Virtual CISO: Your Trusted Cybersecurity Expert

Flexible cybersecurity leadership and services tailored to the needs of your organization.

What is a Virtual CISO (vCISO)?

A Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) helps organizations to protect their infrastructure, data, people and customers. A vCISO is a top security expert who builds the client organization’s cybersecurity program. The Virtual CISO operates remotely and works together directly with the existing management and technical teams to create and manage a cybersecurity program. You may be wondering if your organization needs a vCISO. This article aims to cover all the considerations for engaging with a Virtual CISO.

How an organization uses its vCISO depends on the business itself. The organization’s structure, products and services, markets and IT context all factor in.

Some companies are content to just sit and wait for problems – but that kind of apathy can be fatalistic.

In most cases, waiting around is a terrible strategy! A Virtual CISO helps a firm to be proactive when initiative counts.

When a company is struggling to implement security, comply with industry regulations, and outpace competitors, a vCISO can help. Virtual CISOs provide guidance and measure the results of the client’s cybersecurity program.

Reading this, you may be wondering if picking a Virtual CISO for your business is a must. Here are some of the things that these top pros can do to help your company toward success and security.

What is the Role of a CISO?

Managing cybersecurity in today’s world is almost indescribably tough. Many business leadership teams don’t feel up to the challenge, or they understand that outside firepower can enhance a security model.

Most mid-sized firms have some technical personnel or contractors that handle most of the technical needs of security. But who is looking at the big picture of cybersecurity for the organization?

Often, this is a CIO, CTO, COO, Chief Compliance Officer or another executive who has a full plate of responsibilities. This executive might not have the bandwidth to cover their enterprise’s cybersecurity program. That gap leads to unnecessary risk!

Other organizations choose to put a mid-level technical manager in charge of security. These folks also have a full-time job. They don’t have the executive presence to influence senior management. They need buy-in for key security programs – especially when there’s a time-sensitive project. It’s not that these people aren’t working hard enough to implement best practices – it’s just that the company doesn’t have the tools that it needs to achieve!

A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is a senior-level team member. The CISO establishes and maintains an enterprise’s security vision, strategy, and programs. The role ensures information assets and technologies are appropriately protected. Most large organizations have a full-time CISO to handle their cybersecurity needs. Mid-range companies and smaller companies may not have such a role. Having a non-security expert in charge of security is a recipe for trouble!

role of virtual ciso

What is the Role of a Virtual CISO?

vCISOs are becoming increasingly popular due to the flexible access to cybersecurity expertise without the overhead of a full-time hire. The remote nature of a vCISO allows them to make their services accessible to a wider range of organizations. A Virtual CISO is designed to provide expert security guidance through:

  • Understanding the organization’s strategy and business environment
  • Providing threat analysis and strategy updates in real-time
  • Anticipating future security and compliance challenges
  • Overseeing mid-level and analyst/engineering teams
  • Discovery, triage, remediation and evaluation of threats

All of this and more contributes to a safer, better positioned corporate vantage point.

If your company doesn’t have the resources to hire a full-time CISO and equip that expert with all the best tools for the job, the next best thing is a virtual security officer from a proven company. These experts don’t require extensive training, outside of getting to know your organization intimately, and they have access to the right tools for the job already. With a good vCISO you will minimize your overhead while gaining access to the protective benefits that these experts bring along with them. Take control of your business proactively by bringing in an expert in security ahead of any major problems.

What Are the Signs Your Business Needs a Virtual CISO (vCISO)?

There are many cases where a larger organization’s CISO departs due to a new role, termination or an illness. In these cases, the organization needs a qualified person to manage its cybersecurity. The mandate to “handle security in real-time” means the CISO desk should not ever be empty: if an interim CISO presence is needed, a vCISO is a valuable solution.

The right Virtual CISO will be able to take over where the existing CISO left off without disrupting the current security protocols in position. At the same time, hiring a virtual cybersecurity expert can provide your organization with an outside perspective and may lead to security enhancements that otherwise wouldn’t have been considered. Many companies see the need for temporary vCISO services as a negative, but this expert could end up improving your company in unexpected ways, so don’t immediately look at a fill-in CISO as a negative. Instead, try to view this outsider as a tool for progress for your organization.

What Are the Advantages of Hiring a Virtual CISO?

Companies are getting aggressive about getting a CISO on board for a number of reasons.

Cybersecurity Regulation Compliance

One is the range of new cybersecurity regulations that companies have to deal with. Past industry standards like PCI and HIPAA are now joined by bold new privacy and security rules that change how we view the company’s responsibility to safeguard data. Perhaps the most recent example is the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that’s having so much of an effect not just in the EU, but around the globalized business community.

Cyber Threat Management

Then there are the cautionary examples: data breaches splashed across the front page, chilling tales of pilfered data, identity theft, and commercial loss.

These are two of the biggest drivers toward a CISO strategy that plans for every eventuality, including an empty chair.

Create and Maintain Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Far too many organizations wait until disaster strikes before investing in virtual CISO services. This is the wrong way to approach the issue. Instead, it’s best to hire a vCISO while things are still running smoothly. A skilled chief information and security officer will build necessary security safeguards into your company over time, and your business will only grow stronger over time. Hiring a virtual CISO, or spending the money to have an in-house CISO will help preserve company profits over time.

