There’s little doubt that technology is a vital element of business in the digital age. It helps increase the efficiency of systems, streamline processes, improve communication and collaboration, and much more. But these benefits come at a risk – data vulnerability. In other words, the more technology you have and the more data you collect, the greater the risk you create to suffer a cyber-attack.
Unfortunately, companies wanting to protect their systems face the rising complexity of technology and an ever-evolving cyber threat landscape. Cyber criminals are more sophisticated than ever before, and fighting cybercrime is becoming ever more challenging every year. For example, the total number of new malware infections stood at 28.84 million in 2010, but that figure rose to an eye-watering 677.66 million in 2020.
The best way to protect your systems is with a comprehensive and robust approach to cyber security. However, this is easier said than done. Many companies choose to hire a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), but this isn’t a feasible option for all businesses.
According to Payscale, a website dedicated to salary transparency, the average salary for a CISO in the UK is a significant £97,230 per year. This cost is prohibitively high for many small and medium-sized businesses and even larger businesses working with tight budgets. Additionally, not all companies need a dedicated full-time CISO. A virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) is often the best option for companies in this position.
What is a vCISO?
A vCISO is a security professional who spearheads a company’s cyber and information security strategy and roadmap. They use a culmination of industry and cyber security experience to help businesses develop, manage and execute that information security strategy and roadmap. A vCISO might be the sole security advisor working for a company or work with existing internal security staff providing expert advice.
The responsibilities of a vCISO are very similar to that of a dedicated CISO, but their services and overall contribution can be tailored to a company’s specific needs.
Here are some of the typical responsibilities of a virtual Chief Information Security Officer:
Define and deliver an effective and proportionate Information Security Strategy.
Provide cyber security updates and briefings to executive stakeholders.
Inform cyber security budgets and advise on the most cost-effective and appropriate security tools.
Detail, plan, write and review cyber security policies, processes, standards and procedures.
Review the effectiveness of internal security protocols and controls.
Proactively identify critical security flaws.
Achieve a compliant position against regulatory requirements and industry standards.
Create and implement incident response plans.
Oversee security testing and the remediation of any identified vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
Benefits of a vCISO
Access to top security talent at a low cost
As we touched on above, experienced full-time CISOs are expensive. Opting for a vCISO lowers the financial barrier to gaining access to highly experienced and qualified cyber security advisors. While vCISO costs vary based on organisational needs, they are typically much cheaper because they don’t require full staff benefits, and companies can simply pay for what they need.
Additionally, the cyber security industry is currently experiencing a skills gap at the senior and director level, making finding top talent difficult, even when you can afford it.
Lastly, when companies have cyber teams, these teams are typically small. For example, a recent report titled Cyber Security Skills in the UK Labour Market 2021 found that 45% of businesses have just one employee responsible for cyber security. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a small team, they often lack the diverse skill set of working in many different IT environments.
Since a virtual CISO isn’t an employee, they are far less likely to be biased or experience a conflict of interest in their role. In contrast, the judgement of a full-time CISO may be adversely influenced by cultural factors, peer-group pressure or the constraints of the environment in which they operate.
Finding and onboarding a full-time CISO is time-consuming due to several factors. These factors include recruitment advertising, interview requirements, notice periods for senior levels (usually a minimum of three months), and other FTE tasks that must be completed before they even begin their employment. And while you’re busy reviewing applications and vetting candidates, your systems and data remain vulnerable. On the other hand, virtual CISOs can begin working quickly, require minimal onboarding and can immediately jump into action with a client.
Little to no supervision
Virtual CISOs have a wealth of industry knowledge and typically many hundreds of hours working in complex cyber security environments. As a result, they do not require supervision or micro-management. Companies can continue to focus on their business goals, safe knowing that their cyber security is in good hands.
Improved decision making
vCISOs provide data-driven insights into a company’s cyber security. These insights can aid business leaders in making better decisions for the business.
Do you really need a vCISO?
Many companies are hesitant to invest in a vCISO for several reasons. For example, many small and midsize businesses mistakenly believe they are immune to cyber-attacks because hackers must be focused on higher-profile or more lucrative targets. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true – a significant 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses.
Companies in less or non-regulated industries often believe cyber security isn’t a top priority because they don’t have the same compliance requirements as their regulated peers. While this might be true, all companies still face cyber risk. Failure to address these risks can result in costly damages, financially and to reputation (vendors and customers don’t want to work with companies that can’t protect their data).
Relevant sector experience is crucial to the cyber security strategy and roadmap for any business that wants to remain secure and safe within their industry. With this in mind, a vCISO is an excellent option for many businesses. It can help you quickly scale up your security with minimal disruption while also decreasing your security costs. A vCISO also works with multiple organisations in various sectors and services, bringing a greater depth of experience and knowledge. In contrast, a full-time CISO may have only worked within a single sector or environment before moving to a new role.
If you would like to discuss our cyber security services and how we can help your organisation be cyber-prepared, feel free to get in touch through our contact form.