Why Businesses Need Virtual CISO Services: A Complete Guide

Published on Jun 26, 2024
by Haley Glover

Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) is a cybersecurity expert who provides flexible, on-demand strategic security leadership and advisory services. vCISOs typically work with multiple clients to create tailored cybersecurity strategies that align with each organization’s unique risks and needs. This varies from traditional CISOs, who focus on the security operations of one organization. Organizations benefit from this industry knowledge and expertise, ensuring innovative security measures are in place. 

Virtual CISO services encompass various cybersecurity functions, including comprehensive security audits, gap analyses, incident response planning, and continuous monitoring. Virtual CISOs assist in developing and implementing security policies and conduct employee training programs. They also introduce advanced security technologies, such as cloud-based solutions and automated backup systems. This flexible approach improves security for organizations and helps businesses allocate resources more efficiently to withstand cyber threats. 

The Evolution of the CISO Role 

In 1995, the idea of CISO solutions was first introduced. The CISO reported to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and was responsible for implementing security technologies. Today, CISOs stand alongside CIOs, overseeing security business objectives. While the CIO focuses on overall IT strategy, a CISO’s main priority is cybersecurity integration. 

The role of the CISO has further evolved, now providing a more cost-effective solution. Virtual CISO services provide companies access to the expertise of a traditional CISO, without the expense of hiring one full-time. While many Fortune 500 companies have a full-time CISO, several small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) overlook the importance of hiring one. While SMBs may not prioritize hiring a CISO, the evolving cyber threats make security a significant vulnerability for organizations. 

A traditional CISO and a vCISO, also referred to as CISO on demand, tailor cybersecurity strategies based on an organization’s specific risks. While a traditional CISO handles the company’s daily and strategic operations, a vCISO provides services and expertise at various levels of involvement. An on-demand CISO typically works with multiple clients, bringing diverse industry expertise and offering a fresh perspective. 

LEARN MORE: What is a vCISO vs. a Traditional CISO? 

Virtual CISO Services 

Public and private sector organizations alike continuously face cybersecurity threats. The most common of these threats are unintentional insider threats, outdated software, and ignoring the value of companywide security training. Through these virtual CISO services, your organization can stand resilient to evolving threats. 

Comprehensive Security Assessments 

A vCISO provides organizations with a comprehensive gap analysis and security audit. The gap analysis compares how the company operates against industry benchmarks while the audit reviews the organization’s security policies, procedures, and controls.  

An on-demand CISO helps prevent data breaches and recover from them. They thoroughly evaluate compromised departments, examine the sensitivity of breached data, and assess the organization’s overall security. Once the security reviews are complete, the vCISO identifies any outdated or unnecessary security software. 

This customized vCISO service ensures that organizations do not bear unnecessary expenses, allowing them to allocate resources more effectively. Without an on-demand CISO, organizations may waste valuable time and effort determining the appropriate actions. This lack of clarity results in unnecessary costs that an on-demand CISO can help your organization avoid entirely. 

Enhance Procurement 

While conducting the security audit, the vCISO will use the MITRE ATT&CK framework to determine the most critical controls. Organizations often believe the more controls they have in place, the better. A vCISO will evaluate the current procurement process to ensure the organization only pays for the necessary controls, reducing the cost of any unnecessary expenses.  

An on-demand CISO has in-depth industry knowledge and recognizes the diversity in IT implementation cultures across different states, tailoring security strategies accordingly. Understanding the motivations behind attacks, the on-demand CISO can prioritize security measures and defense strategies to protect organizations from potential threats. This prevents organizations from wasting valuable time trying to determine the best next steps. 

A CISO can also aid in migrating toward cloud-based solutions. Cloud-based solutions allow for automated backups, allowing for instantaneous restoration. Many companies don’t utilize these strategies due to the multitude of equipment and backups that need to be evaluated. 

This virtual CISO service helps organizations evaluate their systems to transition to a cloud-based model. These cloud-based solutions enable a faster recovery time, ensuring little to no working hours are lost. 

LEARN MORE: Disaster Recovery Planning in the Next Decade: A CISO’s Take 

Continuous Monitoring 

To secure your digital assets and ensure new processes are effective, a vCISO will implement continuous monitoring efforts. A recommended continuous monitoring process is forcing system failovers. This ensures that if a primary system fails, the backup system will detect the failure and take over seamlessly. A vCISO tests failovers to identify the critical areas of your business and the duration they can function without interruption. This testing helps in understanding the maximum downtime your business can sustain and the predicted losses your business would incur if certain processes were disrupted. 

