Global Insights Into CISO Challenges

Global Insights Into CISO Challenges

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Global Insights Into CISO Challenges

The Year Cybersecurity Went Prime Time

As high-profile attacks disrupted supply chains, made headlines and
prompted new cybersecurity legislation, 2021 proved to be another
challenging time for CISOs around the world.
DarkSide’s ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline shut down fuel
supplies for much of the U.S. East Coast. The Conti group brought
Ireland’s health service to its knees and shut down hospitals. REvil
ransomware halted production at the world’s largest meat processor, JBS.
The REvil group also hit cloud-based managed service provider platform
Kaseya.1 That attack had a ripple effect, compromising other managed
service providers that used the company’s remote management software.
And those were just a few of the countless incidents that kept security
professionals busy.
These high-profile breaches had profound economic and security implications. They once again showed the
world just how vulnerable critical infrastructure and supply chains can be when targeted by cyber criminals. The
exorbitant ransom demands in some incidents also led governments to weigh regulations banning payments to
cyber crime groups.
With the impact of the pandemic on security teams gradually fading in 2021, another issue reared its head:
The Great Resignation. Workers quit in droves or opted out of returning to the workforce—with considerable
consequences for information protection and insider threats.2 Finally, closing the year, the Log4j flaw3 allowed
attackers to execute code and take control of vulnerable devices, disrupting Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cisco,
IBM and VMware, among others.
For 2022, we face the most unstable geopolitical landscape Europe has seen in decades, and CISOs are also left
to ponder the impact of hybrid warfare on their security posture.4
To gauge the mindset of cybersecurity professionals during this challenging time, Proofpoint surveyed 1,400
CISOs from around the world, inviting them to share their firsthand accounts of the past 12 months and offer their
insights for the future.
This second annual report explores how CISOs are adjusting in the wake of pandemic disruption, adapting
strategies to support long-term hybrid work and battling an increasingly sophisticated threat landscape. We also
examine how people put organizations at risk and how CISOs change priorities in response. Finally, we delve into
the changing role of the CISO and how they cope with increasing and evolving demands.
This report would not have been possible without the participation of cybersecurity and information security
practitioners across the globe. Thank you once again for your insights and feedback.
Lucia Milica, Global Resident CISO at Proofpoint

1
2
3
4

Pierluigi Paganini (Cybernews). “An in-depth analysis of the Kaseya ransomware attack: here’s what you need to know.” July 2021.
Proofpoint. “Global Cybersecurity Study: Insider Threats Cost Organizations $15.4 Million Annually, up 34 Percent from 2020.” January 2022.
CISOMAG. “Log4j Explained: How It Is Exploited and How to Fix It.” December 2021.
Andrew Rose (Proofpoint). “How Conflict in Ukraine Could Revolutionize the Ransomware Threat.” March 2022.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Chapter 1: The Calm After the Crisis
After a year of such unprecedented disruption, the world’s CISOs spent 2021
coming to grips with new ways of working. But having overcome the initial rush to
deploy cloud and hybrid setups and maintain business as usual, many now appear
to feel more in control of their environment.

48% of surveyed CISOs
feel their organization
is at risk of suffering a
material cyber attack in
the next 12 months, with
one third rating the risk
as very high.

Ad hoc firefighting has been replaced by a more coherent strategy. New policies,
training modules and technical controls have been introduced, all designed for
today’s more distributed, cloud-reliant teams.
As a result, fewer than half the CISOs surveyed (48%) feel that their organization
is at risk of suffering a material cyber attack in the next 12 months, compared with
64% last year.

Percentage of CISOs who agree that their organization is at
risk of a material cyber attack in the next 12 months

81%
72%
60%

58%

50%
40%

38%

34%

31%

28%

27%
KSA

44%

Netherlands

44%

Spain

UK

Singapore

Australia

Canada

France
2022

Global Average
2022 = 48%
2021 = 64%
56%

46%

44%

65%

63%

U.S.

50%

68%

64%

Japan

64%

UAE

68%

Sweden

72%

Italy

68%

79%

78%

Germany

80%

2021

French (80%),
Canadian (72%)
and Australian
(68%) CISOs are
most worried about
experiencing a
material cyber attack.

