Every CISO’s worst nightmare

We look at the nightmares facing a Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) today.
We look at the nightmares facing a Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) today.

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A CISO’s main goal is to protect and maintain critical company assets. Originally, CISO’s were mostly responsible for cybersecurity response to data privacy and information security. Still, in 2021 almost all CISO’s are now responsible for all aspects of a company’s information risk management strategy.

Though office employees have welcomed hybrid work, it’s not all sunshine and roses for CISOs. Hybrid workplaces have created the perfect storm for various security and integrity risks. Here are some of the concerns haunting CISO’s nightmares and how they can ward off potential security risks.

Nightmare 1: The increasing rate of cyberattacks and data breaches.

This is by far one of the biggest concerns that CISOs must deal with daily, as they could happen in various ways. Cyberattacks have become some of the most severe security risks throughout every sector around the world. Not only is no sector safe from cyberattacks, but the level of sophistication of the threats they face is also continually increasing. Cybercrime has cost organizations more than £5mn in the past 13 months.

Companies with a lot of customer data are most vulnerable to attacks due to the value of this data on the dark web. Cyberattacks are constantly evolving, and attackers are learning new ways to infiltrate software or exploit undertrained employees. The type of data stolen through these attacks, the consequences can range from your intellectual property being compromised to your customers being exposed to identity theft, to disruptions to your ability to do business.

Completely avoiding cyberattacks and data breaches is almost impossible; however, by doing regular tests and implementing stringent systems, CISOs can avoid and combat most of them. In addition, CISOs need to take some time out to train employees to ensure they know the risks and potential attacks.

Microsoft announced that it would add a new single-click button to employees Outlook on Microsoft 365. This button will allow workers to report dodgy emails directly to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in a bid to clamp down on cyberattacks. This button could ease this nightmare slightly for CISOs as it will help decrease the possibility of a cyberattack or data breach.

Concern 2: ransomware

There is no question that a widespread ransomware attack is one of the worst nightmares for any CISO and business in general. Ransomware is one of the most destructive cyberattacks for companies and one of the most profitable for cybercriminals. Attackers can also use ransomware to distract a company from a real attack. So while companies are potentially organizing to pay the ransom, cybercriminals could be stealing further data in the background. 

According to Bitdefender’s 2020 Consumer Threat Landscape Report, ransomware increased by 485% in 2020. Bitdefenders have also estimated that ransomware attackers will attack an organization every 11 seconds in 2021, causing US$20bn worth of damage.

Another survey conducted by leading cybersecurity firm Proofpoint found that ransomware is currently considered the main cybersecurity threat to an organization. According to the report, 46% of CISOs said that ransomware and extortion is the biggest cybersecurity threat they face in 2021.

CISOs working in companies that manage critical infrastructure face an even bigger nightmare as ransomware could risk an economic or physical disaster. The recent Colonial Pipeline hack has shown how critical it is for infrastructure companies to have security systems to protect their information. Attacks on infrastructure are not only fatal to companies but human lives as well. A scenario by Forbes illustrates this:

  1. Imagine a ransomware attack against the power grid that services highly populated areas in the desert southwest.
  2. Imagine this attack takes place during the hottest part of the summer.
  3. Think about the heat-related deaths that would likely occur and the impact on medical supplies that require refrigeration.

CISOs need to ensure that they protect their cloud systems with proactive ransomware protection that will quickly identify any potential attacks. Most ransomware protection software now consists of a combination of AI-powered intelligence and behavior-based detection to fight against any ransomware and provide detailed information on those specific threats.

Nightmare 3: the denial-of-service attacks

Denial-of-service attacks have been around for over 20 years, and they continue to grow stronger while remaining one of the most predominant ways in which cybercriminals attack. Denial-of-Service attacks are a major concern for CISOs and can be difficult to deal with. Most companies in 2021 either rely on a website or a mobile app to conduct their daily business activities. When a company is in the midst of a denial-of-service attack, its websites and app maybe be unavailable for current and potential customers to use. The longer the website or app is down, the higher the chance of your customer moving onto your competitors and companies can lose business. Additionally, a denial of service attack may result in lost revenue as customers demand partial or complete refunds for their lost service time.

CISOs need to ensure a backup system is ready and waiting to take over during an attack. This will limit their risk of a complete shutdown. Cisco has suggested that companies deploy a complete and holistic IT approach that uses components capable of seamlessly working together to defend its networks.


In closing, CISOs really have a tough job ahead of them as cyberattacks increase every day. Their main goal to protect and maintain company assets is becoming harder and harder and even more critical. Now, when you go to sleep tonight, think of all the CISOs out there and hope that they have a good night sleep to ensure they are ready to fight tomorrow against cyber threats.

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    With over six years of experience in marketing and events, Lucy Rowley has worked with various brands around the world to create informative and thought-provoking experiences.

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