If you’re looking for ways to bulk your cybersecurity, you may have already heard about partnering with a chief information security officer, or CISO. Small and medium-sized businesses in the market for CISOs are turning their attention to new, affordable solutions, namely fractional CISOs and virtual CISOs.
Just because your budget can’t match that of a large corporation doesn’t mean that you should ignore cyber-threats. The ongoing development of technology benefits both the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” Cybercrime Magazine noted:
Last year, Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015. This represents the greatest transfer of economic wealth in history, risks the incentives for innovation and investment, and will be more profitable than the global trade of all major illegal drugs combined.
When choosing the best CISO approach – fractional CISO vs. virtual CISO – you must understand what these titles mean. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences and similarities of these positions. Also, we’ll cover the relevancy of each type based on your organization’s needs.
A Quick Answer: What’s the Difference Between a Virtual CISO and a Fractional CISO?
In discussions weighing fractional CISO vs. virtual CISO approaches, IT managers frequently interchange the two terms – fractional and virtual – and speak generically of vCISOs. Both titles refer to an individual or team responsible for the cybersecurity of an organization.
But there are critical differences between fractional and virtual CISOs.
- Fractional CISOs most often refer to on-site Chief Information Security Officers. Most fractional CISOs are part-time cybersecurity experts and maintain other IT roles within or outside the company.
- Virtual CISOs are outsourced cybersecurity teams. When you don’t want to maintain cybersecurity personnel as payroll employees, you can hire an outside agency whose primary role is to build and maintain IT security. As the name implies, virtual CISOs work off-site and provide vCISO services to a portfolio of clients.
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What You’re Really Asking
If you’re asking the question – What’s the difference between fractional and virtual CISOs? – you may be asking something else. Ultimately, you want to know which cybersecurity approach will best protect your organization against cyber-attack.
Fractional CISOs often benefit larger organizations with the ability to hire more cybersecurity personnel in-house to maintain a strong “vertical” structure. This vertical business setup gives executives more control and a tighter circle of confidants. However, fractional CISOs aren’t always effective against the backdrop of 21st Century cyber-threats.
Virtual CISOs (or vCISOs) serve an increasingly larger number of business sizes and types. By partnering with vCISOs, organizations can focus on what they do best and depend upon their vCISO team to do what they do best – cybersecurity.
Fractional CISO Vs. Virtual CISO – What Kind of Cybersecurity Services Does My Organization Need?
If your organization collects sensitive information, such as personal identifiable information (PII), payment information, etc., you will need comprehensive cybersecurity support.
Fractional CISOs work well for organizations with low cyber-risks. These experts can complete risk assessments and run penetration tests much easier within their limited role and time commitment.
In contrast, vCISOs run like a full cybersecurity department. Many also provide round-the-clock support in the event of intrusions or heightens threats. Virtual CISO teams have access to the latest resources and alert clients to particular breach attempts occurring for other organizations.
Fractional CISO Vs. Virtual CISO – Which One Will Better Understand My Organization?
On-site, fractional CISOs do have the benefit of gaining a more intimate knowledge of your organization. Additionally, they are partial to managerial meetings wherein decision-makers discuss needs and issues relevant to cybersecurity.
Often, CIOs function as their own fractional CISOs. They have the “insider view” of your organization and can tailor cybersecurity solutions with a nuanced perspective.
That said, another critical weakness of fractional CISOs is that they often possess tunnel vision. Cybersecurity depends upon objective critiques of an organization’s digital infrastructure. If a fractional CISO cannot think like an outsider, it will be very difficult for them to anticipate cyber-threats.
That’s why vCISOs have become so critical in the last few years. Virtual cybersecurity teams’ only loyalty is to your cybersecurity. VCISOs – while professional and courteous – do not cater to executive egos when so much rides on their ability to anticipate and prevent lost or stolen data.
As such, virtual CISOs understand cybersecurity. And as they become more familiar with your organization, they can secure your network with greater effectiveness over their fractional counterparts.
Fractional CISO Vs. Virtual CISO – How Will My Choice Affect My Sales and Marketing Efforts?
If you serve clients concerned about the security of their information, they will have questions about the measures you take to prevent security breaches. To give clients the peace of mind that they deserve, you must be able – with the help of your CISO – to explain what precautions you take to be a good steward of your clients’ trust.
Depending upon the amount of information management your products/services require, your CISO’s role could demand more or less time and effort. Fractional CISOs are part-time and will likely have one foot in cybersecurity and the other foot elsewhere. Virtual CISOs are more focused on cybersecurity duties and can scale their services according to your organization’s needs.
The Three Critical Controls for Any Cybersecurity Initiative
As you take stock of your organization’s CISO needs, three components address the very basics of cybersecurity. The role of CISO – virtual or fractional – will maintain these three components and provide support, as needed.
Multiple Ways to Authenticate Employees
Logins and authentications serve to protect your IT infrastructure from non-employee users. Employees that are careless with their login and authentication put not only themselves but also the entire company at risk.
Additionally, multiple authentications help employees that struggle to remember their login and passwords. By taking the time to provide authentications, they can easily recover or change their login/password and return to their work.
A CISO is ultimately responsible for enforcing these authentication procedures. They also oversee remedial duties (such as IT questions) about lost or stolen login data. Lastly, CISOs ensure that employees seamlessly update their authentication information at acceptable intervals.
Phishing Awareness Training
The most common form of intrusion is phishing. All it takes is for a single employee to click on a link in a spam email for malware to disrupt your digital infrastructure. CISOs need to manage effective training to help employees keep themselves from becoming the reason why critical information is lost or stolen.
A Process for Patching Intrusions
Most organizations suffer hundreds of hack or intrusion attempts and don’t realize it. If preventative measures are lax, it is only a matter of time before an intruder breaks through. Not only is it the CISO’s job to improve preventative measures, but they are also responsible for responding to security breaches.
Many breaches are containable, as long as the CISO is tracking them and responding appropriately. In time, your CISO will need to move from patching to looking proactively for weak points in your firewalls.
Identifying cybersecurity weaknesses require periodic penetration tests. CISOs administrate these “pen tests” and analyze the results. It is their job to find cybersecurity weaknesses before hackers do and take action to protect your business and client information.
Virtual CISOs are Best for Scaling Your Cybersecurity
The role of CISO is a serious one. In the event of a security breach, your losses could easily amount to the thousands, not to mention the credibility you will lose with employees and clients. As such, virtual CISOs have the unique advantage of scalability.
In the IT debate – fractional CISO vs. virtual CISO – only the vCISO can offer premium cybersecurity services on a sliding scale. If your organization is small and new, your vCISO can accommodate both your modest infrastructure and budget.
As your business grows, so will your vCISO involvement. In contrast, fractional CISOs are one-dimensional and do not scale with the business’s cybersecurity needs. And if an on-site CISO is splitting their time between more than one IT role, they won’t be able to offer the same quality of cybersecurity leadership.
At RSI Security, our virtual CISO teams remain on the cutting edge of cybersecurity protocols and testing. We can protect your organization from security breaches and ensure that your business is compliant.