Virtual CISO Services (vCISO)

A Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) helps organizations manage cybersecurity risk by guiding the organization to implementation and adjustments of reasonable cybersecurity.   The goal is reasonable but effective cybersecurity.  Reasonable security is a planned and executed life cycle of protection that balances risk with cost and effort to protect infrastructure, data, people and customers. The Virtual CISO works with the executive management, operational business leaders and technical teams whether they are employees or outsource services.  You may be wondering if your organization needs a vCISO.

When a company is struggling to implement security to protect itself, comply with privacy, healthcare or customer-driven security requirements, 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 your organization needs a Virtual CISO. Here are some of the things that these top pros can do to help your company toward success and security.

A Virtual CISO: Protect Your Organization

Managing cybersecurity in today’s world is multi-faceted and difficult. 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 or another executive that 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!

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 may not have such a role. Having a non-security expert in charge of security is a recipe for trouble!

A Virtual CISO is designed to provide expert security guidance through:

  • Understanding the organization’s strategy and business environment
  • Aligning cybersecurity risk management with enterprise risk management
  • Providing threat analysis and strategy updates in real-time
  • Anticipating future security and compliance challenges
  • Overseeing mid-level and analyst/engineering teams
  • Driving implementation of all approved controls, administrative, technical and physical to achieve reasonable security.

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

Filling-in as an Interim CISO

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 presence is needed, a vCISO is a valuable solution.

Why Do Companies Hire a Virtual CISO?

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

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. These regulations drive governance up to the board level and can impact organizations with large fines and class-action lawsuits. In the US, these include the California Consumer Privacy Act, the NY SHIELD Act, and the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act.   Some organizations may even need to align US security and privacy regulations with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The 2020 Cost of a Breach Report by the Ponemon Institute says that the average total cost of a data breach $3.86 million.  In a summary of cybersecurity statistics, Techjury indicated that 60% of respondents say they have faced a data breach at some point in their history; 30% have experienced at least one within the past year alone.

Regulatory risk and data breach risk are serious to the business and require focused attention of a lead such as a CISO.

A Virtual CISO from Assured SPC

With a vCISO from Assured SPC, 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:

  • Starting a cybersecurity risk assessment based on your organization’s assets
  • Establishing the organization’s cybersecurity strategy
  • Building a cybersecurity plan and program
  • Building a Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) program
  • Maintaining core security operations
  • Focusing on people including managing personnel, contractors and/or vendors
  • Building and executing a training strategy

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 deeply involved for two to three weeks of the first eight weeks of the process followed by a regular part-time guidance.

More vCISO Benefits 

The key benefit of hiring a Virtual CISO is that you get the same expertise and capability as a full-time CISO. But you don’t have the associated level of overhead, benefits, and training. A firm can achieve its security goals related to prioritization, risk evaluation and training.

Virtual CISO Requirements

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 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 business world of the future.

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 (818) 584-6565 and our email is [email protected]. Let us help you to achieve your goals for cybersecurity!

For a related article, see our article on the impact of remote work on cybersecurity.


Our Services

MANAGE - Virtual Chief Information Security Officer services

Contact us when you need a holistic but reasonable security program that addresses risk to the business not just technical controls. Click here for our virtual CISO services.

ASSESS -Privacy and Security program assessments

Contact us to understand the privacy and information risk posture of your organization.  We translate information security into business terms.

DO - Implement and operate your CCPA program

With our expertise in IT leadership, Security and Privacy, we can help you operationalize the California Consumer Privacy Act, reduce cost of implementation and operation and help you implement “reasonable security”.  Check out our Operationalize CCPA Service

PREPARE - SOC 2 Readiness Management

We help organizations prepare for HIPAA, SOC 2, HITRUST and ISO27001  audits and to implement procedures and record keeping to maintain certification.

TEST - Security Testing and Remediation

We deliver Penetration and Vulnerability tests and help remediate issues