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Debunking Common Virtual Security Myths

virtual securityWhen it comes to deploying security in a virtual environment, some industry professionals draw a blank–or, worse, they think that it’s necessary to replace existing physical security protocols with virtual substitutes. This is not true.

In fact, the best approach to use when viewing virtual security is a logical one. Consider this: A jewelry store owner who expands the physical location or who opens a new facility would not try to use his/her current security force to protect the new location, nor would the owner secure the new location by trying to stretch the current security force between two facilities and simply hope that the depleted resources will cover the need. Both sites need to be secure.

Considering the current, overwhelming surge in virtual as-a-service solutions, knowing how and when to apply virtual security measures like firewalls has become a crucial consideration for businesses. This is especially due to the fact that according to industry specialists, over one-fifth of all VPN (virtual private network) security will be deployed in a virtual format by the end of the year.

Layered Security

Companies already understand the flexibility and cost-saving advantages of moving information and even key infrastructure to the cloud (hence, the rapid growth). That said, virtual security protocols should not be an either/or dilemma; they should be employed in a layered defense. The physical systems already in place should be supported with virtual firewalls—not replaced with them—depending on the level of the workload requirements.

The reasons for this layered defense are abundant. Not only does it secure the virtual aspects of the data system, but the same ease of alteration and on-demand access that is available in a virtual environment is accessible with virtual firewalls. Companies can adjust deployment according to specific needs, which allows them to better control financial commitments.

Deployment Confusion

The issue of deployment confusion has been discussed at length by industry experts. Keeping pace with the rapidly expanding network services available in a virtual environment means finding ways to secure that activity from threats.

Therefore, deployment should depend on the same workload and accessibility requirements that have determined the current physical security measures.

Notably, there are two basic types of virtual firewalls:

  • Introspective: This type resides within the hypervisor side of each virtual NIC (network interface card). Although it offers a well-managed way to keep virtual machines protected, it is limited in availability at this time.
  • Edge: This is the most common form of virtual firewalls. These reside between two or more virtual portgroups or switches. The beneficial aspect of this type of virtual security is that companies can deploy them at the “edge” of their data center or between trust zones in a cloud environment, depending on their workload and throughput activity.

Rules of the Game

In general, there are three fundamental rules when it comes to adding virtual security services to a network:

  1. Deploy virtual firewalls to enhance the depth of network safety in conjunction with the physical securities already in place.
  2. Know the specifications of a virtual firewall. (The specs for physical firewalls are outlined; virtual ones should be outlined, too.)
  3. Don’t limit virtual security to one type (or breed) of firewall. (Requirements play an essential role in the types and amount of firewall protection needed for a network.)

 
With the changing environment of virtual services, companies can discover the best means of keeping their networks secure by incorporating virtual security protocols. The investment is well worth it when the risks are considered, and the faster, more adaptive role that these protocols play can make a huge difference in security compliance.

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Top 5 Ways to Secure Sensitive Information from VoIP Phone Hackers

integ1Managing business operations in today’s virtual environment is an ongoing challenge. As more and more customers rely on the global access created through internet options, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become a standard technology for many companies due to its incredible features and cost-effective benefits. But the emergence of new technologies also often means an increase in new ways of criminal hacking. Though hackers cannot be prevented 100 percent of the time, companies can certainly neutralize the threat to a great extent.

As so much sensitive information is transposed through Dual-tone Multi-frequency (DTMF) tones, a security breach over a VoIP system can spell disaster in more ways than one.

In fact, almost any business that performs operations through Time-division Multiplexing (TDM) and Internet Protocol (IP)-based voice frameworks through VoIP are susceptible to phone hackers (sometimes referred to as toll fraud). Not only are payments and financial information at risk, but confidential data collected from healthcare providers, engineering companies, and corporate structuring plans (like downsizing or mergers) are also in danger from phone hackers.

Why?

Simple. There is just no substitute for the cost-effective benefits of VoIP. And the eruption of VoIP usage has shown up on hacker radar because previously IP-based communication was centralized on local networks, which were typically protected from the public internet. However, that’s ancient history as more and more of VoIP traffic is routed through un-encrypted, public internet services by telephony providers.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there are many tools available now which make it simple, easy, and untraceable for hackers to infiltrate confidential phone conversations. Practically anyone with a little bit of tech savvy and basic research can start collecting and storing voice information from external IP networks overnight.

