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Hiring a vCISO – their responsibilities and the benefits

In previous blog posts we’ve explored whether hiring a direct resource to support your cyber security strategy is the best approach, or whether outsourcing this role meets your needs.  Now let’s dive in a little deeper and look in to how putting in place a vCISO benefits your organisation.

A vCISO benefits a business by offering a flexible resource that can fit within the organisation as required, whether that be on the leadership team or within the IT function, or maybe across both.  What we know from experience is ensuring that your vCISO is positioned correctly to both support your own teams and have the maximum exposure and impact across the business will give you a greater return on your investment.  It’s also important to understand key high level key responsibilities, which we’ll broadly focus on as the areas of security architecture, security audit and development of the leadership team.

Security architecture is about designing computer systems to ensure that they meet your organisations cyber security goals, whilst enabling the business to operate as it needs to. Strong security architecture leads to less security breaches. The main focus of security architecture is to mitigate the security risks that threaten your business systems, by looking at the way people, processes and technologies interact and ensuring that any security measures do not impact on the ability for people to do their work.  As the threat landscape changes so rapidly, and with a need to ensure that your architecture is robust enough ongoing, a vCISO will invest time in understanding all threat types throughout their work, and bringing this insight in to your business.

With the right security architecture in place, it is important that systems, processes and documentation are not then put in place and left unattended to, as this can create new security risks as things change over time  Any cyber and information security controls a business has in place are going to be ineffective if they are not implemented correctly or maintained to keep them up to date.  This is where audit and assurance become of great importance.  Supporting your internal audit plan or compliance program with a vCISO enables you to effectively assess the design and effectiveness of your cyber security controls, they also bring with them an understanding of regulatory requirements around security both at an industry and national level.  Whether working alongside your team, leading the entire audit or a combination of these approaches, the vCISO focuses on building a bespoke approach for your business to ensure your strategy is delivered.

vCISO’s can form a central role in developing your leadership team to become more confident and capable in delivering your cyber security strategy, and they can have a real impact in a short timeframe.  Giving significant responsibility on such a topic to an “outsider” may feel uncomfortable for many leaders, what we see however is real insight coming from the vCISO who can quickly assess levels of understanding, see where responsibilities need to be shifted and identify gaps in security coverage having assessed a business’ risk profile.  Beyond this they are in a great position to be able to support the leadership team in determining the desired security posture, the investments that will be required to achieve this and develop a top down approach for the evolution of cyber defences regarding persistent and upcoming threats.

There is a fourth, and evolving, key responsibility of the vCISO as the topic of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) within organisations increases in importance relating to cyber security, something which has been highlighted by the World Economic Forum. With ESG and the involvement of a vCISO we are not just looking at the capability to deliver technically but also an understanding of how systems and operating practices impact on customers, partners and clients.  One core aspect here is how data management is being increasingly seen as a social responsibility to customers and the general public.  As businesses handle ever increasing amounts of information there comes with it a level of responsibility to not only keep this data secure but to communicate with customers about how this is done.

Beyond these core responsibilities and the benefits they bring to your organisation, there are a number of gains to be had from putting a vCISO in place.  A vCISO benefits your by quickly giving you a resource operating at the intersection of people, process, policy and technology who will push to keep moving with cyber security and not rest on the last work done.  Further to this they will be an impartial and experienced voice in pushing for ongoing investments to protect the business and its customers from the potential impact of cyber threats.  There is also a level of confidence that working with dedicated security professionals can add to your partner, supply chain and customer relationships – it allows you to highlight your commitment to protecting all aspects of your organisation and how they interact with you.

With a wide range of experience working in many industries our vCISO service will support your organisation to develop, deliver and evolve your cyber security strategy.