CISO-as-a-Service Enables SMBs to Prioritize and Execute IT Security: Find Out How

CISO-as-a-Service

SMBs (Small-to-Medium Businesses) have a cybersecurity problem. They are often the target of attacks and may lack sophisticated means to identify, prevent, and combat them. Small companies in many industries are a favorite target for hackers, as many have valuable data. One of the best ways for such an organization to level the playing ground and improve defenses is engaging with a CISO-as-a-Service (chief information security officer).

By adopting this model, they can benefit from the expertise and resources that a CISO-as-a-Service provides without the cost of hiring one full-time. Let’s look at the benefits of this relationship, how to evaluate your options, and what you can expect.

The SMB Cybersecurity Landscape

First, it’s important to discuss the SMB cybersecurity landscape. Attacks on small businesses continue to rise, with 43% targeting them. In 2021, there were 1,037 incidents, with 263 confirmed data disclosures. The top patterns of hackers to compromise SMB data were system intrusion, miscellaneous errors, and basic web application attacks. The motive for most of these was financial, at 93%.

Ransomware attacks have escalated for the SMB category, with 82% of those against companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. The result of these ongoing attacks includes economic impacts, reputational harm, possible violations around compliance, and loss of data. In fact, 40% of small businesses reported losing data due to an attack.

So, how are SMBs faring with defenses?

Small businesses need more budget and talent to improve cybersecurity. A survey found that 51% of these companies have no cybersecurity measures. Some of these business owners think their business is too small to be on the radar of hackers. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, as cybercriminals see them as low-hanging fruit.

With threats multiplying, your SMB should be on a path to implement cybersecurity measures to counter them. Thinking you’re too small of a fish to attract hackers leads to vulnerabilities they can easily exploit. What’s keeping you from adopting cybersecurity best practices is the absence of a strategic vision from an expert, which is where CISO-as-a-Service can act as a solution.

What Is CISO-as-a-Service?

CISO-as-a-Service, also called a vCISO (virtual CISO), is a third party — an individual or team — that acts as your outsourced partner for cybersecurity operations. You can retain these services on an ongoing basis or for specific periods or projects. Bringing CISO-as-a-Service into your organization is a cost-effective way to improve your security posture and remove the target on your back.

So, what are the benefits of SMBs working with a CISO-as-a-Service?

CISO-as-a-Service Benefits for SMBs

You want to improve your business’s security. Doing so can provide many advantages, internally and externally. Here are some of the most crucial.

CISO-as-a-Service Is Budget-Friendly

The cost is a leading reason why SMBs don’t have better cybersecurity experts on staff. A full-time CISO typically demands a six-figure salary. It’s not an option for most SMBs, which are still growing and maturing.

The costs for CISO-as-a-Service are much lower and more flexible, as you can use them for different intervals. The lack of budget shouldn’t keep you from building a secure business, and this arrangement allows you to grow confidently.

Outsourcing the CISO Role Helps You Identify Gaps and Weaknesses

One of the first things a CISO-as-a-Service will provide is an evaluation of your current cybersecurity framework. A third party’s eyes on your network are free of bias and asses the reality of your situation. When you have clarity around where the gaps exist, you can then focus on remediating those. You won’t have this insight or visibility without a CISO.

CISO-as-a-Service Provides a Customized Cybersecurity Plan

You could engage with MSPs (managed service providers) for technical support, but these relationships differ from those with a CISO-as-a-Service. The notable difference is that an MSP usually doesn’t create custom plans for each SMB. The guidelines or recommendations may be cookie-cutter.

Every company is different. Your industry matters. So, do the data you have, the systems you have, and the workflows you use. Understanding all this is critical to developing your cybersecurity strategy. When a CISO expert takes the lead, they will define how to approach cybersecurity from your unique perspective and define specifics around security technology, protocols, incident response, and more.