The Best Offense Is a Great Defense

Because of these increased risks, companies must rethink their supplier’s encryption protocols and safety measures. What may have been adequate when the VoIP was incorporated is most likely now out of date.

Here are the top five things to consider when questioning a VoIP supplier about the systems they have in place to combat phone-based cyber-crimes:

  1. Ask providers about their Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking services. The system should feature automatic deactivation of any components that aren’t secure, as well as encryption capability for all calls.
  1. Companies that routinely record calls (a necessary quality control procedure for many businesses) must ensure that their telephony system conforms to ISO protection requirements outlined for storing sensitive information.
  1. For any payments conducted over the phone, companies must adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Also, it is vital that the VoIP provider allocates encrypted connections for payment data.
  1. Find out about Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols. Protecting client/server applications from tampering or spying between transports is crucial for secure communications.
  1. Depending on the risk of remote access susceptibility, consider a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS). This creates a direct access circuit that is only available for designated voice traffic.

 
The incredible cost benefits of VoIP through external IP networks are great.  But knowing the heightened risk of phone hacking through open (or public) network VoIP can help companies prevent devastating breaches in data security by neutralizing the threat of confidential information from being intercepted.

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SIP Trunking for BYOD Options

shutterstock_176942972Businesses nowadays often want their employees to constantly stay in touch with the office or the customers through their mobile devices. However, while workplace responsibilities are important, employees also usually want their personal emails, music, books, games, contacts, and other apps within reach. Carrying two devices, one for business and the other for personal use, seems absurd in this day and age. Today, smart phones, tablets, and other convenient pocket-sized technologies condense everything a user loves into one compact device that’s easy to carry. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach saves companies the trouble of having to buy each worker a device, but billing can be a nightmare when it comes to deciding who’s paying for what and how much. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking is the answer for separating personal use from professional use on the same device, and its implementation can save businesses time, money, and aggravation.

The Need for SIP Trunking 

When employees route calls and emails from the office through a personal device, they are stuck with paying for the connection and any other data downloads. If they want to avoid paying for business usage on their personal accounts, they need to carry two devices, which isn’t convenient or desirable. For a business, this can translate into poor communication, which ultimately affects productivity.

Setting up a stipend for such purposes is complicated at best, as usage will vary from employee to employee and from time to time. The additional problem of sorting through itemized bills to differentiate between personal and professional use of the mobile device is an enormous waste of time and resources. SIP Trunking easily resolves both issues.

The Advantages of SIP Trunking

Most people want one mobile device for both their career and personal needs. Employees often need to be professionally available at almost all times, so they must have the power to connect to their organization, colleagues, and customers. Softphone applications are the answer to dividing connection usage and billing. In recent times, softphone applications have improved tremendously, and can now provide reliable, quality communication over a mobile or wi-fi connection. Registered to the company business, the softphone application allows an employee to connect remotely for calls, emails, etc., and then bill the company for that usage.

Besides saving employees the trouble of carrying multiple devices or spending their own money on business expenses, SIP Trunking makes it easier for employers to determine productivity and hold employees accountable for the use of company resources. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that a softphone application is only a means to an end. Much like paying for travel and food expenses, businesses must determine their own usage budgets per employee and how much will be reimbursed.

Concluding Principles

The BYOD trend in the business world is now the answer to carrying around different devices for business and personal use. As technology has streamlined wants and needs into singular device options, distinguishing between home and office billing has become increasingly important in order to ensure optimal use and fair expenditure breakdowns. SIP Trunking connects everyone in the company to the global communications network. It solves yesterday’s technology problems and increases productivity, while also resulting in happier employees who can feel like they have it all today.

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11 Benefits of SIP Trunking

shutterstock_199862873Business today is fast and precise, requiring the latest options to streamline communication. Whether it’s long distance phone calls or other communications technology, companies must be able to manage multiple locations and remote employees while keeping expenses minimal.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking is a modern, economical answer. It enables businesses to simplify by streamlining communications, resources, and lowering costs while maintaining quality results. This adaptable solution takes incoming calls received via computer or mobile phone, rather than an office landline, saving time and space. Its effective packing and distribution of communication makes a business more effective and efficient.

