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Companies face increasing pressure to secure their networks and data against various threats in the constantly evolving cybersecurity landscape. As a result, many companies are turning to Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) to lead their cybersecurity efforts. However, the traditional model of employing a full-time, in-house CISO may only be feasible for some organizations. This is where the concept of Virtual CISO (vCISO) services comes in.
This article will compare and contrast the roles and responsibilities of a vCISO and a traditional CISO. Understanding the differences between the two can help companies make informed decisions about their cybersecurity needs and choose the best model for their organization. We will explore key differences such as the cost difference, level of involvement, and flexibility of the vCISO model.
By the end of this article, readers will better understand the differences between vCISO and traditional CISO models and the potential benefits and drawbacks of each.
vCISO vs. Traditional CISO: Key Differences
While the overall goal of a vCISO and a traditional CISO is the same, there are significant differences between the two models. Here are some key differences to consider:
The cost difference between the two models
Hiring a full-time, in-house CISO can be expensive, particularly for small and mid-sized businesses. In addition to a high salary, CISOs may receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and stock options. On the other hand, vCISOs typically charge an hourly rate or retainer fee that is more affordable than a full-time CISO.
Level of involvement and scope of responsibilities
Traditional CISOs are typically responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, managing the security team, overseeing security operations, and ensuring compliance with regulations. In contrast, vCISOs can be more flexible regarding their level of involvement and scope of responsibilities. They may provide strategic guidance, assist with compliance, conduct risk assessments, and provide recommendations for security enhancements.
The flexibility of the vCISO model compared to traditional CISO
One of the main advantages of vCISO services is the ability to engage security expertise as needed. This can particularly benefit smaller companies or those with fluctuating security needs. Additionally, vCISOs often provide access to a diverse pool of expertise and skills, depending on the organization's needs. In contrast, traditional CISOs may need more resources and expertise available within their own organization.
Cost Difference Between vCISO and Traditional CISO
One of the most significant differences between a vCISO and a traditional CISO is the cost of their services. Here are some key points to consider:
Discussion of salary and benefits for traditional CISOs
Traditional CISOs are typically highly skilled professionals who command a high salary. According to Payscale, the average salary for a CISO in the United States is around $165,000 and in Canada, around $153,683 annually. In addition to salary, traditional CISOs may receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and stock options. These costs can add up quickly for businesses, notably smaller organizations.
Comparison of hourly rates or retainer fees for vCISOs
In contrast, vCISOs typically charge an hourly rate or retainer fee that is more affordable than a full-time CISO. Hourly rates can vary depending on the level of expertise required and the services provided but may range from $150 to $500 per hour. Retainer fees can range from $5,000 to $50,000 per month, depending on the size and complexity of the organization.
Analysis of cost savings for companies that use vCISO services
For businesses that cannot afford to hire a full-time CISO, vCISO services can provide significant cost savings. By engaging a vCISO on an as-needed basis, businesses can avoid the high cost of a full-time salary and benefits package. Additionally, vCISOs can help businesses save money by identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities before they become costly breaches. Overall, the cost savings of vCISO services can be significant for small and mid-sized businesses.
Level of Involvement and Scope of Responsibilities
Another critical difference between a vCISO and a traditional CISO is the level of involvement and scope of responsibilities. Here are some key points to consider:
Explanation of the scope of responsibilities for traditional CISOs
Traditional CISOs are typically responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that aligns with the organization's overall goals and objectives. This can include managing the security team, overseeing security operations, ensuring compliance with regulations, conducting risk assessments, and providing regular reports to executive management and the board of directors. Traditional CISOs may also be involved in incident response planning and execution, including identifying and mitigating cyber threats and communicating with stakeholders.
Discussion of how vCISOs can be more flexible and tailored to specific needs
In contrast, vCISOs can be more flexible in terms of their level of involvement and scope of responsibilities. They can be engaged on an as-needed basis, which can be particularly beneficial for smaller organizations or those with fluctuating security needs. vCISOs can provide a range of services, from strategic guidance and risk assessments to compliance assistance and incident response planning. Additionally, because vCISOs work with multiple clients, they can often provide access to a diverse pool of expertise and skills tailored to the organization's specific needs.
