Last week I had the opportunity to do both a presentation at the BCS IRMA Specialist Group as well as take part in a drastically reduced panel with Javvad Malik (and only Javvad!) at the InfoSec Europe 2013 Press conference.
Firstly I want to recount the panel for the press conference. After some last minute drop outs (one of which I was replacing anyway!) there was just Javvad and me available to do it less than 24 hours before we were due to start. In his own inimitable style he proposed a double act Parkinson style to talk about the challenges faced by a CISO in the Enterprise. I was somewhat unconvinced by this but true to his word, the whole session went extremely well and was thoroughly enjoyable. Afterwards Javvad was told by some of the journalists that the session was a great way to end the two days with the non vendor focus of the session, and the humour that Javvad and I of course used!
One of the main topics we discussed was that of the position of the CISO within the organisation and the influence that this subsequently brings. Ultimately my position is clear on this, that the CISO needs to be as high in the organisation, and as independent of vertical alignment as possible. What I mean by this is that if the CISO is on the board (or executive leadership team as appropriate) and does not report into the CFO, COO, CIO or any other C level executive there is a dramatically increased chance of security being a successfully managed activity in the enterprise. It ensures full representation of the security function at the most senior levels, free of conflicts of interest and able to vie for budget and attention on an equal footing with the rest of the business units.
I will caveat this however. If there is no security function in place or it is in its nascent stages, or the business itself is smaller, it makes absolute sense to have the security function perhaps initially reporting into the CIO; in all likelihood the staff building the team will come from IT anyway. However, as the team grows it needs to evolve its leadership and position in the organisation, perhaps moving away from the IT function, to the COO and then ultimately to the board.
This transition is something that I have never seen planned in advance, and this is probably one of the fundamental reasons why the CISO and security function is constantly under represented in the modern enterprise as it struggles to gain independence. This will always result in poor awareness and training, lack of budget and lack of true top down security adoption as they compete for ever diminishing resources from lower down in the organisation.
One fairly unique place I have seen the security function is reporting into the General Counsel/Legal function. This I have seen work well as it is the GC that is traditionally responsible for the tracking and management of risks for the enterprise, and frequently has the ear of the CEO. I rarely see a conflict of interest with the security function either. This is not common though, and is likely to only be likely in the larger organisations that have a formal role of GC.
Bottom line, if the newly appointed CISO (i.e. a senior level position for a mature security team) reports into the CIO, then in reality, security is not going to function effectively in that organisation.
And finally (although not in chronological order), the BCS. It was the final presentation of “An Anatomy of a Risk Assessment” and it was (as far as I can tell) well received. Unfortunately the weather and lack of sandwiches post the even meant there was little time to mingle afterwards, but I have since received a number of favourable comments and of course connection requests on LinkedIn which is always heartening. I did however feel I didn’t answer one of the questions at the end, about India, particularly well, and may have come across as a little disingenuous when nothing could be further from the truth. I hope my friends and colleagues from india will forgive me if they make it to the end of the video when I get hold of a copy (and post it here). As an aside I found an extremely flattering write up of the very first time I presented this in January last year. To the author at Acumin, thank you! http://acumin.wordpress.com/2012/02/
All in all, a very enjoyable and engaging kick off to 2013.