Only 28% of Dutch
CISOs and 27% of
Saudi CISOs expect
to experience a
material attack,
making them the
most optimistic of all
regions surveyed.

Large organizations
are more acutely
aware of the risk, with
51% of respondents
from companies with
over 5,000 employees
considering a material
cyber attack likely or
very likely.

56% of CISOs from
IT, technology and
telecommunications
companies rate the
cyber attack risks
on their companies
as likely, the highest
among all surveyed
verticals, followed by
manufacturing (54%).

The retail sector is
most optimistic of all
surveyed verticals:
33% of respondents
believe it is unlikely
that attacks on
their organizations
will cause material
damage—compared
to only 5% last year.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Percentage of CISOs who agree that
their organization is unprepared to cope
with a targeted cyberattack in 2022

Increasing familiarity with the post-pandemic work environment has also left CISOs
feeling more equipped to deal with cyber threats. While 66% believed they were
unprepared for a targeted attack in 2021, this is down to 50% this year.
But feeling prepared for or at risk of a cyber attack is entirely different than being
prepared. In most cases, this growing confidence of CISOs is likely a result of
successfully overcoming a seismic event rather than any tangible change in risk
levels or preparedness.

Top 3 Countries
Australia

77%

What’s more, the fact remains that half of global CISOs do not believe their
organization is ready to detect, deter and recover from a cyber attack. In the UK
and Germany, this figure climbs to around two-thirds. And in Australia, more than
three-quarters say that their organization is unprepared.

UK

65%

There is also a troubling disconnect between perceived risk and preparedness.
Many CISOs are seemingly aware of the issue but are unable or unwilling to
implement an effective solution as they struggle to identify which of the many
common threats is likely to strike.

Germany

64%

Attacks from all angles
As the threat landscape continues to grow and evolve, we once again asked CISOs
about the methods of cyber attack that keep them up at night. Much like last year,
the results demonstrate a worrying lack of visibility into the threats they face.

Global Average = 50%

Negligent, accidental or criminal insider threats (31%), business email compromise (BEC) (30%), cloud account compromise
(30%) and distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) (30%) all lead the way. Meanwhile, concern about ransomware inched
up just 1 percentage point since last year, despite several incredibly high-profile attacks in the last 12 months.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a general wariness of a range of threats. But when security teams are unsure where the
next attack is coming from, it is almost impossible to target protections and training where they are needed most.

What, if anything, do you perceive to be the biggest cybersecurity threats
within your organization/industry in the next 12 months? Pick up to three.

31% 30% 30% 30% 29% 28% 28% 27%
Insider threat
(negligent,
accidental or
criminal)

Distributed
denial-of-service
(DDoS) attack

Email fraud
(business email
compromise)

Cloud account
compromise
(Microsoft 365
or G Suite or
other)

Malware

Ransomware
attacks

Smishing/Vishing

Supply chain
attacks

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

10 out of 14 surveyed countries
consider insider threats one of the
biggest three risks, with Japan (39%),
Australia (36%) and Italy (34%) leading
the way.

Ransomware is considered the No. 1
risk in Germany, the Netherlands and
Spain.

8 out of 14 surveyed countries
consider BEC one of the top three
risks, with French (43%) and Emirati
CISOs (35%) rating it the highest.

Supply chain attacks are the top
concern for CISOs in Canada, Spain
and Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Cloud account compromise
attacks make the top three across
eight geographies, with Sweden
(38%) rating it the highest and the
Netherlands (19%) the lowest.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS)
attacks are a top concern for CISOs in
the U.S., UK and Singapore.

CISOs can be forgiven for this lack of clarity after such recent uncertainty. Rapid adjustment to new ways of working,
increased cloud reliance, and changing behavior patterns have made it incredibly difficult to rank threats and build adequate
defenses.
While a lack of clarity is a concern, it is not an insurmountable issue. More than 90% of cyber attacks start with email.
Whether it is ransomware, BEC or cloud account compromise, protecting the inbox is always the best place to start.