Comparison of involvement in daily operations and long-term planning
Traditional CISOs are typically heavily involved in daily security operations and long-term planning for the organization. They may work closely with the IT department to ensure that security controls are in place and effective. vCISOs, on the other hand, may have a less hands-on role in daily operations but can provide valuable guidance and oversight to ensure that security controls are effective and aligned with the organization's goals and objectives. Additionally, vCISOs can provide more objective and independent assessments of security controls, as they are not part of the organization's internal structure.
The flexibility of the vCISO Model
One of the main advantages of vCISO services is their flexibility. Here are some key points to consider:
Advantages of engaging vCISOs on an as-needed basis
vCISO services can be engaged on an as-needed basis, which can be particularly beneficial for smaller organizations or those with fluctuating security needs. This allows businesses to access security expertise when needed without incurring the cost of a full-time CISO. Additionally, vCISOs can be engaged for specific projects or initiatives, such as compliance and vulnerability assessments or incident response planning.
Discussion of the ability to scale vCISO services up or down as needed
The ability to scale vCISO services up or down as needed can also benefit organizations. As a company grows or its security needs change, it may require additional or different types of security expertise. vCISOs can provide the flexibility to add or remove services as needed without the hassle of hiring or firing full-time employees.
Benefits of access to a diverse pool of expertise and skills through vCISO services
Another advantage of vCISO services is access to diverse expertise and skills, including IT resources. vCISOs work with multiple clients and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from different industries and organizations. This can be particularly valuable for smaller organizations needing access to a wide range of security expertise in-house. Additionally, vCISOs can provide objective and independent assessments of security controls, which can help organizations identify and address potential vulnerabilities.
In conclusion, companies must understand the differences between vCISO and traditional CISO models when deciding their cybersecurity needs. Here's a recap of the key differences:
By understanding these differences, companies can make informed decisions about which model best fits their organization. For businesses needing help hiring a full-time CISO, vCISO services can provide significant cost savings while delivering expert security guidance. Additionally, vCISOs can be more flexible regarding their level of involvement and scope of responsibilities, which can benefit organizations with fluctuating security needs.
Overall, both vCISO and traditional CISO models have their advantages and drawbacks. Companies must weigh the model's cost, level of involvement, and flexibility to determine the best fit for their organization. Companies can better protect their networks and data against various threats by choosing a suitable cybersecurity model.
How can we help?
Looking to hire a CISO or a vCISO for your organization? Don't make a decision without speaking with our cybersecurity experts first. We understand that every organization has unique needs and challenges, and we can help you develop a customized cybersecurity strategy that fits your specific requirements.
Whether you're considering a traditional CISO or a vCISO, our team can help you navigate the pros and cons of each model and guide you toward the best choice for your organization. With years of experience in the cybersecurity industry, our experts have the knowledge and expertise to help you identify potential vulnerabilities, implement effective security controls, and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.
Don't wait until it's too late to protect your organization from cyber threats. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our cybersecurity experts and take the first step toward a more secure future.
What is a Virtual CISO and How Can You Hire One for Your Business?
An effective security strategy is crucial to protect your business against cyber threats. Hackers continue to exploit vulnerabilities in systems and leverage cutting-edge technologies to disrupt operations. Even hospitals are at risk.
Cybercriminals’ nefarious activities can lead to lost sales and reduced productivity, costing companies and organizations big money. And as one in five Canadian businesses have been affected by cybersecurity attacks, every company needs to take their security infrastructure seriously.
One of the best moves a business can make to stay safe is appoint a virtual Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). But what is this, and how can you hire one?
Virtual CISO Defined
Let’s explore what a traditional CISO is before we dive into its virtual counterpart.
CISOs take responsibility for overseeing, developing, and implementing a company’s information security measures. They take the lead in implementing the right procedures and protocols to safeguard a company from risks, both internal and external.
The role demands an iron grasp of the latest information systems, cybersecurity threats (ransomware, cyber extortion, etc.), software solutions, and more. CISOs must be able to guide a business’s information security choices, sharing key insights with colleagues at all levels.
