Protecting network resources and data from unauthorized access, compromise, and destruction is an organization-wide priority in today’s highly connected world. The role of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is to strategize and manage these efforts, overseeing the identification, analysis, and remediation of various cyber security problems. A virtual CISO (vCISO) fulfills the same role via outsourcing, solving security issues and optimizing cyberdefense ROI.
How a vCISO Can Help Solve Cyber Security Problems
Virtual CISOs help navigate and solve security challenges by directing organizational efforts, designing and executing comprehensive security programs. Traditionally performed by a full time, in-house CISO, vCISOs provide organizations with the advantage of flexibility. The top eight cyber security problems that a vCISO can help your organization manage are:
- Security Program Planning
- Security Architecture Construction
- Ongoing management and new implementations
- Cloud migrations
- Security awareness training
- Incident response
- Data breach management
These items are all cyber security issues and challenges that either a traditional CISO or vCISO will help solve. However, there are significant CISO role challenges that vCISOs are commonly contracted with to solve—notably, filling the traditional c-suite position itself.
CISO-Specific Cyber Security Issues and Challenges
CISOs are among the most experienced cybersecurity professionals. Their years of experience make them highly sought after executives, and they occupy rarified territory in an organization, usually reporting directly to the CEO or to the board—or, less commonly, to a Chief Information Officer (CIO). A traditional CISO is difficult to recruit and retain, with high salary expectations and additional costs of lengthy interview and negotiation processes, given the demand for them.
Picture this scenario: your organization employs a full-time CISO, but they are compelled to retire or leave for another position elsewhere. How would you fill their role, with little notice?
With vCISO services, you can source an immediate replacement, regardless of whether your CISO’s departure is short-term or an extended leave of absence. Most vCISOs, whether via managed security services provider (MSSP) or an independent individual, operate remotely.
In addition, many vCISOs provide services on a part-time (i.e., “fractional”) basis. This means that vCISO services can be customized to fit your organization’s demands. Perhaps you only need CISO-level advisory for a few hours per week. Or, maybe you need a full-time CISO for one or two quarters, in one specific year or annually. vCISO services can accommodate either need, and any in-between, with flexibility. Further, organizations have a much larger applicant pool or can choose top-level expertise regardless of geographic proximity with remote vCISOs.
1. Security Program Planning
If the role of CISO were distilled to two responsibilities, they’d be security program planning and execution. Security program planning consists of cyber security strategizing, and CISOs are responsible for managing long- and short-term programs. Managing these cyber security programs begins with evaluating the organization, its IT needs, factors influencing its operations, and potential threats (via risk assessment).
CISOs take all this information and use it to guide every aspect of IT security—from large-scale implementations to daily activities. Some of their strategic decisions will relate to the specific security solutions and tools your organization will implement and configure. Others will be documented as organizational processes and policies that oversee operations and user activity to enforce cyber security best practices.
If your organization’s security program needs adjustment or updating, a vCISO may provide the best solution. They can come in and perform an evaluation before advising or making security program strategy decisions.
2. Security Architecture Construction
Once a CISO or vCISO has helped your organization determine its cyber security strategy, the first step is likely constructing (or updating) security architecture. This responsibility comprises the most foundational effort of security program execution. All of your organization’s various cyberdefenses contribute to and help enforce your program daily.
Security architecture ensures that IT environments and resources remain protected from threats to ensure business continuity. From firewalls to security event information management (SIEM) solutions, your CISO and team must build, update, or replace the architecture and configurations across your full technology stack.
3. Ongoing Management and New Implementations
Once your security architecture has been fully implemented, it must be managed by your organization’s dedicated team (or an MSSP). Ongoing management requires ensuring continued operations and regularly checking for new vulnerabilities that cyberattackers may try to exploit.
A CISO or vCISO will oversee these various efforts to identify and remediate vulnerabilities, which may include:
In addition to managing the implementations that comprise your security architecture, your organization will eventually need to replace them. As needs change or technologies become outdated, new solutions and tools must be:
- Evaluated for strategy, existing infrastructure, and operational compatibility
CISOs and vCISOs assist with these responsibilities as well. For one-off efforts, vCISOs are especially suited to step in on a project-by-project basis to provide management and insight.
4. Cloud Migrations
Though they could be considered a part of construction and management, cloud migrations require a significant amount of strategizing and—potentially—architecture changes. Migrating some or all of your organization’s IT operations and resources to the Cloud presents different challenges than on-premise architecture.
When strategizing a cloud migration, CISOs and vCISOs must consider:
- Sensitive data security (e.g., encryption)
- Necessary hardware (or how to dispose of hardware rendered unnecessary by the migration)
- Integrations with other cloud services and resources
- User access rights and policies
- Remote connection security (e.g., virtual private networks (VPNs))
5. Security Awareness Training
Aside from strategizing and managing your security team, CISOs and vCISOs must also oversee organization-wide security training. Cyber security comprises people, processes, and technologies, and all three directly pertain to the CISO role. For the “people” aspect, cyber security executives must ensure that personnel receive sufficient training.
Your organization’s personnel contribute to your frontline cyberdefenses by adhering to organizational policies and processes. Therefore, these documented policies and processes must be promulgated to all employees, and dedicated training increases their effectiveness. Further, personnel must also be aware of vulnerability and attack indicators to provide your security team with additional sets of eyes. An effective security program requires informed participation.
When personnel are trained in cyber security, your organization can better prevent threats such as social engineering scams. CISOs and vCISOs are crucial to overcoming cyber awareness challenges.
6. Regulatory Compliance Efforts
Virtually every organization must adhere to specific laws and regulations that govern its activities, industry, or location. Moreover, given the increasing reliance on digital resources to perform operations or store data, nearly all major compliance frameworks now include cyber security stipulations.