Here are some more benefits for making the switch:

  • A large-scale investment is not necessary to outfit a business with an SIP trunking option. It is low cost, affordable, and an immediate integration option.
  • SIP trunking means working with fewer providers. This eliminates extra subscriptions and fees. It also means one monthly invoice and charge, simplifying the billing process.
  • Customer service will involve only one company and one telephone number.
  • Purchasing a circuit bundle is a money-saving option with some SIP trunking providers.
  • SIP trunking offers pricing on demand. Businesses only need pay for what they require and only when they need it, including extra capacity when necessary.
  • There are no requirements for separate data or voice circuits. SIP trunking simplifies technology to make one network and is capable of providing optimal communication at each location.
  • Remote employees can have incoming business calls routed automatically to their own phones or computers.
  • Alternate extensions or different numbers can receive calls for closed office hours or busy lines.
  • SIP trunking eliminates the need of planning communication during times of low usage. It can be rerouted to different devices and locations when necessary.
  • SIP trunking provides professional communication services to clients no matter their location, creating trust, loyalty, and long-term relationships. This option also promotes production and enhances communication between employees.
  • SIP trunking can be combined with other cloud-based services.

The benefits of SIP trunking cover a range of advantages. This single streamlining solution can be a business’s best choice for operating an entire network under the umbrella of one entity. Dealing with one solution provider means questions and issues are resolved faster and in an organized, intelligent way. The perks of flexible usage and receiving optimal bandwidth on demand can make the difference between a company’s growth or a stall in productivity.

While IP PBX may help with streamlining voice management and company continuity, it may not promote the healthier advantages offered by SIP trunking.  Communication with this option can be easy and trouble-free in every business environment while keeping costs modest.

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Pros and Cons of Single Solution and Over the Top Providers

A session initiation protocol (SIP) single solution provider is usually attractive to those who only want to deal with the basics and one provider. However, an over-the-top (OTT) solution can provide a more durable situation with pricing and selection advantages.

This is because the OTT solution uses a separate carrier and separate content provider. Each type of option has its merits. Consider the following features:

Single Solution Pros

Costs

Single solution trunking means dealing with fewer providers. It eliminates subscriptions to other services that run up costs. It is also possible in most cases to grab a circuit bundle with the SIP trunking option to save even more.

Billing and Service

The idea of single solution trunking is to keep it simple. When it comes to invoicing, expect one monthly charge. Likewise, when it comes to customer service, there should only be one phone number and one company to contact for assistance.

Quality Advantage

The customer service quality of single solution trunking can be superior to OTT because the entire network operates under one entity. In a sense, the left hand knows what the right is doing, and problems are able to be sorted out in a more timely and organized manner. There are also the advantages of flexible usage and optimum bandwidth delivery.

Single Solution Cons

A big drawback to using single solution trunking is the fact that there is only one connection. In the event of failure, there are few resolutions until the provider can be reached to resolve the issue. Another drawback is the possibility of slow or inactive traffic at distant sites.

OTT Pros

Best of the Best

Competition is strong when it comes to vendors and the specializations they offer. An OTT solution breeds rivalry, so the consumer wins in the long run. In this aspect, there is a quality advantage in hiring the top candidate in whatever combination of vendors will work best.

Choice and Selection

As previously mentioned, an OTT solution prevents the individual or business from being married to all of the packaged providers. If one doesn’t work, it can be replaced. The favorable providers can be kept without penalty. This encourages good customer support and resolution.

Resiliency

Choosing the OTT option for any business or individual means having a more resilient, dependable experience. Not only are there two providers to work with, there is more than one media used. A variety of media (fiber, wireless, copper, etc.) can assist with constancy and performance.

OTT Cons

Switching over to an OTT option means existing carriers will have to be dropped. It also carries the disadvantage of having to shop around for the best prices. This can entail a lot of research, communication, and even haggling when necessary. A third problem that arises with OTT service is the fact that problems will be challenging to address when dealing with more than one vendor.