Over time, a CISO can empower teams with the knowledge and skills they need to stay vigilant against cybersecurity risks. Their growing awareness can help employees prevent data breaches, for example, which are a persistent risk to businesses’ and customers’ data alike.
Data breaches can be devastating: 78 percent of people would choose to stop engaging with a company online after an attack, while 36 percent would avoid the company altogether. This equates to lost revenue, negative word of mouth, and reputation damage (possibly long-term).
Worse, 60 percent of small businesses close their doors within six months of a data breach.
Working with a CISO helps you avoid such a catastrophic fallout. But while they make a real difference, hiring an in-house CISO incurs extra expense on top of current overheads. And, depending on the level of experience and training they bring to the table, a full-time CISO may stretch your budget too far.
Outsourcing a CISO is a more cost-effective, practical solution for companies today. Especially those without the available funds to bring a full-time CISO into their workforce on a permanent basis.
CISOs may not be necessary every day of the week, all year long. Instead, a business may benefit from working with a CISO on occasion. A virtual CISO is available as and when needed, but brings none of the overheads or full-time salary a certified professional will expect. They remain available to their clients without being part of the team.
What are a Virtual CISO’s Responsibilities?
A virtual CISO may be an individual or a team. They will have spent years serving as a CISO in one or more businesses, achieving invaluable hands-on experience.
Virtual CISOs can help companies and implement cutting-edge security measures without needing to be integrated into the culture. It demands less time, less effort, and fewer resources. They simply do the work expected of them. No more, no less.
And this revolves around defining security standards and policies, as well as establishing guidelines for employees to follow. Compliance, for example, is easy to overlook without a CISO on hand to get it right.
They may conduct a vendor risk assessment as required, too — a crucial task when doing business with new associates for the first time.
A virtual CISO can help create security strategies, recruit other security-focused employees, and ensure management have a working knowledge of certain cybersecurity tools. They’ll identify security weaknesses, reinforcing your network and systems to withstand potential attacks.
Furthermore, contingency plans are essential for any company, and a CISO will set one in place just in case an attack strikes.
The level of expertise and specialist insights a virtual CISO can bring to your business offers real peace of mind. You’ll be free to focus on running your company and achieving results without worrying about hackers bringing operations to a halt.
Hiring a Virtual CISO for Your Business
Any business looking to hire a virtual CISO should consider their selection process carefully. You want to feel certain that the team you choose offers the best value for money and will take effective actions to reinforce your security.
Keep the following points in mind:
A reputable virtual CISO will be happy to discuss their previous work, their credentials, their experience, their tools, and more key factors.
Want to Start Working with a Virtual CISO You can Depend On?
The Driz Group provides virtual CISO services of the highest standard. We’ve worked with companies and organizations across diverse sectors, helping to reinforce their security and IT compliance.
Our team focuses on preventing risks and effective mitigation. We leverage cybersecurity programs and respond to any incident as required — we’re always here to help.
Want to learn more? Get in touch now to speak to a member of our expert team.
Top 10 Benefits of a Virtual CISO
Top 10 Benefits of a Virtual CISO
No company can afford to underestimate the importance of airtight cybersecurity.
Cyber-criminals continue to develop evermore sophisticated ways to attack organizations and exploit weaknesses. Global corporations invest heavily in protecting theirs and their clients’ assets, and even smaller enterprises should do the same.
Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) can make a monumental difference to an organization’s defence against risks. They are responsible for handling cybersecurity, creating strategies to reinforce systems against the most cutting-edge external threats. They need to ensure that all essential policies and procedures are in place to reduce the organization’s vulnerability.
However, bringing an in-house CISO into your office may not be viable if you lack the space and / or available funds.
Virtual CISOs are an effective, affordable alternative for businesses of all sizes, from tiny startups to international chains. Here are 10 key benefits of hiring one for your company.
1. Low-Cost Expertise
First and foremost, hiring a virtual CISO tends to be far cheaper than employing one full-time.