“Leading a cybersecurity function is like walking up a down escalator.
If you stand still, you will soon end up in a mess at the bottom. Even
if you take one step at a time you won’t advance. To make progress,
you must run and keep running. You’ve got to be fit to be a CISO.”
Malcolm Norman, CISO, Wood Plc

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Chapter 2: People as the New Perimeter
With two years of remote work under their belt, most CISOs believe that employees understand the role they play in protecting
their organizations against cyber threats. Overall, 3 in 5 respondents (60%) agree with this statement, up from 58% last year.
About a quarter, 24%, strongly agree.
The trend is most pronounced in Canada and Australia, where belief in employee understanding has increased 39 and 34
percentage points, respectively, to 87% and 75%.

Percentage of CISOs who believe employees understand their
role in protecting the organization against cyber threats

Global Average
2022 = 60%
2021 = 58%

87%

69%

71%

68%
59%

61%

61%

70%
61%

69%
59%

57%

61%
54% 55%

53%

48%

51%

49%
43%

U.S.

Italy

UAE

Spain

Netherlands

Sweden

Singapore

Germany

Japan

UK

France

Australia

Canada

51%

62%

54%

42%

41%

2022

62%

58%

KSA

75%

2021

We can attribute much of this increase in employee understanding to measures put
in place to support long-term remote and hybrid setups. Many organizations spent
the past two years investing in cybersecurity training and protections that focused
on people.
With teams working from anywhere, there is less emphasis on protecting the data
center or the office network. CISOs now realize that the perimeter is the user and
are taking steps to equip them to defend it accordingly.

56% of CISOs consider
human error to be their
organization’s biggest
cyber vulnerability.

At the other end of the scale, countries with more formal or rigid corporate environments may have struggled to make this
adjustment. For example, in Saudi Arabia and UAE, belief in employee understanding fell most sharply, down 19 and 18
percentage points, respectively, to 51% and 43%.
The increased belief in employee savviness around security is also reflected elsewhere. This year, fewer CISOs believe that
human error is their organization’s biggest cyber vulnerability, with just 56% in agreement.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Percentage of CISOs in agreement that human error is
their organization’s biggest cyber vulnerability

76%

75%
70%
65%

62%

61%
56%

58% 59%

68%

56%

56%

53%

51%

50%

46%

45%

49%

48%

46%

50%
43%
38%

Italy

Japan

Spain

U.S.

UAE

Singapore

Netherlands

Sweden

Germany

France

UK

Australia

Canada

37%

2022

69%

65%

63%

KSA

78%

Global Average
2022 = 56%
2021 = 58%

2021

The notion that 60% of CISOs believe users understand their security responsibilities, yet 56% believe they are the number one
cyber threat, raises several red flags. It suggests that many CISOs understand that most users are not adequately skilled for the
role of cyber defense.
The World Economic Forum reports that 95% of cybersecurity issues are traced to human error,5 which highlights that many
CISOs still significantly underestimate the degree of risk posed by their users. Only 38% of Saudi CISOs consider their
employees their biggest cyber vulnerability, followed by Italy (43%) and Japan (46%).
This is also the case in the education sector, where just 47% believe users to be their most significant risk. At the other end of
the spectrum, CISOs in business and professional services and manufacturing led the way with 61% and 60%, respectively, in
agreement.
Elsewhere, attitudes have shifted among healthcare CISOs over the past 12 months. Just over half (52%) believe their people
put their business at risk this year compared with 48% in 2021. The reverse is true in financial services, where 52% now believe
their people are the biggest cyber risk, down from 61% last year.

“As threat actors become increasingly sophisticated and as systems
and data become more elastic and proliferate across a seemingly
barrier-less landscape, it’s critical for security and business leaders
to focus on those priorities and partners that will help them simplify,
reduce, manage and control the expanse of the attack surface and the
morphing threat environment.”
Patrick Joyce, Vice President and Chief Security Officer (CISO & CSO), Medtronic

5 World Economic Forum. “The Global Risks Report 2022 17th Edition Insight Report.” January 2022.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Chapter 3: Risk, Remote Work and The Great Resignation
The forced migration to remote and hybrid setups in recent years has served as an
enormous test case. Some 24 months into this new way of working, organizations
see what it can offer in terms of flexibility, cost-savings and productivity.

51% of CISOs have seen
more targeted attacks
since enabling widespread
remote working.

