Things that Keep CISOs up at Night

The job of a chief information security officer (CISO) requires constant attention to details, and a proactive and strategic approach. As today’s workplace becomes mostly digitalized, threats and vulnerabilities are always around the corner. Therefore, the CISO’s responsibilities of managing risk is becoming increasingly difficult.

I’ve see many CISOs losing sleep thinking about what the next threat will be and how to prevent it from happening. Advances in technology are almost always followed with the development of a new hacker tool that can find ways around most countermeasures. CISOs always have to be prepared to fight against these threats.

Here are a few of the things that keep CISOs up at night, along with ways to help solve the problem. I hope this will help fellow cybersecurity professionals in solving their challenges and, yes, get a good night’s sleep.

Not Knowing if My Attack Surface is Exposed or Not

Equifax, Marriott, Capital One – we don’t have to be experts to realize how disastrous a security breach can be. While reacting to a breach is a very tough challenge, being able to predict it is even harder. Therefore, understanding an organization’s attack surface is one of the CISO’s essential requirements in the evolving threat landscape.

An attack surface consists of the various attack paths that a bad actor can take to gain entry into a system to compromise data. A CISO can review all entry points along with various paths to where sensitive data is stored. This review should yield information on all the different paths an attacker can take to gain access to a system and compromise the data, and allow a CISO to make educated decisions on how to prevent next attacks. With a clear understanding of these attack paths, CISOs can identify the right controls and where they should be placed – giving them a better sense of the overall security posture. This will allow CISOs to be more proactive rather than reactive in their approach to cybersecurity.

I Don’t Have Enough Resources to Better Understand My Attack Surface

Many CISOs claim they don’t have enough workforce to fight all the cyber threats they face on a daily basis. Filling the cybersecurity talent gap is a pressing issue. On one hand it’s great to have skilled talent. But if that’s not available then automation will help.

Security automation can help CISOs to protect an organization’s attack surface. Automation reduces human error and time spent on manual processes. Automation empowers CISOs to focus on other business aspects, such as innovation or product enhancement. Automation tools can streamline cybersecurity activities such as continuous monitoring, audit trails, identity management and threat modeling.

ThreatModeler is a software platform that automatically threat models an enterprise’s attack surface. CISOs can visualize the entire attack surface, which includes a list of contextual security threats and requirements. By integrating the platform with their software development ticketing tool, CI/CD pipeline, and cloud environment, an organization can implement security requirements and controls for all kinds of looming threats.

I Don’t Know all the Entry Points on My Attack Surface

Even the smallest security oversight can lead to a hacker infiltrating a point of entry to wreak even more havoc on your infrastructure. We have seen numerous examples of S3 buckets with sensitive data accessible on the internet. A common entry point on an attack surface is a user input field, which cybercriminals can use to deploy SQL injections and cross-site scripting attacks. Entry points could be from applications, network, third party applications, cloud or other sources. Tools for visualizing and analyzing an attack surface will help you to identify entry point threats. Understanding an entry point is important to visualize the path an attacker can take to get to your valuable assets. You can then set security controls, make bug fixes and reduce your attack surface to mitigate risk. Identifying all the entry points can be very daunting but it is the single most important aspect in reducing your overall risk.

I Need Protection Against Insider Threats

The recent Capital One data breach, which compromised more than 100 million customer records, 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers, was an insider job. Training and mentoring sometimes are not enough to achieve the goal of building a trusted team. Among other challenges, CISOs have to face insider threats that aren’t coming just from employees who are trying to access sensitive information, but also those coming from human error. You don’t have to necessarily have bad intentions to make an action that can have disastrous consequences.

The human element is one of the most difficult factors to predict. It’s essentially impossible to eliminate the insider threat because people are fallible in a way that machines and algorithms are not. So to mitigate insider threats, CISOs have to limit access to accounts to the other team members. The fewer humans, the lower the risk of human error.

About Archie Agarwal
Archie Agarwal is the founder and CEO of ThreatModeler. With more than 20 years of real-world experience in threat and risk analysis, Archie has been instrumental in successfully implementing secure software development processes at a number of Fortune 1000 companies to minimize their exposure to cyber threats and mitigate risks. Prior to founding ThreatModeler, he was the Director of Education Services at WhiteHat Security.