If you’re interested in giving your company the best chance for success in the future, onboarding a professional offering virtual CISO services is an excellent investment. This move won’t raise your stock prices immediately, but it could be the improvement that successfully staves off a security breach or another real disaster for your company in the future. Think of this professional as a preventative measure or a safeguard for your company that you don’t want to be without.

Cybersecurity Expertise and Guidance

A vCISO brings top-tier expertise and cybersecurity guidance to companies who do not have the need for an in-house professional. A vCISO will help companies to develop and execute strategies to protect against threats. 

Flexibility and Scalability

Due to the nature of the employment arrangement, virtual CISOs offer flexibility and scalability to align with various types of organizations. vCISOs can provide support during critical periods, offer long-term guidance or strategy, or assist with ongoing projects, adapting their expertise to the organization’s immediate needs. 

Cost-Effectiveness

According to an article published on ZDNet, the average tenure of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is just 26 months, primarily due to high stress and burnout. This statistic emphasizes the challenges organizations face in maintaining a long-term, stable CISO position. When discussing the cost-effectiveness of hiring a virtual CISO, it becomes evident that the constant turnover and rehiring for such a high-cost position as a full-time employee can be expensive. On the other hand, a virtual CISO firm is unlikely to “leave” its client, providing a more reliable and consistent security solution. This stability further enhances the cost-effectiveness of employing a virtual CISO.

Access to Specialized Cybersecurity Tools and Resources

As virtual CISOs are specialists in cybersecurity, they typically have access to a range of tools and resources that are needed to implement a cybersecurity plan. This enables organizations to benefit from the latest technologies, without having to fully invest in their own infrastructure.

External Perspective

A vCISO brings a unique external perspective to an organization, making it easier to identify potential vulnerabilities, offer new insights, and challenge existing security processes in order to help enhance the overall security posture of the organization. 

 

Any company that values its cybersecurity will come to appreciate the experience that a vCISO brings to the table. With that said, not everyone only wants a part-time CISO. That’s why it’s possible to use a virtual CISO program year-round for long-term protection.

Whether your business decides to change its website infrastructure, test out a new server setup, or alter another piece of technology that’s crucial to your daily operations, a vCISO can reduce common information security concerns along the way. 

What Are the Qualifications for Becoming a Virtual CISO?

It’s important for a CISO to have a sufficient background in security, to understand the security landscape. The CISO has to keep up to date with the latest in the security industry. How can you make sure that a prospective CISO is a security expert?

Cybersecurity credentials can help. A CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) or CISM certificate is just part of the proof of capability for a virtual CISO. The CISO needs to be able to talk intelligently about systems and compliance and translate that knowledge to teams. This role needs to have “people skills” as well as “tech skills” and expertise in the industry. That combination helps companies to safeguard their systems and re-organize for the future business world.

 
 

How to Hire a Virtual CISO with Fractional CISO

With a vCISO from Fractional CISO, every engagement is a little different. In every case, the vCISO will work to understand your business environment, culture and objectives.

Then the Virtual CISO will get to work on:

Fractional CISO’s Virtual CISO service also involves:

  • Understanding the business environment and matching a management style that resonates with the customer
  • Quickly building trusted relationships with key personnel, resulting in a more successful cybersecurity program
  • Meeting customer requirements with a flexible Virtual CISO program
  • Having great templates and systems in place to maximize leverage.

A typical engagement involves being on-site for two to three weeks of the first eight weeks of the process. On-site participation varies based on customer preference and the requirements of the engagement. For more details on the Fractional CISO offerings, check out our vCISO services and offerings.

Next Steps with a Virtual CISO

If you would like to discuss whether a Virtual CISO is right for you, please give us a call for a complimentary consultation. We can be reached at (617) 297-9509 and our email is [email protected]

Let us help you to achieve your goals for cybersecurity!

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Virtual CISOs

The main difference between a CISO and Virtual CISO (vCISO) is the employment agreement. A CISO is a full time, in-house executive and employee who is responsible for establishing and maintaining a cybersecurity program. A Virtual CISO is an outsourced cybersecurity expert who provides CISO-level cybersecurity services on a part-time or temporary/contract basis.

Hiring a Virtual CISO gives companies the assurance of expert cybersecurity guidance without the commitment of retaining a full-time CISO employee. This provides flexibility, cost efficiency, and the numerous benefits of top-tier information security expertise.

While coding skills are certainly beneficial for a CISO, it is not a strict requirement for the role. The primary focus of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is to create and execute cybersecurity strategies, manage cyber risks, and ensure compliance. An understanding of coding is helpful for the role, but the role focuses primarily on leadership, policy development, collaboration with technical teams, and risk assessment.

The need for a CISO within an organization varies depending on factors such as industry, size, and risk profile. Larger companies– especially those in highly-regulated industries– often have a dedicated CISO on staff. Smaller and midsize organizations may not require a full-time CISO due to resource constraints, and that’s where Virtual CISO’s are beneficial. The decision to have a CISO depends on the company’s cybersecurity needs, available resources, and risk tolerance.

Virtual security refers to the protection of digital assets, systems, and information in the virtual or digital realm. It combines practices, protocols, and technologies to safeguard data, networks, applications, and devices from unauthorized access, cyber threats, and data breaches. Some common virtual security measures include encryption,  firewalls, access controls, antivirus software, and regular security assessments.

Ensure Cyber Resilience with Fractional CISO’s Virtual CISO

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