It is also popular among employees—and likely here to stay. With people now
forming the defensive perimeter wherever they work, organizations need a new
strategy.
As many are discovering, hybrid and remote working make users more vulnerable
to attack. At the very least, they represent a much more attractive target for cyber criminals.

Over half of CISOs across all regions agree that targeted attacks on their organizations have increased since adopting mass
hybrid working. With many now much more comfortable in this environment, it should come as no surprise that this figure is
down from 58% this time last year. Even so, that’s a small change; most CISOs still face a heightened cyber threat landscape.
And this risk factor is far from the only issue that has arisen since hybrid working became the norm.

Percentage of CISOs saying their business has seen more targeted
attacks since enabling widespread remote working

63%

66%
61%
56%

56%

65%

64%

60%
55%

Global Average
2022 = 51%
2021 = 58%

51%

55%
50%

50%

54%

45%

49%

76%
69%
58%

56%

53%
44%
39%

43%
37%

2022

UAE

Italy

Spain

Singapore

Netherlands

Japan

U.S.

Sweden

Germany

UK

France

Australia

Canada

32%

29%
KSA

87%

2021

Small organizations seem
more affected, with 59%
of companies with 500
employees or less saying their
workforce has been targeted
more since they implemented
hybrid working. At the other
end of the scale, only 48%
of large organizations (5,000
employees and above) agree.

The most affected industry is
manufacturing (65%); retail
and transport were the least
affected at 43%.

87% of CISOs in Canada
and 66% in Australia report
an increase in targeted
attacks since switching to
widespread remote working,
the largest percentages in
our study.

In Saudi Arabia, on the other
hand, only 29% of CISOs
report more targeted attacks.
The U.S. is on par with the
global average at 50%.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

The Great Resignation: a new challenge for security teams
Employees are leaving their jobs in record numbers for reasons ranging from postpandemic burnout to childcare issues to changing work-life priorities. But whatever
the cause, the cybersecurity implications are not up for debate.

The Great Resignation:
50% of global CISOs
agree that protecting data
has become an increased
challenge.

When an employee leaves, their data often leaves with them. Sometimes, it is
unintentional, such as when saved credentials reside on a personal device. But in
many cases, it is deliberate. Former employees may feel ownership over data they
worked on or take it with them to help in their new job.

Whatever the reason, the trend has left many CISOs finding it harder to protect their
data. This is felt more keenly within smaller organizations that may have fewer controls in place: 55% of respondents from
companies under 500 employees agree that protecting data has become an increased challenge compared with only 47%
from CISOs of larger enterprises (5,000 or more employees).

Percentage of CISOs in agreement that protecting data has
become an increased challenge (by company size)

55%

200-500
200-499

employees

51%

50%

501-1000

1001-2500

employees

employees

48%

2501-5000
employees

47%

5001+

employees

“The dramatic change in the way we work over the last two years has
brought numerous challenges, but also opportunities. Chief among
them is a shift in focus toward comprehensive information protection
strategies, not just defending networks and other IT assets.”
Paige Adams, Global Chief Information Security Office, Zurich Insurance

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Data doesn’t walk away…
Employees move it, and not always intentionally. People
leaving a job present another data protection problem.
Employees distracted by the prospect of greener pastures
are often more prone to the types of actions seized
upon by cyber criminals; behaviors such as password
mismanagement, security workarounds and using business
devices for personal use.

Data loss: in what way do you think your employees are
most likely to cause a data breach or exposure in your
organization in the next 12 months, if at all?
Compromised
insider
(inadvertently
exposing their
credentials, giving
cybercriminals
access to sensitive
data)

Negligent insider
(unintentionally
exposing
information)

32%

This type of behavior is the most common cause of insider
threats, with recent research showing 56% of incidents are
driven by negligence.6 Despite this, with more staff outside
the office with greater autonomy over their security hygiene,
compromised, negligent and malicious insiders are of equal
concern to the world’s CISOs.

