3 Things Security Vendors Wished CIOs Knew

Brent Huston, CEO and Founder of MicroSolved, answered a few questions regarding CIO’s and information security. If Brent could speak to a room full of CIO’s, these are a few things he’d share:

1)  CIOs are often unaware of what assets their organization have and how are they protected.

One problem we continually run into is the CIO folks know what the assets are they have, what’s critical and what isn’t. Often, they don’t have a good feel for the lifecycle of that critical data. Knowing what they have and how they currently protect it is a huge step forward for a CIO.

Does that have to be the ability to whip out a map? In a perfect world, yes. It just means the CIO needs to be able to reiterate to the vendor particularly when we’re talking about nuanced protection. And if we’re talking about penetration testing, why not consider this: instead of talking about penetration testing the whole environment, let’s test the stuff that matters. CIOs need to effectively and clearly communicate where that stuff is that matters. The systems it interacts with and what controls are in place today is what we need to focus on for testing or leverage them to do detection.

2)  A lot of CIOs don’t have any idea of what their real threat profile looks like.

When you talk to a CIO about the threat, their image of a threat is either script kiddies sitting in the basement of their mom’s house, or they’re so deeply entrenched in the cyber-crime thing that they think of it as credit card theft. They haven’t reached the level where they have any measurement or understanding of the different levels of threats that are focused on them — and how their responses would vary. The problem is they then treat all threats as the same. 

You expend the resources at a continual burn rate, so you’re probably using more resources than what you need, and then, when something really bad happens (because they’re used to treating it like a minor thing), they don’t feel like they need to pay attention. I’d love to see a CIO grow their attention to the threat profile and be able to communicate that upwards and to us as a vendor. 

3)  Some CIOs don’t understand the organization’s appetite for risk.

This is probably the hardest one. I love to meet with CIOs who already know their organization’s appetite for risk.  It seems like many organizations, even those who should be far enough along and mature and understand an appetite for risk (I’m talking about critical infrastructures, here), don’t understand it.  They have no way to quantify or qualify risk and decide what is acceptable and what isn’t. There may be complex policies in place and there are exceptions, but many CIO’s don’t have a clear “line in the sand” to help them determine what to respond to.

These kinds of initiatives are growing, but that’s one of those things that separates a mature, security-focused organization, and a risk-focused organization from folks who haven’t moved into more of a risk and threat management interface. Many folks still are managing at a vulnerability layer, i.e. “If X vendor releases a Y patch, and I need the Z team to apply it, then I’ll do it.” They think that’s the extent of their security effort. 


To consider your security posture, why not take a look at our “80/20 Rule for Information Security” page? Did you know that 80% of an organizations’ real information security comes from only 20% of the assets and effort put into the program? These 13 security projects will give your organization the most effective information security coverage for the least expenditure of time and resources.

Contact us if you have questions! We’ve seen how these projects have helped our clients and would love to help you!

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