With so many online threats, network vulnerabilities, and IT security gaps, the role of the chief information security officer (CISO) has never been more important. The role is in such high demand that it’s tough to fill so many immediate openings, ultimately leaving many IT leaders asking: What exactly is a V-CISO, and how can it benefit my organization?
The Dawn of the Virtual CISO
Virtual CISOs, also known as V-CISOs or vCISOs, are virtual replacements for traditional, in-house role fulfillment. By working and communicating remotely, vCISOs have a lot to offer—including their diverse experience, affordability, timeliness, and more.
In this article, you’ll learn how a vCISO can optimize your cyberdefense return-on-investment (ROI) for years to come:
- How can you determine cyberdefense ROI for your organization?
- What exactly is a V-CISO and how does it benefit your organization?
Calculating Your Cyberdefense ROI
While those in the financial sector are already familiar with ROI, applying the concept to cybersecurity is much more difficult due to the field’s preventative nature. Much like insurance, you invest in cybersecurity while hoping your defenses don’t become necessary; it doesn’t inherently generate profit. This makes determining cybersecurity ROI a challenge.
In fact, making sure your cyberdefense ROI aligns with your budget provides a partial answer to the question: What does a virtual CISO do?
To calculate your cyberdefense ROI, start by considering your investments. Potential cyberdefense investments include:
- Purchasing and installing new software, hardware, or third-party services
- Training expenses for in-house staff
- Utilization of AI-driven cyberdefense systems
Now it’s time to consider your return. Instead of focusing on monetary gains, you’ll measure return by measuring the resources saved or spared from a cyberattack. Start by focusing on two primary metrics:
- The average cost of a data breach
- How many attacks (on average) occur annually
The most straightforward calculation is achieved by multiplying these figures to establish the annual ROI of your cyberdefense program. The resulting figure provides an idea of the potential losses you’d face after experiencing cyberattacks without a dedicated program. Since this is also the amount you’ll save when avoiding cyberattacks, you can compare this to your cyberdefense investments to determine a general ROI.
In some cases, other factors might also contribute to your organization’s overall expenses. This includes:
- Labor cost reductions following a given solution, service, or tool’s implementation
- The average cost of public relations in the wake of a severe data breach or cyberattack
- The average cost of regulatory fines and penalties for non-compliance
While your cyberdefense ROI isn’t a concrete number, it provides a great starting point and a general figure for understanding your cyberdefense spending.
What Exactly is a V-CISO and How Does it Benefit Your Organization?
What does a virtual CISO do that an in-house CISO can’t? Virtual CISOs have many advantages over their traditional, in-house counterparts. While some benefits depend on your industry or organizational goals, some common benefits apply in nearly every case:
- Multifaceted experience
- Unique insights
- Reduced risk
- Independent assessment
Once you consider the cost of full-time salary and benefits, an in-house CISO might cost you upwards of $250,000 annually. For many small- and medium-sized businesses, that’s difficult to justify. However, most vCISO services can be procured for a fraction of that cost.
Some companies don’t even require a full-time CISO. If you’re leading a startup organization who has yet to build their online presence, or if you’re running a traditional brick-and-mortar store with limited internet exposure, a full-time CISO isn’t necessary.
Instead, you can achieve greater ROI by contracting the services of a vCISO as needed. This is an excellent option for seasonal businesses, too.
It takes a lot of time to recruit and onboard a full-time CISO. Weeks or even months could pass by the time you’ve found a local professional, negotiated salary, and completed the onboarding process. Most organizations who require the services of a CISO likely don’t have that much time to wait.
But you can hasten the entire process by utilizing a vCISO. Most can be up and running within a matter of days, if not hours, and they can quickly learn the nuances of your network architecture and organizational structure.
vCISOs can serve as stopgap hires for departing or temporarily absent executives or become an ongoing and essential part of your organization.
Apart from a core set of common skills and competencies, most vCISOs have multifaceted experience covering numerous operations and industries. They can readily pull from their experience fulfilling the role across various organizations and situations, as well as cybersecurity experience prior to becoming a vCISO. Moreover, since they’ve built their career around firsthand knowledge, vCISOs can often provide guidance outside their day-to-day job responsibilities.
Potential talents include:
- Programming and coding
- Website development
- Online community leadership
- Cybersecurity team education
- Technical writing and report generation
IT Team Leadership
By offering industry expertise, professional guidance, and actionable insight, the best vCISOs will drive productivity more than ever before. By approaching your cybersecurity program from the perspective of ROI (among other targets), they can better position the team and resources for more efficient operations.
Some vCISOs double as one-on-one or group-based mentors. Instead of subjecting your staff to generic, standardized training, try teaming them up with your vCISO for direct mentorship. They’ll provide all the knowledge needed without the extra bandwidth and resource drain required for a rigorous training program.
Unique Industry Insights
Positioned on the frontlines of cyberdefense and recognized as pioneers in the remote workforce, vCISOs offer unique industry insights that aren’t available anywhere else. They don’t shy away from new or next-gen technology, and they know how to evolve with the modern workforce.
Given the rapid pace of change and evolution in the IT industry, vCISOs strive to learn new concepts and IT systems. Conversely, in-house CISOs may become too comfortable in their roles and usually stick with tradition over next-gen advancements and improvements.
Short-term vCISOs are nearly risk-free. They’re dismissable if their services are no longer needed and you’re not forced into any long-term commitments. On the other hand, if their services are required for an extended period, or if they’re needed in the future, most vCISOs are happy to come back with little to no notice.
But this isn’t the case with a full-time executive. Depending on their availability in your area, you might have very few choices when it comes to hiring an in-house CISO. Couple this with high salary expectations and benefits, and it’s easy to see how much risk is involved.
A vCISO offers an objective, independent viewpoint. In some organizations, subordinate employees may not feel comfortable speaking out or challenging conventions. However, whether their feelings are warranted or not is moot—it still results in missed opportunities and inconsistent feedback.
Virtual CISOs don’t hesitate to make their thoughts known. After all, this kind of guidance and leadership is part of their job, and most have strong feelings regarding hardware implementation, software selection, and more. So even if you disagree with their viewpoints, you’ll know they’re giving an honest, independent opinion.
Find Your vCISO
Between greater demand for IT professionals and sharp increases in the remote workforce, virtual CISOs are here to stay.
If you’re still struggling to find out what exactly is a V-CISO, or if you have yet to fill the vCISO role in your organization, contact RSI Security today.