A Virtual Chief Information Security Officer, or Virtual CISO or VCISO, is a C-level security professional who applies their years of cybersecurity and business experience, on a part-time, consultative basis, to assist firms in establishing or enhancing their information security programs. How an organization uses a VCISO depends on the business itself. The organization’s structure, products and services, markets, and IT context all factor in.
On this page, we will detail the role of a Virtual CISO and how this role can be incorporated seamlessly into any organization. We will also answer a compelling question: Is a Virtual CISO the right solution for you? It's an important question because a VCISO, in order to be effective, invests time and expertise in your business on an ongoing basis, over time, rather than on a single project basis. Strategic vision, best practices, and robust cybersecurity are not achieved overnight.
In today's world, managing cybersecurity is indescribably difficult. Many business leadership teams are not resourced to effectively manage cybersecurity. Others haven't considered the value that engaging third-party expertise can bring to their information security strategy. Still others don't believe that their businesses warrant an executive-level information security officer.
Most businesses, regardless of size and industry, employ technical staff and/or contractors who handle their day-to-day information security and technology requirements. But who in the corporation is looking at the bigger picture of cybersecurity?
Often, this individual is an executive who already juggles a full spectrum of responsibilities. Sometimes the strategic information security role falls on a Chief Information Officer (CIO), a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), or even a Chief Operations Officer (COO). Typically, these leaders lack the time and expertise to effectively direct their company's cybersecurity program, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be. This is a common disconnect that exposes your organization to unnecessary risk. However, there is an effective solution to this strategy-level expertise gap.
A CISO is a member of the senior management team. The CISO is responsible for establishing and maintaining an organization's security vision, strategy, and programs. The job entails ensuring that information assets and technology are properly safeguarded. To meet their cybersecurity needs, most large firms employ a full-time CISO. Smaller and mid-sized businesses may not be able to play such a role. It's a recipe for disaster to put a non-security professional in charge of security!
A VCISO is a problem-solver as well as a leader. He or she is extensively involved in developing a complete information security program that considers the information security family triad: "Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability," or "CIA," stands for "confidentiality, integrity, and availability."
Let's look at the following key VCISO tasks and responsibilities with this in mind. After all, they provide expert security advice by doing the following:
To view a comprehensive infographic of the roles and responsibilities that a VCISO provides, click below to view and download our infographic!
The concept of a VCISO has grown in popularity among organizations. Whether it is due to external forces or the increasing need to go virtual, there are various reasons for having a VCISO. Regardless of the size of your organization:
To view a comprehensive infographic of our VCISO model and what you will get out of it, click below to download our infographic!
The main advantage of employing a VCISO is that you obtain the same level of competence and capability as if you hired a full-time CISO. However, your organization may lack the overhead, rewards, and training that come with it. Prioritization, risk assessment, and training can all help a company meet its security objectives. Your organization would see security improvements sooner with the proper VCISO services. It will take less time to get this virtual specialist up to speed with your firm than it would for long-term new hires.
Any firm that values virtual security will see the value that a VCISO can bring to the table. However, not everyone is looking for a part-time CISO. As a result, a VCISO program can be used year-round for long-term security.
A VCISO can help your company eliminate typical information security risks, whether it's changing its website infrastructure, trying out a new server layout, or changing another piece of technology that's critical to your everyday operations. Few corporations are now considering hiring for VCISO positions, and as a result, many of these companies are putting themselves in danger.
Some businesses are satisfied to sit and wait for problems to arise, but this attitude can be dangerous. When it comes to the initiative, a VCISO may assist a company to be proactive.
The number one question that gets asked by cynics everywhere is: why would you need a VCISO when you could simply hire a real CISO on a permanent basis? The response varies from person to person and is not always the same. For starters, highly ranked full-time CISOs are hard to come by; they often stay in their jobs for two years or fewer, and, more importantly, can charge six-figure salaries, especially for smaller organizations.
VCISOs, on the other hand, are anticipated to cost between 40% and 50% less than a full-time CISO and are available on demand. The advantages outweigh the costs. VCISOs normally don't need any training, can get right in, and aren't obligated to play nice with office politics. It's all about the numbers in this approach, and any VCISO up to the task will give adequate KPIs and reporting.
While individual VCISOs will have varied skill sets, many should be capable of handling a wide range of responsibilities, from the tactical to the strategic. They can be able to assist in the development of security policies, guidelines, and standards. This could include everything from understanding HIPAA or PCI compliance to staying on top of vendor risk assessments. They could also assist with recruiting, developing security plans, procuring solutions, resolving issues, and laying the groundwork for ISO 27001 and 9001 compliances. They could also help with BYOD policy and enforcement, as well as educating newly appointed CISOs and managing the board relationship while full-time CISOs "keep the lights on.