By simulating and rehearsing failover scenarios, employees can familiarize themselves with the necessary protocols and procedures, ensuring a seamless response during an actual incident. This proactive approach allows companies to minimize the impact of failovers, maintain customer satisfaction, and mitigate potential financial losses.  

Security Awareness Training 

Another important virtual CISO service in continuous monitoring is building up the company culture around overall security. Without a proactive and cybersecurity-conscious culture, organizations are vulnerable to attacks and may potentially face substantial financial losses. A vCISO can make cybersecurity a priority by allocating resources toward ongoing security awareness training and emphasizing the importance of cybersecurity at all levels.  

Security awareness training programs should go beyond a one-time event by involving regular communication, phishing simulations, best practice reminders, and updates on emerging threats. An on-demand CISO can help your organization design a cybersecurity training program tailored to business needs.  

LEARN MORE: Addressing the Big 3 Cybersecurity Challenges with CISO as a Service 

vCISO Benefits 

Cost Effective  

Businesses can partner with a vCISO to access security leadership and expertise without long-term financial commitments. These costs include salaries, benefits, and training. This cost-effective solution allows companies to rely on the expertise and industry standard of a CISO, without needing to build rapport from scratch.  

This partnership allows businesses to focus on other pressing initiatives while the on-demand CISO can instill virtual CISO services. This may include building the security program, understanding the security implications, and perform cost and risk analyses to help the company make informed decisions.  

LEARN MORE: Uncovering the Real Cost Savings of CISO as a Service 

Overcome & Prevent Data Breaches 

An on-demand CISO helps develop both a pre-breach and post-breach response plan to ensure that an organization is prepared in the case of a cyber-attack, lessening the overall impact and providing business continuity. This preparation plan allows organizations to optimize its resources and lower costs before and after a cyber breach. 

In the event of a cyber-attack, the vCISO conducts a comprehensive incident analysis and investigation to determine the impact and root cause of the breach. They work alongside company leadership to contain the breach, restore services, and recover affected data. The expertise of the on-demand CISO helps the organization prevent future incidents by guiding them toward the right steps to take. 

Streamline Processes 

When working with numerous security controls, an organization may believe the more controls they have, the better. A vCISO will evaluate current procurement processes to ensure the organization is only paying for necessary controls, reducing the cost of any unnecessary expenses. With their specialized expertise, the on-demand CISO can prioritize security measures and instill robust defense strategies. This prevents organizations from wasting valuable time trying to determine the best next steps.  

A vCISO has an external perspective, offering an unbiased evaluation of your company’s current security status. This unbiased virtual CISO service provides organizations with neutral counsel and security planning, enabling them to allocate financial resources more effectively. Virtual CISO services provide customized insight to help organizations reach security goals with staying within budget, avoiding wasting valuable time and resources. 

Augment Industry Expertise 

CISO on-demand providers empower organizations by enabling employee shadowing opportunities. This provides valuable insights into best practices and recommendations on cybersecurity solutions based on industry expertise.  

If a business has a traditional CISO, a vCISO can focus on security strategy, without overshadowing the traditional CISO’s role. The vCISO can execute virtual CISO services, such as security planning, while the in-house CISO focuses on other critical responsibilities, such as addressing legislative inquiries or participating in organizational strategy discussions. This collaborative approach creates a comprehensive security framework that optimizes both internal and external expertise while optimizing resources and addressing specific needs effectively.  

LEARN MORE: Unlocking the Benefits of a CISO on Demand Provider 

Hiring a vCISO 

It is not a matter of whether a company will experience a breach, but a matter of when it will. After experiencing a breach, organizations often seek the help of a cybersecurity professional. However, hiring a vCISO before a breach occurs is ideal.  

The virtual CISO services provide a multitude of 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. 

LEARN MORE: What is a CISO and Why Your Business Needs One 

The Significance of Virtual CISO Services 

Through utilizing a vCISO, organizations gain access to specialized vCISO solutions and cybersecurity expertise. An on-demand CISO is a cost-effective solution for small to medium-sized businesses, providing high-level security leadership without the financial burden of a full-time employee.  

By leveraging the skills and insight of a vCISO, organizations can fortify their defenses against cyber threats, streamline security processes, and foster a culture of proactive cybersecurity awareness. This strategic integration of cybersecurity into overall business planning is crucial for safeguarding digital assets and ensuring long-term operational stability.