What Are vCISO Services? Explore How It Works, Benefits, and What to Seek Out 

Every company, no matter how small, has cybersecurity concerns. In the digital age, no business is safe from cyberattack threats. While enterprises have unlimited budgets and can add a CISO (chief information security officer) to their executive team, SMBs don’t have these resources. However, they can still stay proactive in their approach to cyber risk. Many rely on vCISO (virtual CISO) services to remain hypervigilant.

vCISO services have become a lifeline to organizations that want to improve their security posture without the costs associated with an in-house CISO. If you’re in a position to assess and create an action plan for cybersecurity, you’ll want to keep reading. We’ll explain what vCISO services are, the benefits, how it works, and how to make a decision.

What Are vCISO Services?

In the framework of cybersecurity management and policy, businesses can elect to hire a vCISO. These are third-party individuals or teams that you outsource cybersecurity operations to, just in the way you might do so for other non-core competencies, like HR, payroll, or marketing.

A company may hire a vCISO on an ongoing basis, for a specific period, or a particular project. There’s typically a lot of flexibility to fit your needs and budget.

Once you decide to hire a firm to act as your virtual CISO, you’d hammer out the details around costs, deliverables, and expectations. So, what can a vCISO do for your company?

What Can vCISOs Provide?

If you’re working with a vCISO, you get an experienced, well-trained team or individual. They usually have extensive expertise but will want to evaluate where your cybersecurity operations are and where they need to be. The first part of any engagement is this assessment. It often starts with simple questions about what you need to protect and the components of your infrastructure.

Such a process should include:

  • Reviewing any existing cybersecurity plans, policies, and strategies
  • Information regarding any previous breaches or cyber incidents
  • Discussing cyber risks specific to their industry
  • Speaking with current employees that have any technical responsibilities
  • A complete risk assessment of your current environment

With these findings, a vCISO has a good foundation and can help design your roadmap toward cyber resilience and optimization while keeping you compliant.

Other areas that a vCISO can support include:

  • Creation and implementation of security programs, policies, and initiatives
  • Providing guidance for security training for staff
  • Looking at other IT vendors and determining their value
  • Hands-on technical expertise in the event of a cyberattack
  • Recommendations for technology tools to monitor the threat landscape and proactively identify risks
  • Completing penetration testing exercises 
  • Preparation for audits
  • Ongoing monitoring for threats

While technical acumen is essential for vCISO services, it’s not the only thing to consider in terms of skill sets.

vCISO Skill Sets: More Than Technical Experts

A CISO has always been considered a technical role. The role is to lead security regarding data and networks. Technical aptitude and experience in doing this for other companies are important when seeking out a vCISO. However, a CISO is much more than a technical position. They also need an abundance of people skills.

A vCISO too focused on ones and zeros thinking and unable to expand their mindset regarding cybersecurity strategies could actually increase risk. You’ll notice from the beginning that those in this category tend to be all bluster and no results. If they can’t simply communicate to you how they’ll provide services and their angle to keep your data safe, they won’t be able to do any of those things.

When reviewing vCISO options, you’ll want someone with a mix of technical and soft skills. These should be on your evaluation list:

  • Strong communicators: An effective vCISO will be a master of communicating and can do so to all types of people, from owners to individual contributors. They’ll also be excellent listeners, tuned into what you have to say about your needs and concerns.
  • Excellent presenters: Your vCISO may be part of your presentations to clients, boards, or investors. It’s their job to articulate how you’re managing risks so that any of these groups can feel confident. They should be able to explain concepts in laypeople’s terms versus resorting to technical speak.
  • Understanding of your company and its goals: For a vCISO to deliver, they must get your business model as well as your objectives. Those could range from launching a startup to igniting growth to readying the organization for sale.
  • Collaborative mindsets: A vCISO doesn’t work in a vacuum. Lots of different groups must interact with the vCISO, resulting in the need for easy collaboration. They should act as a partner to your staff and other stakeholders.
  • Planning capabilities: Your vCISO should provide a holistic plan of getting you from where you are to where you want to be. They must have a vision but also be flexible enough to adjust when needed. Without these skills, nothing major will be accomplished.
  • Incident management: An incident can occur anytime, no matter how good your cybersecurity prevention is. A vCISO should develop an incident management plan and test and update it as needed.
  • Regulatory knowledge: Compliance obligations regarding data are inherent to any company. Make sure your vCISO has a good grasp of these.
  • Risk assessment and management: vCISOs are your “risk owners” and must always be on top of new and emerging ones.

In addition to these skills, your vCISO is responsible for cultivating and maintaining a cyber culture within your organization. They’ll need to take the lead on ensuring that every employee understands the risks and their role to keep them at bay.

Do You Really Need a CISO?

Companies that currently don’t have a CISO may be wondering if they need one and the pros and cons of hiring one full-time or using vCISO services. Both come with a price to pay. A full-time CISO is usually a six-figure salary, with the median at $232,738.

Not having one may cost you even more. A survey revealed that 45% of companies don’t have one, and 21% don’t have dedicated cybersecurity staff at all. Such a situation exposes you to greater risk with no one sailing the ship. Quantifying this risk into numbers is challenging. So, let’s look at one example.

Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) provides public health services to the country. In 2021, an employee opened a phishing email with a malware attachment, leading to a ransomware attack.

As part of a post-incident review, HSE hired PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct an assessment. At the top of their findings was HSE’s lack of a CISO, with only 15 inexperienced technicians managing cybersecurity. In all, the attack cost them $600 million.

Your organization is likely not as complex as HSE, but you’re still a target for cybercriminals. You need the leadership of a vCISO to keep your path to growth clear.

With all the value a vCISO can add, is your organization ready to hire one? Let’s look at the benefits you can realize.

vCISO Services Benefits

In looking at the benefits you can enjoy with a vCISO, the first will be the cost savings versus hiring one in-house. If you’re considering vCISO because you don’t have the budget to bring one on full-time, you’ll find there are even more advantages.

  • vCISOs aren’t only in your world: Firms that offer vCISO services do so for many companies. As a result, they engage with more information, data, and learnings. They can then apply these to challenges in your organization.
  • You can access a team of experts: vCISO services are rarely from one person. Instead, it’s a team of professionals with a wide range of skill sets that can support your efforts in many ways.
  • vCISOs are ready now: Once you hire a vCISO, the organization is prepared to get to work for you with evaluations and assessments. They have experience with designing, establishing, and maintaining security programs. In other words, it’s not their first rodeo.
  • Policies, planning, and ongoing activities from a unique angle: Remember, a vCISO is your partner, not your employee. They bring to the table a lot of knowledge and expertise, which you should heed. They focus on cybersecurity and aim to meet your goals, so employee issues like disengagement and dissatisfaction aren’t a problem.
  • Boosting efficiencies: vCISOs can introduce tools and processes that automate tasks and standardize them.

Now that you know how a vCISO can set your organization up for success, it’s time to find the right provider for you. Go back to the list of skills and services they can provide to develop questions for those firms you’re considering.

vCISO Services: Ready to Answer Your Questions

Start your vCISO search with Blue Goat Cyber. We have one purpose — to make your organization secure. Our people, processes, and services make us a unique find for companies seeking a vCISO. Our mix of technical intelligence and people skills make us a great fit to deliver solutions that improve your risk posture and keep what’s most important safe.

Contact us today to get started.

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