When is a CISO responsible for a breach or cyber incident? Should they be disciplined, fired, or let go with an attractive payout?



Check out this post for the discussion that is the basis of our conversation on this week’s episode co-hosted by me, David Spark (@dspark), the producer of CISO Series and Allan Alford (@AllanAlfordinTX). Our guest is Norman Hunt (@normanhunt3), deputy CISO, GEICO.

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On this episode of Defense in Depth, you’ll learn:

  • On the onset, one may want to jump to finding liability. But a CISO’s responsibility should not be isolated at the moment of the breach. There are more issues to consider, such as authority, accountability, efficacy, and expectations.
  • Be wary of assigning accountability if the CISO didn’t have the authority to actually carry out his/her intended plan.
  • Often the CISO is seen as a necessary scapegoat when there is a breach. It shows an aggressive move by the company to make a change, but then they’ll have to go ahead and hire another CISO, probably at a much higher salary (see last week’s episode).
  • When are you measuring the performance of the CISO? Is it as they build the security program, or is it only at the moment of the breach?
  • How well does a CISO handle the breach when it happens and how well do his direct reports and the rest of the company handle it? That’s a better measurement of the efficacy of the CISO.
  • CISOs are held to a higher level of expectation to prevent a risky event from happening. CIOs, CEO, and CFOs are not held to the same standard.
  • Even the best CISOs will suffer a breach. It’s a single point in time. It sure is a very bad point in time, but what are the events that led up to this moment. Were they building out a security program and were there improvements or was staff education and leadership falling short?
  • The best standard of measurement of a CISO is how well do they communicate and implement security and risk decisions?
  • Failure may be at the definition of the role of the CISO. A CISO’s role and its responsibilities are far from standardized.