard to argue with their view. Taking that viewpoint into account, their focus was on building cyber resilience within their organizations. For them, this meant preparing for, responding to, and recovering from cyber incidents effectively. Here are some key strategies that they are considering:

  • Incident Response Plan: Develop and regularly update a comprehensive incident response plan. Once this has been shared throughout the organization, make sure that all employees are aware of their roles and responsibilities during a cyber incident. From there, it’s imperative to put this plan to the test. This includes conducting regular drills and simulations to gauge the plan’s effectiveness and, if necessary, adjusting it as needed.
  • Data Backups and Recovery: Even with the best plan, data loss is always a possibility, especially since it is no longer housed in a single, central location. These CISO’s touched on the need to implement a robust data backup and recovery processes to minimize any data loss in case of a breach. This includes verifying the integrity of backups regularly and storing them securely offline to prevent ransomware attacks.
  • Threat Intelligence: Invest in threat intelligence tools and services to stay informed about emerging threats and vulnerabilities. These CISOs widely agreed that having regular access to this information would help them proactively defend against attacks.
  • Employee Training: No matter how many solutions you invest in and the simulations you conduct, human error still remains a significant factor in security breaches. In fact,  Verizon’s 2022 Data Breaches Investigations Report (DBIR) found that 82 percent of data breaches involve a human element. According to the DBIR, this includes incidents “in which employees expose information directly (for example, by misconfiguring databases) or by making a mistake that enables cyber criminals to access the organization’s systems.” Findings like this reinforce why these CISOs state it’s essential to conduct regular cybersecurity awareness training for all employees. The goal of these efforts is simple–ensure that everyone across the businesses fully understands the importance of security best practices.

Zero Trust

Many of the CISOs felt that the traditional perimeter-based security model is no longer sufficient to protect their business against modern threats. These solutions were effective when their we focused on protecting everyone within a castle and moat (i.e., the corporate office)/ But we don’t work in castles anymore.

For this group there is widespread agreement that the answer is to adopt a Zero Trust approach to secure their organization’s digital assets. Zero Trust operates on the principle of “never trust, always verify,” and it requires a fundamental shift in how security is implemented. Their priorities were:

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM): Implement strict IAM policies to ensure that users and devices are authenticated and authorized before accessing any resources. This includes the use multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible.
  • Micro-Segmentation: Divide the network into micro-segments to limit lateral movement for potential attackers. With micro-segmentation, each individual segment should have its own access controls and monitoring mechanisms.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Because security threats never sleep, businesses must employ continuous monitoring solutions that track user and device behavior, detect anomalies, and trigger alerts for suspicious activities in near real-time.
  • Application Security: Ensure that all applications, whether on-premises or in the cloud, are secure by design. In addition, regularly assess and update the business’s security posture to mitigate vulnerabilities.

Regulatory Compliance

As data privacy regulations continue to evolve worldwide, compliance is a significant concern for many of the CISOs, and with good reason. Non-compliance often leads to hefty fines and reputational damage. Just ask Amazon which in 2021 incurred an $877 million fine for breaches of the GDPR.  To address this priority, the CISOs intended to:

  • Stay Informed: Stay up-to-date with the latest data privacy regulations, such as GDPR, CCPA, NIS2, or any other relevant laws based on their organization’s geographic footprint and industry.
  • Data Protection: Implement robust data protection measures, including encryption, access controls, and data retention policies, to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Third-party Risk Management: Evaluate and monitor the security practices of third-party vendors and partners to ensure they meet compliance standards, as their actions can impact their organization’s compliance status.
  • Documentation and Reporting: Maintain thorough records of security measures, audits, and compliance activities and be prepared to provide documentation to regulatory authorities if required.


As the digital landscape becomes increasingly complex and volatile, these CISOs knew they would be facing the formidable challenge of safeguarding their organizations against a barrage of cyber threats.  What was clear through my conversations is they all felt that by prioritizing cyber resilience, adopting Zero Trust, and ensuring regulatory compliance, they could build a robust security posture that not only protects their organization’s sensitive data but also strengthens customer trust and ensures business continuity in an ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. They also acknowledged that their role was seen as pivotal in the modern business world and that these top priorities should be their guide in securing the digital frontier.

Image by gpointstudio on Freepik


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