There are no overheads attached, no benefits to consider, no overtime or sick pay. You don’t have to pay them even when they’re sitting at their desk with nothing to do. You essentially reap all the rewards of bringing an invaluable asset into your organization without paying for anything other than their best work.
2. VCISOs Offer More Diverse Knowledge
Most virtual CISOs will possess a wealth of industry experience, having worked with numerous clients across varied sectors.
They are constantly implementing strategies to protect businesses of different sizes against changing threats, gaining valuable knowledge they can apply to your company’s security needs.
This is much more effective and reassuring than hiring a full-time, in-house CISO who may have only worked within one business environment during their career.
3. A Tighter Focus for Better Value
Your virtual CISO specializes in cybersecurity and keeping systems continually protected, developing strategies to reinforce your infrastructure. This is their core focus, their day-to-day commitment.
This is in sharp contrast to bringing an IT specialist into your company who will no doubt be expected to help other employees regain access to their computer, recover forgotten passwords, and remove low-threat malware after someone downloads something they shouldn’t.
You pay for your virtual CISO’s security expertise only, and their time is dedicated to it entirely without less-important distractions.
4. Less Disruption to Everyday Tasks
Hiring a virtual CISO will free up your employees, allowing them the time to focus on their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities without worrying about compliance or related technical issues.
This helps to ensure every department concentrates on their respective goals, free of security-related worries or tasks beyond their technical knowledge.
5. Invaluable Flexibility
Hiring a virtual CISO offers far greater flexibility than a full-time, in-house employee.
For a start, you don’t have to find a place within your company and budget for a new long-term worker. The additional costs that come with that (salary, insurance etc.) are of no concern either.
Furthermore, though, virtual CISOs will generally create tailored services for your exact needs. Perhaps you only want to hire them for a few months to see how it improves your security before committing to a multi-year arrangement. Maybe you’re planning to train your own IT specialists but need the virtual CISO to protect your company in the meantime.
Bringing a virtual CISO aboard in either of these situations is much more preferable to hiring a full-time employee and letting them go once you feel they have served their purpose.
6. Bespoke Service for your Business
Virtual CISOs are familiar with adapting to suit different companies with unique needs. While a CISO with experience within one or two businesses may be stuck in their ways and expect you to work around them, virtual specialists are happy to offer more bespoke services.
They will provide the ideal solutions for your company and processes.
7. Vital Industry Contacts
Virtual CISOs are more likely to have wide-ranging industry contacts from across their career. They tend to maintain relationships with fellow cybersecurity specialists, gain exclusive information on emerging threats, and build networks of useful connections.
Such contacts mean they will be able to learn more and gain additional support if they encounter a technical issue they haven’t seen before, enabling them to get a handle on the situation with minimal delay.
This might involve making a phone call to a thought leader or a contact on the front line of cyber-crime – solutions that in-house employees with little experience may be unable to offer.
8. Independent Expertise without Bias
In-house CISOs may be susceptible to the same distractions, petty arguments, and office politics as the rest of your workforce. This can lead them to lose focus on the task at hand and potentially develop their own agendas.
Maintaining the highest levels of security could seem less important to a disgruntled employee who feels they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Virtual CISOs, though, tend to be completely neutral, channeling all their energy into protecting your company no matter what.
9. Minimal Disruption to your Organization
Your virtual CISO can work independently and without supervision. They will no doubt need to learn about your business and your operations, but they certainly don’t require any training or input.
They will be able to work quickly and efficiently, identifying potential vulnerabilities and updating your system for the utmost protection. Your business will be able to continue as normal without any of the time-consuming training or administrative duties involved with hiring a new full-time employee.
10. Ongoing Commitment and Quality
A CISO working as part of your in-house team will end up leaving you at one time or another, whether they are headhunted by a competitor or simply want a change. This can leave you without their expertise if you wait too long to bring a new specialist aboard, and means you have to start afresh again.
You can enjoy greater continuity and seamless service with a virtual CISO. Even if the person(s) assigned to your business leaves the company you hire, there will be no disruption – you may not even realize a change has occurred at all.
Do you have questions about working with a virtual CISO? Our expert team is here to answer them!
Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP