When (And How) To Hire The Right vCISO For Your Company



The role of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) has emerged as a critical component for businesses of every size. However, not every organization has the means or the requirement to employ a full-time person in this role. As a result, organizations seek services from MSSPs (also known as Managed Security Service Providers), and the emergence of the virtual CISO (vCISO) offers a solution to this problem, but there’s palpable confusion in the marketplace about what a vCISO truly is and what they do. Much of the confusion stems from the fact that the role of a vCISO is not one-size-fits-all; it varies significantly based on the specific needs, size, and industry of each company. Some see a virtual CISO as a strategic advisor, others view them as hands-on security leaders, while still others consider them compliance experts. This lack of a standard definition has led to a marketplace where companies are often unsure whether they need a vCISO, what to expect from one, and how to measure their effectiveness.

Parameters of the vCISO Role

What is a vCISO and what do they do? A virtual CISO is essentially an outsourced security expert. In today’s digital landscape, where cyber threats are increasingly sophisticated and prevalent, having someone who can guide your company’s cybersecurity strategy is crucial. A vCISO can help you navigate the complex cybersecurity environment, protecting your company’s data and systems. Market research shows some vCISOs provide advisory services, helping companies understand their security needs and develop a plan to address them. Others offer more comprehensive services, managing a company’s entire security program. Additionally, some vCISOs specialize in certain industries, while others deliver a more general service.

The role of a vCISO varies, depending on a company’s specific needs. For some organizations, the need might be for a vCISO to focus more on strategic planning, helping to develop a long-term cybersecurity strategy. For others, a vCISO’s role might need to be more hands-on, dealing with day-to-day security issues and establishing a stronger security posture or robust compliance program. Understanding the role of a vCISO and the services offered can help you decide whether a vCISO is right for your company.

Reasons to Consider Deploying a vCISO

Several situations can arise where a company might determine a need for a virtual CISO. If your business is growing rapidly, scaling to enterprise business, or dealing with an increasing amount of sensitive data, a vCISO can help manage the associated security risks and ensure your team is meeting security standards within your respective markets. You might also need a vCISO if you’re facing specific security challenges. For example, during a project to migrate operations to the cloud, a vCISO can guide you through the process and ensure your data remains secure.

In heavily regulated industries like healthcare or finance, a vCISO can ensure you’re meeting all necessary compliance requirements. They can guarantee that you remain up-to-date with the latest regulations and help you address any gaps in compliance. And if you’ve recently experienced a data breach, a vCISO can help you respond effectively, investigate the incident, identify the cause, and implement measures to prevent future violations.

Finding the Right Fit When Hiring a vCISO

Once you’ve identified your company’s suitability for vCISO services, look for an individual or team with experience in your industry. Ask potential vendors the following questions to establish how they operate.

  • Will the people building or maintaining our infosec program work in-house, or are they contractors?
    The answer to this question impacts your level of control over your security strategy and the responsiveness of your security team.
  • Do you outsource any of your services overseas? If so, where?
    This answer matters because selecting a vCISO who outsources your services overseas could impact your data’s quality and security.
  • Do you cap the hours (daily, weekly, or monthly) that your security or compliance expert works with our team?
    This speaks to the availability of your vCISO. You need to know that your appointed vCISO will be available when you need them, especially in the event of a security incident or when answering security questions from stakeholders.
  • How does communication work between our team and yours?
    Effective communication is crucial in cybersecurity, so you must ensure that your vCISO will communicate effectively with your team.
  • What experience do you have in providing cybersecurity and compliance services to businesses similar to ours?
    A vCISO with expertise in your industry will be better equipped to understand your specific security challenges and needs, better tailoring their efforts to meet security and compliance requirements within less time.

Each of these questions aims to help you understand a different aspect of your company’s security needs. By obtaining clear, unambiguous answers, you can make an informed decision about a vCISO for your company. Choose a vendor whose approach aligns with your company culture, and request (and check) references.

The Benefits of the vCISO Role

One of the key advantages is that a virtual CISO can provide expert guidance without the cost of hiring a full-time executive. This is particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses that may not have the budget for a full-time CISO.

A vCISO can also provide an outside perspective, helping you see potential security risks you might have missed. They can bring a wealth of experience from working with other companies and industries, which can be invaluable in developing effective security strategies.

This robust expertise can also impact the rate at which you meet your security and compliance goals. For example, in the startup world, organizations move fast. A vCISO can move as quickly as your business is ready, and allow you to focus on other critical aspects of growing your business—offering peace of mind when it comes to establishing an effective information security program as you enter into the marketplace.

Furthermore, a vCISO can help you build a security-conscious culture within your company. They can provide training and awareness programs to ensure your employees understand the importance of cybersecurity and know how to protect your company’s data from the early stages. They can also leverage the most cutting-edge tools for you, including compliance automation platforms. This can impact how each of your employees views and manages important customer data, and can greatly improve the development of your software or application to intertwine security within your technology.

A Final Word to CEOs on the vCISO Role

As a CEO, it’s crucial that you carefully consider your company’s cybersecurity requirements and make the right choice for your organization. Take the time to understand your needs, consider your options, and choose a vCISO who can truly support your company’s security strategy and overarching business initiatives. The benefits of making the right choice can be significant, helping protect your company and data into the future.

If you’re interested in working with a Rhymetec vCISO, schedule a call with our team.


You can find the original blog post from Rhymetec CEO, Justin Rende, on Forbes Technology Council.



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