Security program management presents the traditional Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) role with numerous challenges further complicated by the current proliferation of cyberthreats. As a C-level executive role, CISOs are primarily responsible for strategy and management. A CISO must oversee architecture implementation and maintenance, manage internal security teams, and assess and coordinate with vendors. But what does a virtual CISO do?
What Can I Expect from a Virtual CISO?
A virtual CISO (vCISO) performs all the same duties and responsibilities their traditional, on-site counterparts do. The distinction primarily lies in how vCISO services and guidance are delivered. As a result, breaking down the role of traditional CISOs answers, “What does a virtual CISO do?”
CISOs are responsible for managing:
- Strategic cybersecurity planning
- Cybersecurity architecture implementation and management
- Vendor relationship
- Incident response
- General security awareness
Once a CISO’s responsibilities are understood, it’s easy to also answer, “What can I expect from a vCISO?”
The Traditional CISO Role
Generally, CISOs are responsible for the comprehensive oversight of your cybersecurity program. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, dedicated management personnel may execute various day-to-day responsibilities under the CISO’s supervisory and strategic input.
Strategic Cybersecurity Planning
Every cybersecurity initiative your organization undertakes should be preceded by strategic planning. From evaluating new systems or service implementations to navigating a data breach, CISO’s must employ extensive strategy.
Often, the CISO acts as the chief decision-making authority—or expert and plan advocate if presenting to a board of directors. Their decisions must account for strategic considerations, including:
- Best practices
- Integration with existing policy, procedural, or technical implementations
- Applicable compliance requirements
- Return on investment (ROI)
CISOs will also oversee policies, processes, and response plans. These must be strategically established to protect the organization without inhibiting its operations, documented, and periodically reviewed.
Cybersecurity Architecture Implementation and Management
Modern cybersecurity requires a multi-layered approach supported by monitoring, analysis, patch management, and incident response. Automated cyberdefenses (e.g., security information and event management (SIEM) systems, firewalls, anti-virus) ease the burden on security teams. Still, CISOs need to choose the right implementations and configurations to achieve a successful program.
Once implemented, cybersecurity architecture must be managed to ensure continually optimal integration and operation. Additionally, as different systems, tools, hardware, and more grow older, replacements must be evaluated to integrate seamlessly with those already in place and across their various lifecycle stages.
Not all cybersecurity implementations will occur directly on-premise. Particularly as cloud capabilities continue to develop, various IT task execution and resources are delivered “as-a-Service.” Cloud services contracted from a managed security services provider (MSSP) can be used to reclaim personnel bandwidth and achieve greater ROI.
Nearly all on-site cybersecurity implementations your organization may consider can be fulfilled by an MSSP. Much like cybersecurity architecture, however, CISOs need to choose the right partners to best meet their organization’s needs and services to complement existing resources and capabilities. Vendors also need to be assessed for risk management purposes.
An unfortunate reality of cybersecurity is that cyberattacks will target your organization. However, a well-constructed architecture will prevent most threats; rapid incident detection and response will help identify and mitigate the remainder.
When more dangerous and sophisticated threats are escalated, CISOs are responsible for overseeing response plan execution. Managing your incident response plan execution requires up-to-date threat intelligence to facilitate rapid analysis.
Your CISO will manage systems, data, and service delivery remediation if a cyberattack compromises your organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure.
Many organizations must contend with regulatory or industry compliance requirements that extend to their cybersecurity architecture and policies. If your organization is subject to a compliance framework, your CISO must have experience with or knowledge of the related cybersecurity implementations, specifications, and configurations necessary for adherence.
General Security Awareness
Aside from managing your security team and making strategic decisions, CISOs are responsible for an organization’s general security awareness program that educates non-technical employees. Many cyberthreats, such as phishing, directly target your organization’s employees. To stay vigilant against these types of attacks, non-technical roles require regular security awareness training—planned and overseen by the CISO.
vCISOs perform all the same responsibility and task execution that traditional CISOs do. The primary difference is that vCISOs generally provide their expertise remotely and “as-a-Service.”
The most significant advantage a vCISO provides is flexibility. You may need a full-time CISO for a set duration, or the ongoing services of a fractal (i.e., part-time) executive—vCISOs can accommodate your organization’s needs regardless. In addition to service flexibility, hiring a vCISO doesn’t require finding and interviewing local candidates.
vCISOs also provide cybersecurity expertise. Having worked with other organizations, vCISOs bring to the role their accumulated knowledge from overcoming various challenges. If you find a vCISO with extensive experience in certain fields, especially regarding compliance frameworks, they’ll provide directly relevant advisory. Some organizations may merely wish to augment their existing, full-time CISOs capabilities if a challenge falls outside their own field of cybersecurity expertise.
Virtual CISO Services
What does a virtual CISO do? A vCISO can meet all the responsibilities and tasks that fall under a traditional CISO’s purview. The how marks the significant differentiation—most notably, the flexibility they provide.
If you’re considering partnering with a vCISO, contact RSI Security today!