There are two choices when it comes to SIP trunking. Understanding the pros and cons of each option will make the selection easier and benefit the individual, small business or large company in the long run.

 

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Effective Project Management

shutterstock_215762650Experts in managing business projects agree that there are strategies that improve the likelihood that a project is finished well, on budget, and by the deadline. 

At first glance, these steps to successful project management can appear direct and uncomplicated.  However, it takes only one wrong step to throw off the entire project.

 Managing a project effectively requires involving the right people,  communicating clear expectations, establishing concrete deadlines, and maintaining a flexible scope.

Preparation Details

A project manager and team need a complete set of sanctioned project details before beginning to plan. These details will help the process run smoothly and will prevent a crisis when a bump in the road looms. For starters, project details should be comprised of expected milestones, deadlines, and a budget worksheet.

Choose the Players

A project team should include the minimum number of people required to get the job done. These team members should have the best skills and experience that pertains to the project itself. A project manager needs a team that is reliable, yet small enough to communicate and work with effectively.

Clear Delegation

It is essential that each team member knows exactly which piece of the project he or she is responsible for accomplishing. Precise assignments—including their milestones and their deadlines—can prevent confusion and frustration. This also protects key objectives from slipping between the cracks. A strong project manager checks in on individual assignments and their deadlines on a regular basis.

Establish Milestones

From as early as the first meeting, milestones should be established and understood. These benchmarks should have corresponding deadlines to help team members stay focused on the final objective. This ensures not only a clear course, but it also helps avoid any uncertainty or doubts before they are too late to be comfortably addressed.

Reward Progress

Project milestones deserve recognition. A project manager who rewards team members who met deadlines boosts enthusiasm for the project, encourages creativity, and communicates success. Commending each successful step achieved helps ensure the final vision is realized.

Avoid Micromanagement

Effective project managers instill in team members a sense of equilibrium by balancing milestone checks with the freedom to work and create. Micromanaging is a poor form of control that can lead to confusion and discouragement. It also may affect the quality of the project’s final results.

Meetings Matter

Regular meetings are important to keep progress moving steadily forward. Meetings should be brief and to the point; they should address the project status as a whole and allow each member to briefly update the team within an allotted time. Long meetings lead to boredom and distraction, both of which derail the team’s focus and enthusiasm.

Encourage Communication

Effective communication is a key player in project management success. Management experts recommend using a quality, user-friendly software program that all team members can access. This keeps information up-to-date and readily available. It also prevents confusion, loss, and poor time management—all of which may occur with simpler or cheaper methods like emails or online forum boards.

Change Is Inevitable

Finally, project managers need to remember this: Change is a part of life—even in business. Allow room for modifications in the initial planning stages of the project. Manage flexibility for deadlines by preparing for unexpected requests or problems.

It’s also a good idea to prepare the budget for inevitable hiccups. Be patient and encourage team members from the beginning to roll with the challenges and keep everyone informed. Planning for adjustments helps to maintain positive outlooks and inspires members to stay committed from start to finish.

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Hybrid Cloud Paves the Way for IT-as-a-Service

With Cloud computing rapidly becoming an essential part of many companies’ offerings, organizations of all sizes are starting to embrace the newest trend, IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS). By employing a hybrid Cloud – a combination of private Cloud and public Cloud solutions – these companies are able to tailor their IT environments to match their own unique needs and long-term goals. Along the way, they are ensuring greater flexibility with their IT solutions.

Why is ITaaS gaining such a following? Taking a look at a few predictions from Gartner gives some insight into the reasons. By 2016, it is estimated that the majority of new IT spending will be allocated to Cloud computing; by the end of 2017, almost half of all large enterprises will have adopted the hybrid Cloud.

Companies have to be prepared to make the most of these shifts if they expect to remain agile and competitive. Likewise, businesses that provide IT services or advice to corporate clients must be poised to help those clients build a hybrid Cloud solution that will most effectively support ITaaS.

The mix will differ for every company.

Ultimately, companies will want to retain functions that are unique or otherwise enterprise-critical. They then can source the rest to the public Cloud.

This will require evaluating the cost-benefit of each option to determine the optimal blend, which will be based on overall business goals and operational needs as well as on regulatory and security requirements. Companies will need to assess costs, too, to find the ideal balance of performance and spend.