How organizations are responding to hybrid working
challenges

35%

33%
Malicious insider
(intentionally
stealing information)

The response to this rising threat has been mixed. While CISOs in countries such as Canada have strengthened COVID-era
policies to support ongoing hybrid work, only around half (51%) of global CISOs have done the same.
Half of the global CISOs surveyed have increased the frequency of cybersecurity training for employees. While encouraging,
this leaves 50% at risk against increasing levels of targeted attacks. Mitigating strategies focused on deploying zero trust
architecture and overhauling data loss protection solutions were a priority for half of respondents.
Finally, the outsourcing of key controls to managed services providers was most prevalent among companies with 500 to 1,000
employees.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following
statements regarding the “work from anywhere” trend?

Highest percentage in agreement

Global Average

Lowest percentage in agreement

93% Canada

51%

23% KSA

56% Manufacturing

50%

45% Financial services

& Professional
55% Business
Services, Manufacturing

50%

41%

We have implemented a zero-trust architecture.

59% Manufacturing

51%

46% Transport

We have outsourced key controls to
managed services providers.

57%

53%

200-499
45% Companies
employees

Security policies introduced at the start of the
pandemic have been updated and strengthened to
support ongoing hybrid work for the foreseeable future.

We have increased the frequency of cyber
security training for employees.

We have had to completely rehaul our data loss
prevention (DLP) controls to support remote
working.

Companies 500-1,000
employees

6 Proofpoint. “Global Cybersecurity Study: Insider Threats Cost Organizations $15.4 Million Annually, up 34 Percent from 2020.” January 2022.

Education

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Chapter 4: Reigning in Ransomware
Ransomware is the oldest trick in the threat actors’ playbook, but 2021 proved
just how pervasive it has become. Among attacks that provide an ample supply of
targets, big paydays and fast payment, ransomware is hard to beat.

56% of global CISOs agree
that highly publicized
ransomware attacks of
the last two years have
increased awareness of
cyber risk among C-level
executives.

The frequency and complexity of these attacks increased by over 150% last year,7
making this old threat one of the biggest facing modern businesses. Several highprofile incidents in recent years have also moved ransomware higher up on the
CISO’s agenda.
In May 2021, an attack shut down one of the largest fuel pipelines8 in the U.S.,
while the world’s biggest meat processor paid an $11 million ransom to restore its
services.

The size of this payout may seem an outlier, but experts fear that it is fast becoming the norm. The group behind the pipeline
hack is estimated to have made at least $90 million last year.9 At the same time, both the average ransom amount and the
highest demand made by cyber criminals doubled year over year in 2021.10 To make matters worse, paying ransoms is not
always the end of the matter; half of victims that pay up are likely to suffer repeat attacks.11
Despite the rising stakes, many organizations appear unprepared for demands of
any size or scale. A concerning 42% of global CISOs admit that they do not even
have a ransom policy in place.

58% of global CISOs said
their organization has set
a policy on whether or not
they would pay to regain
their data.

These exorbitant sums are causing governments and industry bodies to debate the
legality of making any ransom payments. But with strong sentiment on both sides of
the “to pay or not to pay” argument, regulation will be slow—if it arrives at all.

Percentage of CISOs saying their organization has purchased cyber
insurance and is confident it will be there when needed

88%

2022 Global Average = 58%
65%

7 ENISA. “ENISA Threat Landscape 2021.” October 2021.
8 Proofpoint. “Threat Briefing: Ransomware.” July 2021.
9 Joe Tidy (BBC News). “Ransomware: Should paying hacker ransoms be illegal?” May 2021.
10 ENISA. “ENISA Threat Landscape 2021.” October 2021.
11 Proofpoint. “What is Ransomware?”

49%

47%
41%

40%

KSA

52%

UAE

52%

Spain

54%

U.S.

56%

Italy

Germany

Netherlands

UK

France

Australia

Canada

59%

Singapore

68%

Japan

72%

Sweden

72%

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

In the meantime, many organizations look to cyber insurers for peace of mind.
Over half (58%) of global CISOs are confident that their policy will pay out when
it matters most. Canadian CISOs are the most assured, with 88% confident that
insurers will pay. That’s a stark contrast to Saudi Arabia’s CISOs, only 40% of whom
have confidence in their insurer.

3 in 5 global CISOs (59%)
say their organization is
focused on preventing
ransomware over
detection and response.

