Bridging the Gap: CISOs and the C-Suite on Cybersecurity

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Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and senior leadership often find themselves at odds. This friction can be attributed to several key issues, including a lack of cybersecurity knowledge among other executives, poor communication skills among CISOs, and a misalignment between security and business metrics.

The Knowledge Gap

One of the primary sources of tension between CISOs and senior leadership is the knowledge gap. Many executives in the C-suite, including CEOs and CFOs, often lack a deep understanding of cybersecurity risks and their implications. According to a Trend Micro survey of 2,600 IT leaders, only 54% believe that the C-suite truly understands cybersecurity risks. This lack of knowledge can lead to underestimating the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and misinterpreting the advice and warnings from CISOs.

This gap can be particularly problematic when it comes to decision-making. Executives may prioritize other business risks over cybersecurity, not fully grasping how a significant cyber incident could disrupt business operations, damage reputation, and lead to substantial financial losses. To bridge this gap, it’s crucial for CISOs to educate and engage with senior leaders, providing them with clear, relatable information about cybersecurity risks and their potential business impacts.

Communication Barriers

Effective communication is essential for any successful relationship, and the dynamic between CISOs and senior leadership is no exception. However, many CISOs struggle with articulating cybersecurity risks in a way that resonates with non-technical executives. The Trend Micro survey highlighted that 58% of respondents believe that improved IT communication skills would help enhance their standing within the organization.

CISOs often rely on technical jargon and complex risk assessments, which can be difficult for executives to understand. This communication barrier can result in misunderstandings, with senior leaders perceiving CISOs as alarmist or out of touch with business priorities. Gareth Lindahl-Wise, CISO at Ontinue, emphasizes the importance of presenting cyber risks in a common business language, focusing on the likelihood and impact of these risks in terms executives can appreciate.

To overcome these barriers, CISOs should develop strong communication skills, learning to translate technical information into business terms. Regular updates and clear, concise reports can help keep the board informed and engaged. By framing cybersecurity issues in the context of business goals and financial metrics, CISOs can demonstrate the tangible value of their efforts and foster a more collaborative relationship with senior leadership.

Misalignment of Metrics

Another critical issue is the misalignment between security and business metrics. CISOs typically focus on metrics such as vulnerability counts, incident response times, and compliance levels, while senior leaders are more concerned with revenue growth, market share, and profitability. This disconnect can lead to conflicting priorities and a lack of support for necessary cybersecurity investments.

Jose Seara, CEO and founder of DeNexus, suggests that translating detailed cybersecurity signals into business and financial metrics is crucial. This approach allows CISOs to justify cybersecurity investments by showing how they mitigate business risks and contribute to overall corporate objectives. For example, quantifying the potential financial impact of a data breach can make a compelling case for investing in advanced threat detection and response solutions.

Furthermore, aligning cybersecurity initiatives with business goals can help CISOs gain the support and resources they need from senior leadership. By demonstrating how security measures can enable business growth, protect intellectual property, and enhance customer trust, CISOs can position cybersecurity as a strategic asset rather than a cost center.

Building a Stronger Relationship

To build a stronger, more effective relationship between CISOs and senior leadership, several strategies can be employed:

  1. Continuous Education: CISOs should take the lead in educating senior leaders about the evolving threat landscape and the importance of proactive cybersecurity measures. This can be achieved through regular briefings, workshops, and tailored training sessions.
  2. Effective Communication: Improving communication skills and adopting a business-oriented approach to presenting cybersecurity risks can help bridge the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders. CISOs should focus on clear, concise messaging that highlights the business impact of cyber threats.
  3. Metric Alignment: Aligning security metrics with business objectives can help CISOs gain the support of senior leaders. By demonstrating how cybersecurity efforts contribute to the company’s bottom line, CISOs can secure the necessary investments and resources.
  4. Transparency and Accountability: Establishing a culture of transparency and accountability can enhance trust between CISOs and senior leadership. Regular, open communication about cybersecurity challenges and successes can foster a collaborative environment where security is viewed as a shared responsibility.
  5. Proactive Engagement: CISOs should proactively engage with senior leaders, seeking their input and feedback on cybersecurity strategies. This collaborative approach can help ensure that security initiatives are aligned with business goals and have the support of key stakeholders.


The relationship between CISOs and senior leadership is crucial for the success of any organization’s cybersecurity strategy. By addressing the knowledge gap, improving communication, and aligning security and business metrics, CISOs can foster a more collaborative and effective partnership with senior leaders. This, in turn, will help create a resilient security posture that supports and protects the organization’s long-term goals.

In a world where cyber threats are constantly evolving, it is more important than ever for CISOs and senior leadership to work together, leveraging their combined expertise to navigate the complex landscape of cybersecurity and ensure the safety and success of their organization.

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