A growing number of companies most likely will look to establish software-defined data centers (SDDC), which is an environment that maximizes automation of computing, storage, networking, and security resources through virtualization. This provides an excellent foundation to support ITaaS.

Hybrid Cloud delivers significant benefits.

The fundamental value of hybridization is choice. With the ability to configure an individualized private-public Cloud combination, companies can expect to see benefits like the following:

  • Vastly increased flexibility that enables implementation of ITaaS.
  • Scalability of functions without sacrificing security.
  • Less stressed or more productively deployed IT staff.
  • Smoothly integrated internal and public workloads.
  • A more dynamic IT environment.
  • Greater visibility of services and costs, including IT usage by line-of-business.
  • Improved ability to manage compliance requirements.
  • Enhanced customer service.

 

Current IT trends represent best practices for implementing ITaaS.

IT is no longer a segregated support service; it permeates every aspect of a business’s functions and can make or break a company’s ability to grow and thrive.

Eliminating IT silos allows companies to view IT as a strategic business tool. As IT is taking its seat at the C-suite table, companies are realizing that a flexible, scalable IT environment is the only way to meet rapidly changing internal needs as well as external marketplace conditions.

As with any transformational change, top-level buy-in is essential to ensure that ITaaS is a success. Equally important is educating IT personnel on the positive value of this change: how it will benefit them in their job as well as the company as a whole.

To pull it all together successfully, companies must assess their IT infrastructure, workloads, and flows in order to identify the optimal hybrid Cloud configuration for them.

 

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Six Benefits of Platform as a Service for IT Departments

Using a public PaaS (Platform as a Service) has many benefits, including faster deployment of apps. Meanwhile, a private PaaS provides an excellent compromise between the freedom that developers crave and the security that is required to keep data safe.

Developers are already well aware of the benefits of using PaaS. However, there are also many advantages for IT. Rather than seeing management of PaaS as a chore, IT professionals should take a look at the ways that PaaS can help them.

1. Fewer Requests from Developers

No software can completely stop the requests that come in from developers, but a good PaaS significantly cuts down the time that IT has to spend addressing developer requests. By allowing developers to set up their environments for themselves, PaaS saves time for both developers and IT, because it cuts down on the number of requests being passed back and forth.

2. Easy-to-Monitor Applications

PaaS provides a lot of information for IT about how an application is operating. This means that IT can quickly identify any issues and take action to correct them. The results are greater reliability of applications and a more manageable workload for IT.

3. Cloud Security

Security is always a big concern for IT, and the thought of using PaaS can raise concerns for some working in this sector. However, a private PaaS can provide adequate security to protect applications and data. IT can maintain control over important security features to ensure that risks are eliminated.

4. Flexibility

When choosing a private PaaS vendor, IT will want to look for flexibility. Private PaaS vendors are able to work with any IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and can accommodate a public or private cloud set-up as well as a hybrid solution. Maintaining flexibility is often the key to efficiently developing a business, and a private PaaS can provide it.

5. Control User Administration

Using PaaS doesn’t have to mean giving up control of user administration. IT can keep control over this important aspect of the service as well as other areas, such as resource allocation.

6. Use a DevOps Approach

PaaS can facilitate communication, which is a key part of the DevOps (development/operations) process. Online dialogue allows groups of developers to decide how to allocate resources, how to handle scaling, and when to restart an application. The more communication takes place, the smoother the development process is likely to be.

A good PaaS should satisfy a business’s IT staff, its developers, and its end users. Though developers have been convinced of the benefits, IT has yet to get on board, though the IT staff has many

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The Internet of Things Needs the Cloud

Experts are playing the name game.

There’s Cisco’s Internet of Everything, IBM’s Smarter Planet, MIT’s Ubiquitous Computing, and The Economist’s The Thingternet. You may even hear it referred to as  “Machine-to Machine (M2M)” or Device-to-Device (D2D) Communications.”

Call it by any other name, but the Internet of Things (IOT) is simply a massively interconnected network of people, processes, machines, and things made possible through the Cloud. Cisco has created a methodological connections counter to track how the IOT components are being connected each day. Its network engineers calculate the economic value of IOT to be $19 trillion.

