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Not All CISOs are Created Equal – But the Best Have One Thing in Common

Being a world-class CISO isn’t about genius or luck. It’s about learning from others’ mistakes.

The chief information security officer is unique among C-suite executives. It’s a relatively new role, and it doesn’t often come with a clear set of historical rules you can safely follow to achieve success. 

In fact, the CISOs role varies wildly from one organization to the next.  There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all security solution, so one organization’s executive-level security responsibilities may be entirely different from another’s. 

This kind of inconsistency is a feature – not a bug – of the cybersecurity industry in general. Tech stacks vary between organizations. Risk profiles can change daily. Cybercriminals are unpredictable. Great CISOs must navigate a challenging environment to ensure success. 


Measuring CISO Success is Easier Than You Might Think 

So what makes a great CISO? How should the cybersecurity industry measure the success of its executive leaders and decision-makers? 

Managing cybercrime risks is one of the CISO's primary responsibilities, so let’s start there. Successful CISOs prepare for cybercrime contingencies in advance, mitigating the risk of catastrophic data loss and privacy breaches. When these attacks occur, they have well-established incident response playbooks at their disposal, and successfully mitigate the damage. 

But information security leaders don’t have unlimited resources at their disposal. 

Your defenses must offer a sensible economic-exchange ratio with the attacks you respond to. Your organization can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on technology licenses and analyst employee hours every time an attacker spends $10 to launch a distributed denial-of-service attack against it. 

That means the best CISOs are not only prepared but judiciously prepared. They successfully manage limited resources to mitigate cyberattack risks while minimizing the impact on productivity. The organization avoids cyberattack disasters without going bankrupt doing so.  

The result is clear for everyone to see. There are many great companies – especially in the transportation, aerospace, and insurance industries – with enviable cybersecurity track records. 

Ultimately, it’s easy to measure the success of a CISO using public data. Great CISOs protect their organizations’ users from hacks and data breaches with confidence and efficiency. The question, then, is how they do it. 


What Makes a CISO Stand Out Above the Rest?

Some CISOs have extraordinary expertise in core app development. Others are well-versed in managing daily security operations. Some rely on interpersonal skills to gain insight into their organization’s security weaknesses. Most have to do all these things at once – and more. 

You might think that means the ability to multi-task is what makes a CISO great, but that’s not exactly it. The modern enterprise is too large and too complex. You can spend your entire career honing your development skills or improving operational efficiency, and there will still be more to go. 

It’s not about multi-tasking - it’s about delegating. 

Great CISOs are leaders who know how to assemble competent teams. They understand their own strengths and weaknesses and delegate responsibilities to people who complement their capabilities. 

This is what gives them the ability to address the entire spectrum of information security threats and still have the energy to influence security culture throughout the organization. Influencing accountants, sales team members, and others to improve their security hygiene is also a form of delegation! 

For a non-technical CISO who relies on soft skills, that means finding scalable technical expertise ready to offer trustworthy advice at a moment’s notice. For the enterprise infrastructure architect, that might mean scaling out the security operations team to drive value from human analytical insight. 

In both cases, information security leaders who delegate mission-critical tasks to reliable managed service providers are able to expand their capabilities without blowing the budget. They rely on a network of reputable vendors to drive value and let each member of the team focus on what they do best.


Make Castra Your Information Security Partner 

Castra is a managed detection and response vendor that specializes in equipping CISOs with scalable security expertise and high-performance technology. 

We operate a 24x7 security operations center staffed with diligent, US-based analysts using some of the industry’s most sophisticated technologies to detect suspicious activities, mitigate cybersecurity risks, and perform comprehensive incident investigations.


Leverage our expertise to take your security posture to the next level. Contact us to learn how Castra can help your department save time and budget now!