Virtual CISO Use Case (to be avoided): Wait for a breach, THEN hire one.
“It’s not a matter of if they’ll get into a car accident, it’s a matter of when.”
This is what my Uncle Jim, an insurance broker, told my parents when I turned 16 and started driving. Sure enough, I rear-ended someone while on my way to work on a snowy night at 17.
Much like teen drivers, the question for businesses experiencing a cyber attack isn’t
if but when.
Also like teen drivers, there is much you can do to reduce the likelihood and severity of an incident. Training (driver’s education) and risk mitigation (wear seat belts) go a long way.
Safety and security are best practiced proactively, rather than reactively. So while waiting for a business’ inevitable cyber attack is one strategy – it’s certainly not the best one.
Virtual CISO use cases include: building your cybersecurity program, achieving SOC 2 or ISO 27001 compliance, and managing existing cybersecurity and compliance programs.
Let’s evaluate each of these Virtual CISO uses cases in turn.
Building or Improving a Cybersecurity Program with a Virtual CISO
Developing a robust cybersecurity program is essential for protecting your business from today’s cyber risks. Cyberattacks are becoming more common, more sophisticated, and more costly.
A vCISO provides the expertise you need to implement a comprehensive cybersecurity program that is tailored to your specific business needs.
In this Virtual CISO use case, the vCISO will work closely with your business to understand its unique environment and associated risks. Based on this assessment, the virtual CISO will develop a customized cybersecurity program that includes the appropriate controls and processes to manage those risks.
This will include implementing technical safeguards, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, as well as writing policies and procedures to ensure that employees are trained and aware of their role in protecting the business.
Once the cybersecurity program has been implemented, the virtual CISO will continue to provide guidance as-needed to ensure that the program remains effective. This may include conducting regular internal audits to identify and address any gaps or weaknesses, and providing ongoing support to employees to keep them up to date on the latest threats and best practices.
The Virtual CISO can also shape your cybersecurity program to fit compliance frameworks, such as SOC 2 and ISO 27001, helping you to achieve compliance.
Achieving SOC 2 or ISO 27001 Compliance
Achieving compliance with SOC 2 and/or ISO 27001 is a daunting task, especially for businesses or teams that are tackling it for the first time. A virtual CISO provides the leadership you need to navigate the requirements and ensure that your business successfully completes its audits.
In this Virtual CISO use case, a vCISO can provide guidance on the specific requirements of
SOC 2 or ISO 27001 and help you develop a plan to meet them.
If your organization does not yet have any cybersecurity program, this process will start the creation of one.
If your organization does have a cybersecurity program, your compliance effort will instead start with a gap assessment to identify any areas where your business is not currently in alignment with your selected framework.
The vCISO will create a list of remediations needed to bring your program into compliance. Your cybersecurity leader will also assist with the creation of compliance-specific documentation, the implementation of any new necessary controls and processes, and provide support through the audit process.
One subset of this Virtual CISO use case is the project management of the entire audit. Your vCISO will guide you from the start of your audit to its successful completion. They’ll help you select the right auditor for your needs and budget, attend all audit calls with the auditor and client, and advocate on your behalf, ensuring your auditor maintains realistic compliance expectations.
Overall, working with a Virtual CISO will significantly improve your chances of having a successful SOC 2 or ISO 27001 audit. Plus, their involvement will decrease the workload needed from other high-level personnel at your organization – saving your organization money and enabling them to work more efficiently on their core tasks.
After becoming compliant, it is important to maintain both your compliance and cybersecurity program. A vCISO can be retained, or brought in, to serve this need.
Managing Existing Cybersecurity & Compliance Programs with a Virtual CISO
For businesses that already have a cybersecurity and/or compliance program in place, a
CISO as a Service can be used to manage and maintain the programs effectively. This is applicable both to organizations that used a vCISO to build out their programs and for businesses that built out their programs on their own.
For the latter scenario, the latter scenario often arises as the business grows larger and needs a dedicated security leader to free up the security workload from existing staff and to provide the strategic guidance needed to improve their cybersecurity posture in the evolving threat landscape.
In this situation, the vCISO will work with your business to understand its existing security and compliance programs and identify any areas that need improvement. The Virtual CISO will then work to ensure that the programs remain effective and up to date. This includes managing regular security tasks, such as change control and internal audits, keeping the company’s senior management and board apprised of the company’s cybersecurity risk profile, and making adjustments as needed to reduce risk and improving the overall security posture of the business.
This can be particularly valuable for larger businesses that are facing an evolving threat landscape and need to continually adapt their security measures to stay ahead of potential threats.
Why wouldn’t a larger business just hire a CISO?
A Virtual CISO can provide the same cybersecurity leadership that a full-time CISO with a few key benefits.
Cost Effectiveness: Even for very large companies, a vCISO is going to be more affordable than a full-time CISO. A vCISO could support the existing CIO and CTO, eliminating the need for a full-time CISO.
Stability: Depending on who you ask, the average tenure of a full-time CISO is either 17 or 26 months. Either way, this is a very short tenure for a position that is as-important and as-difficult to hire for as a CISO is!
On the other hand, a vCISO firm provides a higher level of stability. They are unlikely to “fire” one of their clients, and can’t be poached by other companies promising greater pay! However, an individual Virtual CISO provider (not a firm) may leave to take a full time job. A firm is less likely to disappear!
The bottom line on Virtual CISO Use Cases
The cyber threat landscape is such that cyber attacks are a matter of when, not if. Every business has cybersecurity needs – even if they don’t really realize it! No matter what your cybersecurity needs may be, a Virtual CISO can help you meet them.
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