What is a vCISO? And do you need one?
Rather than hiring a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), many smaller organizations choose to utilize a fractional or virtual CISO (vCISO) to address cybersecurity needs rather than engage one internally. A vCISO can bring strategic and operational leadership to smaller or mid-sized companies that can’t hire a full-time CISO or don’t feel they need one full-time.
Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) can be expensive and hard to come by. But, in today’s world of continual attacks on businesses, many organizations, even smaller ones, recognize the value of having a CISO.
What exactly is a vCISO?
Let’s define what a vCISO is. A virtual CISO is an outsourced IT security practitioner or team of practitioners who offers their time and insight to an organization on an ongoing, on-demand basis, usually remotely. They have generally spent many years in the industry. They have a wealth of experience dealing with a wide variety of scenarios. They can provide assistance designing an overall security strategy and may even manage implementation. Often, a vCISO is available to present to the board, key stakeholders, and regulators.
Virtual CISOs can provide value by helping with many information security initiatives, including:
IT security planning and management activities
Security risk management
Evaluation of third parties with access to organizational data
Coordination of audits by regulators or customers
Threat remediation and response
Do you need a vCISO?
So why would you need a virtual CISO when you could bring one on your staff full-time? For one, CISOs are hard to come by, they are in high demand, and good ones are expensive, often asking for over 6-figure salaries plus benefits. You also need to consider the time and expense for recruiting. Most CISOs can hit the ground running and won’t need any onboarding time.
vCISOs are estimated to cost around a third of a full-time CISO and are available on-demand. What you pay for vCISO services is highly customizable depending on what types of services you require and your organization’s security needs and threat level. You are paying for vCISO services based on actual time spent or services rendered by them.
Most vCISO’s have experience in and can cover a broad range of tactical and strategic tasks. They can help pull together security policies, guidelines, and standards, or HIPAA/PCI compliance, to overall risk assessment. They can also help recruit, set security strategies, procure solutions, and guide incident response.
Due to their flexibility, vCISOs are an excellent fit for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), supplementing the existing management team or as a temporary solution. Many companies have IT people who are highly skilled in their core business. But, it may require additional expertise around understanding the threat landscape, regulatory requirements and defining an appropriate IT security strategy and roadmap.
So, is a virtual CISO (vCISO) the right solution for you?
With constantly increasing cyber threats to small and mid-sized businesses, if you aren’t concerned about data security and cybersecurity, your business and your money are at risk. With a virtual CISO, you are getting a seasoned expert who can take lessons learned from other clients and apply them to protecting your business, as well as an outsider’s perspective on your cybersecurity efforts.
No matter how many advanced cybersecurity tools you use, human intervention is still required. Cybercriminals are real humans with widely varied motives and agendas. To understand their mindsets, you must take advantage of the expertise of well-qualified, well-trained cybersecurity professionals. A crucial part of this includes having a leader in place who can strategize and lead your organization’s cyber security initiatives from the front.