CISOs are right to be skeptical. Many insurers now drastically limit their coverage
for ransomware. Some are removing it from policies altogether.12 This is yet another
reason why organizations should look away from response and recovery and focus
more on prevention.

Ransomware is not the simple brute-force attack of old. Instead of breaking in, encrypting files and demanding payment,
today’s cyber criminals often sneak in and lie in wait for maximum impact. Ransomware now crawls through networks infecting
systems, deleting backups and siphoning data, making traditional response strategies obsolete.

My organization is focused on preventing ransomware
attacks over detection and response

87%

2022 Global Average = 59%

75%
70%
65%

63%

59%

58%

56%

53%

53%

52%

50%

48%

KSA

Singapore

Spain

Netherlands

UAE

Italy

Japan

U.S.

Germany

Sweden

France

UK

Australia

Canada

32%

As a result, some CISOs are changing their tactics. Nearly 60% now prioritize prevention over response. Others, however, are
woefully underprepared: 4 in 10 CISOs do not have a blueprint in the case of a ransomware incident.

“Despite its prevalence over the course of the last 18 months,
ransomware and related extortion events continue to be our most
significant cybersecurity concern. The sheer volume of attacks and the
evolution of ransomware models indicate that the problem is getting
worse, not better, and the specific targeting of operational technologies
and supply chains makes defending the threat even more challenging.”
Simon Strickland, Chief Information Security Officer, Johnson Matthey

12 Carolyn Cohn (Reuters). “Insurers run from ransomware cover as losses mount.” November 2021.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Chapter 5: Boards, Buy-In and the Bottom Line—How
CISOs Are Feeling
Given the lasting impact of cybersecurity during a global pandemic, the CISO’s job
has never been more challenging—or more critical. The incredible demands of the
past two years have pushed the role further in the spotlight and encouraged CISOs
to make their voices heard, loud and clear.

Half of surveyed CISOs
agree that expectations on
their role are excessive,
down from 57% last year.

Overall, CISOs across all regions believe that the expectations of their superiors and
colleagues are excessive. That said, CISOs’ views vary widely by country and have
shifted a great deal in the last year. Still, 1 in 2 CISOs feel they face an impossible task.

Percentage of CISOs agreeing that
expectations on their role are excessive

Global Average
2022 = 49%
2021 = 57%

82%
73%

70%

66%

63%

60%

58%
53%

51%

61%
51%

51%

58%
51%

44%

67%

65%

62%
49%

45%

45%

48%
40%

39%

38%

35% 37%

2022

KSA

Singapore

UAE

U.S.

Sweden

Italy

Netherlands

Spain

France

Germany

Japan

UK

Australia

Canada

28%

2021

While German CISOs were the most
likely to agree that expectations on
their role were excessive last year,
Canadian CISOs felt the most pressure
in 2021.

Belief that perceived expectation is
excessive is lowest in Saudi Arabia
(28%), Singapore (35%) and the UAE
(38%).

Almost a third (31%) more Canadian
CISOs believe they face excessive
expectations this year than in 2021.
The opposite is true in the U.S.

Across verticals, CISOs from business and professional services companies (57%) feel the pressure of excessive expectations
the most among their peers. Least pressured are education sector CISOs (39%), followed by those in retail (42%).
Adding to the demanding and often thankless workload of the CISO is a perceived lack of support from the boardroom,
which has increased since 2021. Just over half (51%) of global CISOs agreed that they saw eye to eye with the board on
cybersecurity matters in 2022. That’s a sharp drop from 59% the year before.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

This change falls in tandem with company headcount, underlining the difficulties faced by CISOs at smaller organizations. Still,
the drop in perceived board support is felt most by CISOs in charge of large organizations (5,000 employees and above), who
went from 71% agreement last year to only 51% this year.

Percentage of CISOs in agreement that their board sees eye-to-eye with
them on the issue of cybersecurity (by company size)

2022

2021

62%
54%

52%

501-1000
501-1000
employees

50%

51%

47%

1001-2500

1001-2500
employees

71%

64%

2501-5000

2501-5000
employees

5000+
5001+
employees

Average Agreement = 51%
This lack of support and agreement does not just affect buy-in and budgets. Many
CISOs also report that their superiors directly affect their ability to perform their
roles.
Over half (51%) of global CISOs agree that their reporting line can hamper their job
effectiveness. This view is most prominent in the world of business services (58%)
and technology (54%). But it is much less of an issue in the financial services,
media and education sectors, where just 46% agreed with the sentiment.

