Ascendant CSOs becoming “guardians of big changes” as IT security shapes digital business: Gartner

Information-security professionals are enjoying a functional ascendancy that will increasingly make them “the new guardians of big changes in the organisation”, analyst firm Gartner has predicted as its analysts gather this week to prognosticate on the future of enterprise IT.

Noting the growing trend towards digitalisation of businesses processes, Gartner managing vice president Christian Byrnes said the business community had passed an “inflection point in business and technological innovation” – yet noted that security processes had frequently struggled to keep pace as new devices and new software expanded the scope of the digital business.

With the firm warning that “most organisations in 2015 have not shown a consistent ability to substantially mitigate” risks, Byrnes warned that it was beyond time for IT-security leaders to step up their games.

“Protecting information alone isn't enough, and ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of that information isn't enough,” he said. “Leaders in risk and cybersecurity must now assume the responsibility of providing safety for both people and their environments.”

Byrnes' statements were a nod to both the increasingly mobile device-driven digital landscape, and the steadily growing role of the Internet of Things (IoT) concept of autonomous, frequently-connected devices – which, the firm predicted, will be specifically addressed by business initiatives in more than 20 percent of businesses by 2017.

This shift was going to drive a significant change in IT-security skill sets, with an increasing demand for expertise in areas like vendor portfolio management, safety engineering, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, embedded software, and systems security and “cyberphysical” systems.

That's a big ask for most organisations, which are still struggling to get their heads around the requirements for staying relevant in today's escalating cybersecurity threat landscape. Yet amidst the Gartner call for CSOs to step up, are echoes of longstanding concerns that CEOs aren't taking cybersecurity seriously enough – highlighted in a recent damning audit of Victorian government agencies' IT practices that saw government executives fingered for apathy around addressing serious security shortcomings.

Strategic support has long been held to be key to the success of government cybersecurity programs and CSOs readily recognise that getting C-level support is essential for security awareness programs to succeed.

They're also quick to blame intractable CEOs for security problems, according to a recent survey that found most CSOs believe CEOs and board members bear the responsibility in the event of a data breach.

Read more: Victorian public-service executives ignoring warnings on IT security processes, end-of-life software: auditor

With even shaming failing to drive a fundamental change in business practices, business executives were going to need a stronger hand and a more effective partner in driving the digitalisation of modern business.

That partner, the firm is suggesting, will increasingly be the CSO – empowered by what it describes as a 'digital humanist' approach to security .

This approach will need to recognise the importance of people in implementing enterprise security strategies, working in human-centric behavioural model into IT-security practices to produce hybrid models that value educating people, embracing “serendipity” and communities of common interest, and balancing top-down control with bottom-up empowerment of people.

By taking on this approach, CSOs will be able drive a new computing model that “elevates traditional IT services, such as cloud computing and advanced analytics, to a mandatory status to support the scale and functional needs of the edge,” the firm predicted.

In the end, CSOs that seized this opportunity for change would help define the architectures of their business going forward.

“The race to the edge requires that organisations consolidate the prioritisation of cybersecurity efforts across broader technology areas that require protection and are interdependent,” Byrnes advised, noting that CSOs “must practice business resiliency and adaptability”.

“They are now so integrated with digital business decisions,” he continued, “that leaders cannot tell where business ends and cybersecurity begins.”

Tags GartnerIT Securityenterprise ITInternet of Things (IoT)CSO AustraliaChristian Byrnes

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