Compliance with Regulations Is More Consistent

Every vertical has some obligation around compliance. Heavily regulated industries like healthcare and finance have a lot of compliance requirements. Remaining in good standing with them can be challenging, but a CISO-as-a-Service streamlines this.

In their evaluation, they can call out areas where compliance is in jeopardy so that you can deploy fixes. Another benefit of compliance is that your outsourced CISO can respond to other requests regarding compliance measures, such as partners, prospective customers, or insurance companies. They can take similar actions in response to audit requests or any claims of noncompliance. Further, they have much knowledge about data privacy rules and will keep your business in the clear.

Being Prepared for the Ever-Changing Threat Landscape

Hackers are always adapting their methods for attacks. The basics of these remain the same, with most attempts to spread malware through phishing. However, cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated. As a result, you need a CISO that steers you through this with agility. They offer you immense value in monitoring the threat landscape and understanding them with respect to your organization.

CISO-as-a-Service Is Imperative If a Cyberattack Occurs

If your organization suffers a ransomware attack or breach, you must lean on your CISO. They’ve helped you define your responses and will carry them out. With CISO-as-a-Service, you’ll have someone to take the lead in detecting and shutting down the attack. They’ll also determine the damage and how to recover from it.

These roles can be useful in every part of your response, not just the technical one. You’ll have to issue communications if customer data is lost, and these experts can guide you through this tumultuous time.

These advantages make it clear that SMBs should retain a CISO-as-a-Service. So, what should you seek in such a partner?

SMB CISO-as-a-Service Checklist

In looking at your options to bring a CISO-as-a-Service into your business, keep these things in mind.

  • Experience: You’ll want a partner with a long history of working in cybersecurity, which may also include industry-specific expertise.
  • Incident management acumen: Hire a CISO capable of establishing an effective incident response plan that makes you better prepared for the future.
  • Communication: How a CISO works with you hinges on their ability to communicate effectively. They should speak to you in an inclusive way, free from jargon. They should also be great listeners and ask questions about your goals and concerns.
  • Balancing risk and opportunities: Small businesses are often early innovators and adopters of technology. They don’t have the red tape of large corporations. This can be great for your company, but there’s also risk. A CISO can keep this balanced, so you’re secure but still able to move toward the future.
  • Compliance expertise: Compliance is part of every cybersecurity program, and you’ll want a CISO that can think in these terms, so you remain compliant even as you evolve and mature. They can also be instrumental in achieving compliance certifications such as SOC II.

These are some of the most critical areas to consider when evaluating CISO-as-a-Service. Next, let’s look at what to expect.

What SMBs Can Expect with CISO-as-a-Service

Once you decide to work with a CISO, here’s what the relationship often entails.

  • How you’ll engage: You’ll either have a retainer agreement or a statement of work for specific projects. This sets the stage for the interactions.
  • Infrastructure considerations: Your infrastructure may need a tune-up before the CISO can start their work. Discuss this during the assessment phase so you have a plan.
  • Getting to know your business: A CISO will need to learn about how your business operates — the technology you use, how you handle data, any existing cybersecurity features, etc. They are there to assist you in becoming more secure, starting with a thorough overview of your current state.
  • Working with your team: Your CISO will collaborate with many workers, both technical and non-technical. It’s important that these folks understand the importance of bringing in a CISO so they are ready to cooperate and interact effectively. Setting expectations on this from the beginning can positively impact their tenure.
  • Upskilling opportunities: One way to use CISO-as-a-Service to yield the greatest value is by having that person mentor and upskill your technical team. They can learn so much from these experts that will make them more able and apt to protect our business.
  • Setting goals and continuous improvement: Another aspect of the CISO engagement is their guidance on setting goals around cybersecurity. With this, you have something to strive for and measure against. Such a framework also supports continuous improvement, which is key to being proactive.

CISO-as-a-Service with Blue Goat Cyber

Engage Blue Goat Cyber as your CISO. Our people, processes, and services make us the ideal CISO partner. Contact us today to learn more.

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