- PCI DSS – The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) almost entirely consists of cyber security Requirements. The DSS is designed to protect cardholder data (CHD) through all collection, transmission, processing, and storage activities. Any organization that conducts these activities is bound by the PCI DSS’s 6 Goals, 12 Requirements, and myriad sub-requirements.
- The PCI DSS also requires organizations to perform annual compliance reporting and quarterly vulnerability scans.
- HIPAA – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ensures the protection of patients’ protected health information (PHI). PHI may not be improperly used or disclosed outside of authorized scenarios and individuals. When stored electronically (ePHI), the cyber security efforts to protect this data fall under HIPAA’s Security Rule.
- While HIPAA audits are semi-frequent, ongoing compliance efforts are critical for all covered entities and their business associates, given the potential legal and financial penalties resulting from noncompliance.
- Organizations that only interact with ePHI as a third party are considered “business associates” of primary healthcare providers and organizations (i.e., “covered entities”) and must comply with HIPAA. If your organization has never managed HIPAA compliance, a cyber security executive is likely crucial.
- CMMC – Cyber security Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) will be increasingly required for securing US Department of Defense (DoD) contracts. The framework is primarily informed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Special Publications 800-171 and 800-172.
- While CMMC 2.0 is currently being released, the available information states that contractors must recertify annually or triennially.
- SOC 2 – Systems and Organizational Controls 2 (SOC 2) assesses an organization’s ability to secure its customer and client data. SOC 2 especially pertains to third-party service providers, such as “software-as-a-service” (SaaS) vendors, that want to provide their partners with cyber security confidence. Overseen by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), SOC 2 assessments are informed by the Trust Services Criteria (TSC).
- SOC 2 assessments are divided into Type 1 (i.e., providing a “snapshot” of implemented controls) and Type 2 (i.e., a long-term evaluation of implemented controls’ effectiveness).
CISO and vCISO Contributions Towards Compliance
Regulatory compliance efforts are demanding. Whether ensuring daily adherence or periodic auditing and reporting, cyber security executives remain responsible for ensuring compliance requirements are met. Each of the frameworks listed above becomes more demanding during periodic intervals that require CISO involvement.
If your organization does not require a full-time CISO otherwise, vCISO services provide the perfect solution for navigating occasionally increased compliance demands. Your organization may choose to partner with a vCISO during:
- PCI DSS Requirement implementation and remediation
- PCI DSS annual reporting and quarterly scanning
- HIPAA-required periodic risk assessments
- Stipulated by the Security Rule as an ongoing, obligatory activity that evaluates and prioritizes all potential risks according to threat likelihood and potential impact
- HIPAA audits
- HIPAA data breach reporting following the improper use or disclosure of PHI
- Improper use or disclosure of PHI constitutes a HIPAA data breach.
- Depending on the size of a PHI breach, reporting and remediation requirements differ.
- CMMC preparation, implementation, and assessment.
- SOC 2 Type 2 assessments carried out over extended periods to thoroughly evaluate control effectiveness
Regardless of which regulation your organization is navigating compliance for, you’ll want to ensure that the vCISO you’re considering will provide relevant expertise. Different CISOs—virtual or in-house—will enter the role with different experiences and compliance framework familiarities. Given the complexity of these frameworks, dedicated expertise relevant to the regulations applicable to your organization is a necessity for any CISO.
Additional Compliance Efforts vCISOs Assist With
Some of the most significant compliance frameworks to take effect in recent years are those overseeing private individuals’ personal data, such as:
- The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA)
- The Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA)
Critically, these regulations are location-based. Therefore, if your organization interacts with personal data belonging to citizens of these locations, it must adhere to the regulations. While they do not require ongoing compliance reporting aside from data breach occurrences, organizations must make sweeping changes regarding their data collection, processing, and storage activities.
Your organization may require a vCISO to step in and navigate the necessary changes to ensure compliance.
7. Incident Response
When your security team detects a potential cyberattack, it must be analyzed, escalated appropriately, and mitigated. A CISO or vCISO will oversee the team responsible for these activities and step in should the analysis and escalation require it.
In addition to managing incident response efforts, the policies and processes informing team tactics must be determined and documented ahead of time as a component of broader security programs and architecture. Following incident response and mitigation, the efforts should be assessed to further educate security teams and optimize policies and processes.
CISOs and vCISOs oversee these cyber security program elements as well. They must guide post-incident reviews and ensure that all relevant feedback is collected and applied towards policy and process updates as necessary.
8. Data Breach Management
To take incident response a step further, CISOs and vCISOs must also help organizations navigate the aftermath of successful cyber security attacks. These efforts add the following tasks and responsibilities for cyber security executives:
- Attack quarantine and removal
- Root cause analysis
- Business continuity and service delivery restoration
- Reputational damage control
- Executive and board-level reporting (i.e., to internal authorities and stakeholders)
- Compliance reporting (i.e., to external authorities)
For organizations that may not otherwise employ a full-time CISO, contracting vCISO services ensure that top-level expertise still guides you through these exceptionally challenging periods. Organizations whose full-time CISO doesn’t have extensive experience managing the aftermath of a data breach may also choose to temporarily contract with a vCISO to better ensure remediation success.
Partner with a vCISO for Your Cybersecurity Challenges
The cyber security problems that CISOs and vCISOs solve cover the full range of IT challenges any organization could face. The primary vCISO benefits that these services achieve—as compared to traditional executives—are flexibility, availability, and relevant expertise. Many organizations that do not require a full-time CISO can navigate their periodic and one-off challenges that arise by contracting vCISO services.
As a cyber security and compliance expert, RSI Security provides vCISO services that help organizations solve myriad problems. To learn more about how vCISO services can overcome your challenges, contact RSI Security today!