Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO): Role, Responsibilities and Benefits

Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO): Role, Responsibilities and Benefits

As businesses develop, the IT infrastructure of enterprises is becoming more complex, and companies are faced with the need for additional personnel who could make a significant contribution to the development of cybersecurity. Among such specialists is a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO). In this article, we will talk about it.

We will also explain what vCISO does and how this specialist differs from CISO. In addition, you will learn about the benefits of hiring such an employee, their role and the importance of their presence in your company.

Who is a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO)?

The main problem of middle managers of the information security department is a lack of understanding of the main business processes in the company. That is, the staff is strongly isolated from other departments of the company, including marketing, management, finance, etc. For this reason, employees do not always have a deep understanding of the company’s development strategy, and cannot explain in which direction the business is moving, and what is needed for stable operation of the enterprise.

A Chief Information Security Officer provides a link between the goals of the business and the objectives of ensuring its cybersecurity. Roughly speaking, this person becomes a representative of the cybersecurity department among senior executives. They participate in the creation of the development strategy, planning, determining the company’s security structure, give strategic recommendations and help in their implementation. And also conveys the meaning of these strategies to ordinary employees of their department, so that they better understand the global goals, problems and tasks of the company.

What does a virtual CISO do?

In general, vCISO is responsible for establishing and maintaining the proper protection of the enterprise’s information assets and technologies. It also provides expert security advice. In addition, there are many other responsibilities that CISO performs, and the final list of them will depend on the organization itself and the terms of the contract.

Of course, not every company can afford to hire a specialist of this level. At the same time, as companies grow, they naturally come to understand the need for such a person who will be responsible for all issues related to cybersecurity.

In such a case, organizations may consider hiring a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer. As a rule, these specialists have extensive experience working with companies from different industries, and can quickly understand the specifics of your business. In addition, a good vCISO can reduce a company’s costs while providing all the major benefits that these experts have.

Among the main functions of a vCISO are the following:

  1. constant interaction with the top management of the company to ensure consistency with the goals and objectives of the business, as well as the goals and objectives of ensuring its cybersecurity;
  2. formation of strategies for ensuring cybersecurity in accordance with the goals pursued by the business;
  3. organizing processes for analyzing and managing cybersecurity risks throughout the business;
  4. supervising the work of the cybersecurity department staff;
  5. analysis of potential security threats, compliance, preparation of the cybersecurity system for inspections;
  6. planning the development of the cybersecurity system, developing programs and initiatives in the field of security, developing programs for training personnel and improving their qualifications;
  7. providing technical expertise in the event of a real cyber threat or attack, as well as other cybersecurity related functions when needed.

That is, by hiring a vCISO, you get all the benefits, experience and recommendations of a full-time Chief Information Security Officer, but on a flexible remote basis.

The main advantages and strengths of a vCISO

Depending on geography and professional level, the salary of a Chief Information Security Officer, on average, ranges from several tens to several hundred thousand dollars a year. Not every company can afford such a specialist on a full-time basis, therefore, very often, the main advantage of hiring a vCISO is to reduce the company’s costs. A Virtual Chief Information Security Officer may work part-time, as well as on a contractual and consulting basis.

At the same time, the company can be flexible in its approach to working with such an employee, and hire him for a certain, short period of time, or in cases where there is a situational, special need to address information security issues. In addition, the company is not limited by geography. That is, you can hire an employee from anywhere in the world. Only in some cases, the real presence of this specialist will be required for a more detailed acquaintance with the work processes and building trusting relationships with the staff.

All the advantages of a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer can be represented as follows:

  1. cost savings: vCISO provides all the benefits of a CISO, but at a lower cost, as they are generally only paid for the time they spend with the company;
  2. extensive experience: vCISOs typically have experience across a variety of organizations and business areas. Due to this, they are very versatile, can share a huge amount of knowledge, and quickly delve into the work of almost any company;
  3. relationships and connections: due to the fact that vCISOs work with different companies, they have a wide range of connections to share. The company can use this advantage for faster and more efficient development;
  4. independence and objectivity: since vCISOs work with different companies, they usually take a neutral position in resolving various issues, and therefore can be more objective and behave more at ease.
  5. scalability: since vCISO usually works hourly, you can connect this specialist to work at the right time or period — when it is really needed. For example, during the launch of a new service or program;
  6. proven working methods: since a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer is paid only for effective work, such employees usually have really practical knowledge, and they can really apply it.

In general, vCISOs are truly versatile professionals who have a wealth of knowledge and experience. You can find a person who will clearly fit the range of tasks you need, and pay him for the work that will be done to the end.

Which companies should consider hiring a vCISO?

Small and medium businesses benefit the most from hiring a vCISO. Small companies or startups may need strategic investments with high returns. Larger enterprises usually have a sufficient number of cybersecurity-related operational issues in which a vCISO can take an active role in resolving. This is especially true for those companies that have formally documented and applied policies and procedures. It is also worth noting that such a specialist will prove himself well in any company if it is necessary to improve and optimize the existing cybersecurity.

In most cases, if a company collects or holds any information that is considered confidential, it may already be possible to consider finding a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer. The motive here is very simple — to provide reliable protection of confidential and valuable data that will meet certain standards.

Also, if a company sets clear goals related to information security, this is also a reason to hire a vCISO. Such a specialist will help determine cybersecurity strategies, control the solution of specific tasks, take care of compliance with legal regulations, and be able to solve many other issues.

If you need to address a few specific cybersecurity issues, vCISO can also help you. The bottom line here is that different professionals have different skills and strengths. To solve a particular list of questions, you may actually need two or three different people. In this case, vCISO is a great solution, especially if such a person works as part of a large cybersecurity company and has extensive knowledge and experience.

CISO or vCISO: which is better?

In most cases, a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer is a good fit for non-tech companies. First of all, because a full-time CISO in such a company may not have all the career opportunities that an IT company would provide him. Accordingly, he is likely to consider options for changing jobs, which can put your company in an uncomfortable position if such an employee decides to quit at the wrong time.

However, despite this nuance, the decision to choose CISO or vCISO is largely determined by the organization’s strategy. That is, if you need a person who for a long period of time will focus on solving cybersecurity problems exclusively on your company, then CISO is your choice.

If you are not yet sure whether you need such a specialist on an ongoing basis, it makes sense to apply for the services of a vCISO and see what benefits such a specialist provides. And also how their presence affects the work of the company and its efficiency.

You can also hire vCISO if you need an independent and up-to-date opinion on the state of information security systems. In addition, vCISO can be useful even if the company already has a CISO — just for additional help on some specific issues if the staff member is overwhelmed.

Final word

A Virtual Chief Information Security Officer is able to provide both strategic and operational cybersecurity leadership for your enterprise. In the current environment of a shortage of qualified specialists, hiring such an employee is a good option to keep your company’s cybersecurity system up to date. At the same time, such investments can be costly. Therefore, you should reasonably assess the needs and capabilities of your enterprise.

If you are not sure what kind of specialist and what skills you need to solve information security issues in your company, please contact us for advice. ESKA specialists will help you determine priorities and strategies for protecting your business from cyber threats, as well as do everything necessary to solve problems in the field of cybersecurity. Read more about our vCISO Service.