Survey: More Companies Hiring CSOs

Even though the worst economic recessionin decades has compelled companies to spend less on outsourced security services and do more in-house, security budgets appear to be holding steady. And more of companies are employing a chief security officer.

Even though the worst economic recessionin decades has compelled companies to spend less on outsourced security services and do more in-house, security budgets appear to be holding steady. And more of companies are employing a chief security officer.

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That's one of the big takeaways from the seventh-annual Global Information Security survey, which CSO and CIO magazines conducted with PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year. Some 7,200 business and technology executives worldwide responded from a variety of industries, including government, health care, financial services and retail.

For an alternate look at the job picture, check out the following:

* Undercover: A Painful Lack of Security Jobs

* Surviving Layoffs: Five Career Lessons from the Security Trenches

"I have seen examples where companies are making bigger investments in training over time to make internal staff more security savvy," says Miguel Lopez, a Los Angelas-based IT security practitioner who has worked for such companies as MSC Software and Stamps.com. Part of the reason is that regulatory compliance pressures have jolted open the eyes of top brass who may have been blind to their internal security needs previously. Lopez points to one of his friends in the industry for an example of how things have changed. "My friend, an information security manager, sits on an executive security committee with doctors and other non-IT personnel," he says. "Security is being heard from and listened to more now than ever before."

A New Corporate Commitment

Companies may still struggle with the quality of their data security, but the response to this year's survey suggests their executive peers have agreed, finally, that security can't be ignored.

Companies' budget plans tell part of the story. Not only are more companies investing in security technologies, but overall security investments are largely intact, despite the economy.

Twelve percent of respondents expect their security spending to decline in the next 12 months. But 63 percent say their budgets will hold steady or increase (although fewer foresee increases than did last year).

For starters, more companies are hiring CSOs or chief information security officers (CISOs). Eighty-five percent of respondents said their companies now have a security executive, up from 56 percent last year and 43 percent in 2006. Just under one-third of security chiefs report to CIOs, 35 percent to CEOs and 28 percent to boards of directors.

Two factors are influencing companies to maintain security as a corporate priority: Seventy-six percent say the increased risk environment has elevated the importance of cybersecurity among the top brass, while 77 percent said the increasingly tangled web of regulations and industry standards has added to the sense of urgency.

Respondents were asked how important various security strategies had become in the context of harsher economic realities. Seventy percent cited the growing importance of data protection while 68 percent cited the need to strengthen the company's governance, risk and compliance programs.

Notes Mauricio Angee, senior manager of IT security and compliance and CSO at Universal Orlando: "For segregation of duty purposes, it's interesting to see how companies are being askedby compliance auditors, qualified security assessors and through legislationto hire IT security managers with a much-more-defined set of roles and responsibilities." Such roles include setting the company's security policy, making the security budget pitch (instead of the CIO) and delegating responsibility among lower-level IT security administrators and engineers.

None of these developments, however, make a focus on information security a sure bet in the eyes of IT leaders. Just because companies feel they have to spend money on security doesn't mean executives view it as an essential, even beneficial business process instead of a pain-in-the-neck task being forced upon them.

Angee sayes security leaders still have to fight hard for every penny. Meanwhile, security execs don't have the same decision-making power as other C-level leaders in every company, says Mark Lobel, a partner in the security practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. CIOs can bring in a CSO or CISO without a strategy and budget for that person to work with and end up achieving nothing. If something goes wrong, he concludes, "all you'll have is somebody to blame and fire."

This story, "Survey: More Companies Hiring CSOs" was originally published by CSO.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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