What is a CISO and Why Your Business Needs One

Published on Jan 24, 2024
by Haley Glover
Header image: What is a CISO and Why Your Business Needs One

While many Fortune 500 companies have a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), several small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) overlook the importance of hiring one. While SMBs may think hiring a CISO is not a financial priority, the evolving complexities of cyber threats make the security posture of an organization one of its biggest vulnerabilities. In 2023, 73% of small businesses faced a cyber-attack. For a cost-effective alternative, organizations can opt for hiring a virtual CISO through a cybersecurity consulting agency that offers competitively priced consulting packages. Regardless of the size of your business, every organization needs a CISO, whether an in-house CISO or a virtual CISO.

What is a CISO?

Today, CISOs stand alongside the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and are integral members of executive boards. A CIO oversees major IT initiatives and focuses on the overall IT strategy while a CISO specializes in cybersecurity. This specialization focuses on protecting business assets through implementing secure processes and systems, including risk management, incident response, and disaster recovery planning. For cybersecurity initiatives to be effective, the entire organization needs to have a proactive mentality, not just one isolated department. To facilitate this integration, a CISO actively addresses organizational technology risks, including the proper management of security operations. They also develop security awareness training and workshops to educate the organization on the importance of security operations and the best processes for avoiding unintentional insider threats. 

The CISO Evolution

Given the rapid expansion of modern technology and the increasingly complex nature of cyber threats, the role of a CISO has evolved significantly since its introduction in 1995. Initially, CISOs reported to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and was responsible for the technical aspects of information security, such as implementing security technologies. The hierarchy and responsibilities of a CISO have since expanded to a proactive approach; respond to incidents, and actively work to prevent them.

Benefits of a CISO

One common misconception associated with hiring a CISO is the belief that it imposes a significant financial burden. However, this is not always the case. An organization can hire the traditional in-house way or they can hire a virtual CISO through a cybersecurity consulting agency. Regardless of the hiring method, the result is a great asset for overcoming a data breach and conquering top cyber challenges.

Overcoming a Data Breach

In the event of a data breach, a CISO thoroughly investigates the issue by examining compromised departments, assessing the sensitivity of the breached data, and evaluating the overall security posture. After this analysis, they will update software, implement defense-in-depth strategies, and establish continuous monitoring processes. This helps organizations strengthen their defenses and minimize the impact of future breaches.

Optimize Procurement and Processes

When working with numerous security controls, an organization may believe the more controls they have, the better. A CISO evaluates current procurement processes to ensure the organization pays only for the necessary controls, reducing the cost of any unnecessary expenses. Due to their specialized expertise, they can also prioritize security measures and instill robust defense strategies, preventing organizations from wasting valuable time trying to determine the best next steps.

When Should Your Company Hire a CISO?

One of the first steps organizations take after experiencing a breach is to seek the help of a cybersecurity professional. However, hiring cybersecurity professionals before a breach occurs is ideal. In 2023, the global average cost of a data breach was around $4.45 million. This cost is steadily increasing along with the number of data compromises per year. It is not a matter of whether a company will experience a breach, but a matter of when it will.

Hiring a CISO before a breach enables comprehensive risk assessments and the establishment of continuous monitoring processes, enhancing the resilience of your organization. Also, defense-in-depth initiatives like developing security awareness training will bolster company culture around security efforts.

In the event your organization was affected by a data breach, a virtual CISO offers a quick, cost-effective alternative for post-breach support. They will conduct a robust incident analysis to determine the impact and root cause of the breach. Through working alongside company leaders, they will work to contain the breach and restore the affected data.

Integrate a CISO Into Your Organization

Regardless of company size, every business needs a CISO to navigate the complexities of cybersecurity to ensure your organization has a proactive approach to cybersecurity instead of a reactive one. While integrating a cybersecurity talent before a breach is ideal, they can assist your company at any stage. Contact Knowledge Services today to discover more about our cybersecurity consulting options and strengthen your organization’s cyber posture.