CISO: A Comprehensive Guide In 2021


Events of great impact in history have shaped today’s world and will continue to in the future. In the days when the CIO was being considered a coveted role in the corporate setup and was considered a role equivalent to a CEO if not lesser, the explosion of cybersecurity threats transformed the scene and pushed up a new role in the industry, that of a CISO. Full form of CISO translates to the Chief Information Security Officer, responsible for managing and protecting an organization’s intellectual and proprietary data and overall IT security.

A cybersecurity event at Citibank back in the 1994 scripted evolution of this specialized role. Over the years, the role has evolved considerably, taking a more strategic leadership role.

  1. CISO definition
  2. CISO Responsibilities
  3. CISO Requirements
  4. CISO Certifications
  5. CISO vs CIO vs CSO
  6. CISO Job Description

1. CISO definition

CISO full form is Chief Information Security Officer. It is a role responsible for overall IT security but particularly tasked with protecting proprietary and intellectual information belonging to the enterprise. This role has evolved in many large-scale businesses where the protection of intellectual property and IT assets is seen as a top priority. The tile these days is often interchangeably used with CSO (Chief Security Officer) or VP of Security.

The CISO is expected to define an enterprise-wide security strategy and percolate it through every stratum within the organization. Let’s look at what IT security buffs need to do if they aim to fill in this role in the future.

2. CISO Responsibilities

The CISO roles and responsibilities make him/her chiefly responsible for protecting intellectual information and drafting IT security policy. The role also overlooks and drives this strategy across the below-mentioned areas within an enterprise.

  • Security Operations

The CISO overlooks the IT security operations, the day-to-day review of threat perception, triage in case of security incidents and recovery from impact.

  • Cyber risk and cyber intelligence

Staying up to date on threats across the globe, identifying vulnerabilities and mitigating zero-day threats effectively. IT security risks involved in acquisitions and mergers are also dealt with by CISO.

  • Fraud prevention

Keeping a hawk’s eye on the behaviour of the internal system, implementing zero-trust security across the board, ensuring important intellectual assets are kept under tight supervision and control.

  • Security architecture

Planning, designing and implementing security architecture using the best security practices.

  • Identity and Access management

IAM is all about ensuring the right personnel get access to the right content within the IT infrastructure.

  • Program management

Implementing enterprise-wide programs and projects that create awareness and help mitigate risks.

  • Investigation and forensics

Investigate a security incident, trace incidents back to their root and taking remedial action while also ensuring a repeat is not possible.

  • Governance

Ensuring the security strategy is being implemented across the board without any major hindrances. Drive the importance of IT security across the board.

3. CISO Requirements

Typically, a CISO candidate should possess a degree in Computer Science and a wide-ranging experience spanning 10-12 years, with at least five years in a managerial role. A master’s in technology with a focus on IT security will be an added advantage on the resume. Speaking of technical skills in core Networking, Cybersecurity, Ethical hacking, and threat modeling. CISOs are also expected to be well versed with industry regulatory standards like PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX, and others.

Aside from the technical aspect, most CISOs possess a management degree since it is all about managing situations in an organizational setup. A good hold on communicating across the board, interacting with senior executives is also a skill that CISOs should possess.

In the end, it all depends on the business. The mix of technical, administrative, and soft skills is something that is decided by the needs of the business and how they envision IT security within the organization. It is seen generally that businesses with an international reach with a non-tech business will look for candidates with a more holistic functional security experience with more focus on leadership skills. Businesses leaning on the technical side would prefer a candidate with a specific technical skillset around web security.

4. CISO Certifications

There are certifications that will look good on your resume if you are gunning for the CISO role. Here are a few such certifications which will help you on the way.

  • CISP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), designed for IT professionals with a focus on security.
  • CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) is ideal for those willing to transition from a technical role to a leadership role.
  • CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) is a valuable certification for security professionals who wish to broaden their awareness about cybersecurity threats.

5. CISO vs CIO vs CSO

You might see titles similar to CISO, like CSO or CIO, but enterprises in the medium to large scale category usually tend to have a CISO role. What is more important is how the role is placed in an org chart. Having a CISO or CSO who is the top security exec report to a product exec tends to undermine the IT security strategy as typically product teams want to have quick and easy access to applications, while IT security tends to see the risks in the open architecture and wants to clamp down.

If IT security is of prime importance to a business, the org chart should reflect the same and allow IT security to take measures to secure the IT scene in line with the strategy.

6. CISO Job Description

If you have to write CISO job description, along with the qualifications and experience, important things to point out in the job description are

Organization commitment towards IT security to attract the best talent in the industry.

Org Chart indicating the position of the CISO in the corporate setup.

  • CISO Salary

As per Glassdoor, CISO salary range above Rs.0.5 cr annually mark in India.

In the US, hiring firm ZipRecruiter has the average salary for a CISO pegged at 159K, and hints that it ranges between $195K to $257K.


CISO is more of a role in a management position with the technical know-how, much like the CEO of Microsoft or Google. Increasing your experience in the IT security domain while you are gaining management experience would keep you in good stead in your goal to fill in the role of a CISO. Take relevant technical courses on the way to your final goal.

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give them an edge in this competitive world.


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