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Information security officers need to sharpen their risk management skills

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For the last few years, we've heard CISOs need to improve their business skills. But many of today's security managers are lacking another critical discipline: risk management. As compliance initiatives become more ingrained in our business culture, and security is playing a role in most IT disciplines, there is a need for an internal "trusted adviser" who is able to translate the nuances of IT initiatives into real risk metrics. For example, security controls have traditionally been knee-jerk purchases or based solely on technical opinions and interest. Security management needs a more viable rationale for secu- rity design and implementation, as well as a more consistent framework for influencing business decisions and explaining why security is integral to business strategy.

A good friend who is a CISO explains the situation well. In his view, a CISO should really be called a CRO--chief risk officer--or report to one, and a major element of the position should be policy management--establishing guidelines and policies that adequately capture the organization's risk tolerance, and then working with operational management to ensure the policies are adhered to. The security profession talks a lot about policy these days, but we tend to omit that critical detailed risk analysis factor. Unless today's CISOs learn this important discipline and become adept at articulating

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it to senior management, the role of a CISO as we know it may very well become extinct.

This was first published in November 2007

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