Only half of global CISOs
surveyed (50%) believe
that their organization
positions them to succeed.

Relations are strained between the CISO and the C-suite in other areas too. Only half of global CISOs surveyed now believe
their organization positions them to succeed, compared to 60% a year ago.
Healthcare and education CISOs felt the least backed by their organization, while those in manufacturing and technology feel
most supported to successfully carry out their responsibilities.

“Excessive expectations are a result of poor risk management practices.
Every CISO should ensure there is an appropriate risk management
methodology that helps focus the business on what’s most important.
CISOs can’t be expected to protect the organization continuously from all
threats. If the business fails to mitigate risk, the board will need to step in
and accept the greater risk of doing nothing.”
Christian Toon, CISO, Pinsent Masons LLP

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Spotlight on CISO priorities and board concerns
When it comes to IT security priorities over the next two years, CISOs globally rated their top three as:
• Improving information protection (39%)
• Improving cybersecurity awareness (38%)
• Consolidating and outsourcing security solutions and controls (36%)
While the first two categories are always high on the CISO’s agenda, the latter is almost certainly driven by the events since
2020. With employees working from home, at the office and everywhere in between, IT setups are increasingly complex. That
means they require new skills and more resources to secure.
The Great Resignation will play a part here too. As employees transition jobs in large numbers, organizations must ensure
they always have the expertise and knowledge to implement their cyber strategy. Outsourcing can be an affordable and
straightforward way to do just that.

What are the top priorities for your organization’s IT security
department over the next two years? Pick up to three.

Improving information protection and data
classification, enabling business innovation (e.g.
DevSecOps, product development)

39%
38%

Improving employee cybersecurity awareness
Consolidation and/or simplification of security
solutions and controls

36%

Outsourcing security controls

36%
34%

Addressing supplier risk

33%

Addressing insider threats
We do not have top priorities for my organization’s
IT security department over the next two years

1%
0

10

20

30

Naturally, priorities differ between industries and organizations. For large companies with more than 5,000 employees, which
likely have the most complex setups, outsourcing is the primary priority at 41%. This is well above the percentage among all
other company sizes.
Among industries, improving information protection is the most pressing initiative for those in IT, technology, telecoms, financial
services, manufacturing and the public sector.
Priorities vary from country to country, too. In the UK, educating users is top of the agenda, while 46% say security awareness
is vital, a slight increase over last year. Education is viewed as critical elsewhere, too, topping the list in the U.S., Canada, the
Netherlands, Spain and Australia. In Italy, supplier risk remains a primary concern, with 38% of CISOs listing it as one of their
top three priorities over the next two years.
Efficiency is the biggest priority for CISOs in Germany, Sweden and Japan, who view consolidation and simplification of
security solutions and controls as their top priority.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Board concerns
There is no doubt that cybersecurity headlines over the last two years have awakened boardrooms worldwide to today’s cyber risks.
We asked global CISOs about their top concerns when considering the impact of a cyber attack on their business based
on their interactions with their board. They listed significant downtime (37%), disruption to operations (36%) and impact on
business valuation (36%) as top of mind for board members.
Conversely, loss of revenue came last, perhaps viewed by some as a consequence of the top concerns rather than a direct
impact. That said, larger organizations (with over 5,000 employees) were the most concerned.

Board cybersecurity concerns: given your interactions with the board, what do you believe are their
greatest concerns with regard to a material cyber attack on the business? Pick up to three.
Significant
downtime

Disruption to
operations

Impact on
business
valuation

Reputational
damage

Loss of current
customers

Loss in revenue

No greatest
concern

GLOBAL

37%

36%

36%

35%

35%

33%

1%

U.S.