International Data Corporation (IDC) likewise forecasts billions of things to be connected and trillions of dollars in economic development in its study on IOT spanning the period 2013-2020. This just goes to show the immensity of IOT and how it will impact the future IT world and people’s lives.

The Internet of Things is all around us

IOT is not limited to computers and mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and iPads. It includes just about anything that can be installed with a sensor.

IOT can be found at home. There are home thermostats that sense when people are home or not and adjust accordingly for comfort and cost savings. For an example of kitchen-related IOT, Electrolux is in the final stages of developing an intelligent refrigerator that comes complete with a microphone, speakers, and video camera. Its computer can suggest groceries needed and places to buy them, as well as meal recipes based on ingredients available in the refrigerator.

We can also see IOT when we travel, as new cars include  about 50 or more computers. With navigation tools, virtual maps, performance indicators, automated gauges, timely alarms, and more, travelers can be assured of safer trips and smoother traffic flow.

Then there’s Wal-Mart’s famous RFID tag that monitors their global supply chain and ensures products reach their destinations at the right places at the right time. Coca-Cola’s interactive vending machines, which are projected to reach two million in a few years. And UPS connects thousands of delivery trucks to the Internet to make delivery faster.

IT scientists foresee that many more ordinary things will become intelligent as the Internet of Things gains steam. For instance, sensors can be scattered all over rainforests to prevent illegal logging. Sensors can also protect fruits, vegetables, and other produce from spoilage. They can keep farm animals from getting sick, and rivers from being contaminated.

The Internet of Things is limitless.

The Cloud is behind the Internet of Things

What makes the interconnectivity of things possible is a network of Cloud-based systems. Many companies simply don’t have the capability to provide a fail-safe network to support their IOT. The abundance of the Cloud has all it takes to support the high requirements.

IOT is not just about connecting things but looking for a Cloud-based service that can support an immensely interconnected ecosystem capable of enabling all the connected things. SDN, virtual network overlays, network service virtualization, borderless admission control, and security are critical options that need to be considered.

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CISOs: The First Line of Defense in Cyber Security

In the technology landscape, fundamental shifts bring new IT security concerns. Continuing developments open new portals of vulnerability and weakening security threshold levels for businesses – significantly increasing the complexity of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) role.

CISOs face new challenges in the IT rat race

A recent example of a real and consummated threat is the hacking of Code Spaces, a code-hosting company. As described in initial reports and on their website, a distributed denial-of service (DDoS) attack took place in June within a matter of 12 hours. An unauthorized person succeeded in partially or completely deleting data, machine configurations, and backups. The hack rendered the company unable to continue operating.

Code Spaces asserts that they have been able to overcome many DDoS attempts in the past. This time, the hacker may have worked around the weakest links to achieve such a debilitating goal. It is thus critical that CISOs and IT security officers take a proactive approach with regard to emerging threats, detecting vulnerabilities in systems, and knowing the danger levels and prevalence of such threats, so that they are better prepared for worst-case scenarios.

Essential expertise for the cyber age CISO

With constantly emerging technologies, the old CISO concept has changed. Beyond being tech-savvy, the new role of CISOs requires a transformed level of management competencies and leadership to succeed in a shifting environment.

New CISO skills include:

Business-mindedness with a new mindset – In the past, CISOs were confined to their own silos attending to technical matters, like maintaining machines and devices. Their new role now requires them to be a part of the big picture. They are needed in the boardroom to present a new vision, muster the resources to turn that vision into reality, and engage employees in new practices.

Leading and influencing by example – True leaders lead by example. They maintain a high standard of ideas, discipline, and ethics that are consistent with their actions. CISOs must earn the respect and loyalty of their team members, including superiors, to ensure the security of their business in cyber space.

Effective leadership communication skills – Good communicators, as opposed to good talkers, are able to reach their audiences, are active listeners, keep an open mind, and can read between the lines. Cyber security is an organizational priority that must engage all stakeholders in the organization to ensure fail-proof protection.

CISOs await a host of new challenges as IT changes happen, with new threats appearing and existing threats evolving. Enterprises now recognize that the role of CISOs is at a turning point, one that should strengthen their ability to repel and withstand such threats.

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