A virtual chief information security officer (vCISO) provides outsourced cybersecurity executive and management services. Organizations may retain vCISO services for varying lengths of time or for specific security projects. Deciding how to choose vCISO services first depends on the needs of your organization.
How to Choose vCISO Services for Your Organization
How to choose vCISO services primarily comes down to an organization’s requirements for:
- Their level of involvement (e.g., hours per week, frequency)
- Whether specific cybersecurity, industry, or other expertise is required
When contracting with a managed security services provider (MSSP), such as RSI Security, vCISO outsourcing resembles an “a la carte” model. For whatever length of time or subject matter expertise is required, organizations can find a compilation of vCISO services to navigate and overcome their operational and cybersecurity challenges.
How to Choose vCISO Services by Level of Involvement
vCISO services provide organizations with inherent flexibility when it comes to their level of involvement. While some enterprises may choose to outsource vCISO responsibilities to fill a full-time role, many that seek vCISO services do so to address a specific need—which may not require full-time or ongoing involvement.
Outside of retaining their services full-time, on demand virtual CISOs can generally be divided by their level of involvement:
- Temporary or interim
These terms are sometimes used interchangeably to describe outsourced vCISO services. However, there are distinctions between each regarding their level or frequency of involvement and represent different organizations’ needs. Enterprises must consider to what extent they require vCISO services before deciding on their options.
Fractal vCISOs generally provide services to (multiple) clients on a part-time basis. Organizations may retain vCISO services for a set amount of hours per week or specified management tasks. Fractal vCISOs often support medium-sized enterprises needing some cybersecurity management that requires C-level expertise—but not enough to justify hiring a full-time executive.
Note that “fractal vCISO consulting services” refer explicitly to part-time involvement but don’t indicate whether services are retained on an ongoing, temporary, or periodic basis. Thus, any of the three retainment lengths may involve fractal contributions by a vCISO. This is one example of vCISO services‘ flexible capabilities of meeting any organization’s needs.
Temporary or Interim vCISOs
Organizations may seek temporary or interim vCISO services for several reasons, but one of the most common is filling a temporary vacancy in a full-time capacity. For example, these temporary vacancies may occur due to extended absences (e.g., parental leave, medical condition), following an executive’s departure, or to navigate a nonpermanent period.
When a full-time CISO is absent from work for a known or estimated period, it doesn’t make business sense to conduct a regular executive hiring process. Instead, for the duration of the absence, organizations can outsource their CISO management responsibilities. Suppose a cybersecurity executive departs an organization, however. Then, somewhat open-ended vCISO services may be retained to ensure continuity until a replacement is hired full-time.
Alternatively, an organization navigating a critical or tumultuous period may require CISO guidance. For example, an organization may find itself subjected to a cybersecurity audit or the victim of a data breach. Perhaps the organization is undergoing a business-critical technical implementation or overhaul. Contracting vCISO services can provide the expert guidance and managerial oversight necessary to ensure success.
Some organizations must manage elevated cybersecurity responsibilities during specific periods of the year or every few years. If the interval is known ahead of time, organizations can plan to outsource executive cybersecurity responsibilities in advance. For example, HIPAA audits are conducted periodically by the U.S. Office for Civil Rights. Medium-sized healthcare entities may require additional, specialized management and oversight to prepare.
Additionally, developing familiarity with one vCISO or service provider will help ensure consistency each time their services are required.
How to Choose vCISO Services by Expertise
The second significant consideration organizations must account for is the expertise required for the role. Some organizations may even contract vCISO services merely to provide guidance to an existing full-time CISO specializing in other areas.
Introduced above, examples of subject matter expertise that organizations may look for include:
- Specific industry regulations or compliance frameworks – Every industry compliance regulation and framework establishes unique technical specifications and processes along with reporting, verification, or audit requirements. While many cybersecurity measures can be implemented to meet the criteria of multiple frameworks, they remain distinct enough that specialized expertise is sometimes necessary.
- Navigating the aftermath of a data breach – Organizations that fall victim to a cyber-attack often require guidance that falls outside regular IT and security team experience. The aftermath of a data breach requires:
- Threat mitigation and removal
- Service remediation
- Required reporting to relevant parties (e.g., legal authority, industry oversight, affected companies and individuals)
- Cybersecurity implementations or overhauls – When organizations undertake a business-critical cybersecurity implementation or overhaul, they may retain vCISO services to manage the project, stay on deadline, and guarantee success. This need is common for organizations employing full-time CISOs specializing in other sub-fields or for medium-sized enterprises that otherwise wouldn’t employ a full-time executive.
Finding the Right vCISO Services
Organizations must decide how to choose vCISO services based on the involvement and expertise they require in management, operational, and cybersecurity challenges they need to navigate. However, the inherent flexibility of vCISO services allows any organization to find the right outsourcing arrangement.
RSI Security is an MSSP specializing in cybersecurity and compliance, providing managed security such as virtual CISO consulting services.
Contact RSI Security today to find out how to address your executive-level challenges.