With the ever-increasing number of cyberattacks for both financial gains and political purposes, companies, government agencies, and other organizations are forced to deploy and maintain an expanding depth of security controls. This has led to a breadth of oftentimes independent point solutions that aren’t driven by policies and processes and aren’t created by an experienced information security professional.
Many organizations just aren’t large enough to employ a chief information security officer (CISO), and even the ones that can afford it struggle to find qualified candidates. As a result, security falls by the wayside, becomes secondary to other IT operational concerns, and is more reactive than proactive.
That’s why virtual CISOs are growing more popular. These on-demand experts step in to evaluate, maintain, or repair your security, on-site or remotely, working as a flexible addition to your current IT team and offering the security management you may not be able to find yourself.
But not all virtual CISOs are created equal. To help you navigate the different types and functions—and whether they’re right for you at all—we’ve put together some background to guide your search.
Is a virtual CISO right for you?
A virtual CISO provides two things: First, a third-party perspective, which can be helpful if your security infrastructure hasn’t been updated in some time. Second, a bridge between IT and executives, offering perspective on how security concerns are a risk to the company itself in language executives understand.
Virtual CISOs can certainly head your security efforts, but they don’t have to. They can instead act as an extension of your current security operations management, offering a second set of eyes or project support.
The role ultimately depends on the organization. For most small to medium-sized businesses, a virtual CISO is a welcome leader who can direct security strategies. For larger organizations, virtual CISOs often act as aides or a task force to accomplish a specific goal. The same goes for industries like finance, where compliance rules prohibit third parties from assuming responsibility for security breaches, which basically prevents a virtual CISO from running the security practice.
What kind of virtual CISO do you need?
There are two different programmatic activities to think about when considering virtual CISOs. One is time-oriented, the other task-oriented. Though they can be considered independently based on your needs, a combination of both allows you to schedule known requirements and account for on-demand needs.
Time-oriented virtual CISOs usually work a block of hours, maybe two to five days a month, either on-site or remotely. It’s a similar, though more advanced, version of purchasing a block of IT support. If your security is already established, and you’re simply looking for a CISO who will be available on demand to check in, run tests, and make sure everything is kept up-to-date, the hourly block model may be the best choice.
On the other hand, task-oriented virtual CISOs will come in for an evaluation, set goals, and work to those ends. If you need to establish security or need assistance on a particular operation, it may be a better idea to hire a virtual CISO who will work toward specific goals.
The best virtual CISO service providers combine both of these and leverage multiple resources from their internal bench to ensure subject matter experts are delivering for each of the tasks. Though security resources can have a substantial scope of experience, virtual CISO tasks are sometimes best accomplished by someone who lives and breathes that subset of security practices.
What makes a good virtual CISO?
Often, hiring a virtual CISO means hiring a group of professionals, each with their own area of expertise. So first and foremost, explore the depth of the bench you’re offered. Make sure your virtual CISO provider has an expert on your specific needs, as well as a wide variety of skills in case you encounter other security issues.
Second, look for good communicators. Every company has its own culture and specific ways of communicating with employees; if your styles clash, look for a different virtual CISO.
Additionally, if your virtual CISO would take on a high-level management job, they need to be fluent in both business and technology. To get the most out of your relationship, find a virtual CISO that can translate risk from the network level to the executive level.
In the end, many organizations with resource challenges find virtual CISOs are a more flexible and cost-effective version of a full-time, high-level security employee. They offer the full experience and qualifications of senior-level resources, help to reduce your risk of security breaches, and convey security needs to upper management.
Contact your account executive today to see if a virtual CISO is the right choice for you.