34%

40%

47%

36%

37%

39%

1%

Canada

39%

33%

40%

39%

41%

34%

3%

UK

42%

33%

48%

37%

35%

29%

0%

France

44%

45%

48%

45%

47%

46%

0%

Germany

42%

26%

40%

30%

38%

29%

5%

Netherlands

29%

31%

21%

39%

31%

23%

0%

Sweden

36%

41%

38%

31%

31%

29%

2%

Italy

35%

33%

26%

36%

36%

28%

0%

Spain

28%

34%

26%

37%

28%

33%

0%

KSA

29%

39%

35%

27%

37%

38%

4%

UAE

45%

33%

39%

31%

30%

39%

2%

Australia

49%

42%

34%

29%

32%

33%

0%

Singapore

36%

33%

29%

31%

33%

32%

1%

Japan

34%

44%

34%

42%

36%

31%

2%

Main Concern

Second/Third Concerns

Around the world, U.S., UK, and French boards view the impact of a material cyber attack on business valuation as the most
pressing concern. In the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, reputation damage is the primary worry. Significant downtime is top of
mind for those in Germany, UAE, Australia and Singapore.

For retail CISOs, reputational damage
is the biggest risk. Brand impact
was also high on the agenda for IT,
technology and telecoms boards.

Significant downtime is of most
concern to education, manufacturing
and business services boards, while
disruption to operations worries the
healthcare C-suite.

Impact on business valuation is
perceived as the biggest potential
repercussion for energy, oil/gas and
utilities—as well as IT, technology
and telecoms and the media and
entertainment sectors.

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Conclusion
As CISOs have adapted over the past two years, many of them feel more comfortable with the level of risk they face. Patchwork
systems and ad hoc policies have been replaced with more strategic cyber defenses. At the same time, employees are now
well-versed in working away from the office. As a result, global CISOs now believe that employees better understand their
security responsibilities—and that their organizations are more equipped to cope with a cyber attack.
However, many may be falling into a false sense of security. Targeted attacks, ransomware and insider threats are all on the
rise. And with most cyber attacks requiring human interaction, people remain the biggest risk factor. That relatively few CISOs
have bolstered defenses to protect the people perimeter in light of hybrid working is a major cause for concern.
But once again, it may be the case that they are unable—not unwilling—to empower their people. Just like last year, many
CISOs do not see eye to eye with their board on matters of cybersecurity. And more than half believe that their reporting line
hampers job effectiveness.
The good news: CISOs around the world know where things need to improve. Many are taking steps to enhance information
protection solutions and security awareness training, both of which will be vital in long-term hybrid environments. Skill and
resources shortages are being acknowledged, too, with many CISOs planning to outsource security solutions in the coming
years.
Overall, CISOs appear to have embraced 2022 as the calm after the storm. But with rising geopolitical tensions and increasing
people-focused attacks, the same gaps of user awareness, preparation and prevention must be plugged before the
cybersecurity seas grow rough once more.

“The problems facing CISOs today are as much, if not more,
business-related as they are technology-related. Cyber incidents
impact the business across multiple facets, from reputational risks
impacting trust and revenue to potential liabilities imposed by state
and federal legislators. This has created a need for the CISO to
engage the board, not only to provide the metrics surrounding the
cyber posture of the business, but also to be able to tell the story
from a risk-based perspective in a way that can easily be understood
by its members.”
Patrick Gaul, Executive Director, National Technology Security Coalition

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PROOFPOINT 2022 VOICE OF THE CISO REPORT

Methodology
The Proofpoint 2022 Voice of the CISO survey, conducted by research firm Censuswide between February 22 and March 8,
2022, surveyed 1,400 chief information security officers from organizations of 200 employees or more across different industries
in 14 countries. One hundred CISOs were interviewed in each market, which included the U.S., Canada, the UK, France,
Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, UAE, KSA, Australia, Japan and Singapore.

Industry split among respondents:

Energy, oil/gas
and utilities
Business and
professional
services

Retail

9%

8%

9%
Manufacturing
and production

200-500
200-499

5001+

Education

11%

7%

Financial
services

9%

2501-5000

16%

9%

10%

28%

8%
8%

8%

Healthcare

17%
IT, technology
and telecoms

Company size split among respondents:

8%

Media, leisure
and
entertainment

35%

Public sector

Transport

Censuswide complies with the MRS Code of Conduct and ESOMAR principles.

1001-2500

501-1000
500-1000