By Kelly Kercher, who steers K3 Technology as founder and president; over a decade dedicated to architecting resilient, fully-managed, secure digital landscapes.
In today’s evolving digital landscape, the role of a chief information security officer (CISO) is critical. These professionals defend against the rising tide of daily cyberthreats. Yet we’re seeing a trend: Many CISOs are leaving or considering leaving their jobs, a phenomenon coined the “Great CISO Resignation.”
This trend seems to reflect the intense pressure CISOs endure. They face a constant stream of complex cyberthreats, manage compliance issues and struggle with a talent deficit in cybersecurity. Paired with high expectations, many reconsider their roles, which can lead to a leadership gap.
However, this situation opens a strategic opportunity for innovation. As the founder and president of a company that offers virtual chief information security officer (vCISO) services, I’ve seen this model gaining momentum.
Understanding The vCISO Model
A vCISO is an outsourced security practitioner or provider who offers their expertise to businesses on a part-time or contractual basis. These professionals provide many of the same services as a traditional CISO, such as developing and implementing security strategies, ensuring compliance with regulations, training staff and managing a company’s cybersecurity posture. The key difference is that vCISOs offer these services remotely and often to multiple companies at once.
This model brings flexibility and scalability, allowing businesses to tailor cybersecurity leadership to their specific needs. It also provides access to a breadth of expertise that is often unaffordable in a full-time, in-house CISO.
Leveraging The vCISO Model Amid The CISO Exodus
With the current trend of CISOs leaving their positions, the vCISO model offers a practical solution to maintain cybersecurity leadership. Here are some ways businesses can take advantage of this model:
Plug Leadership Gaps Quickly
When a CISO departs, they leave a leadership void that’s hard to fill quickly, especially considering the shortage of cybersecurity talent. By leveraging a vCISO, businesses can plug this gap swiftly, ensuring continued oversight and direction in their cybersecurity efforts.
Access A Broader Skill Set
vCISOs, often being part of a larger team, can bring a wide range of experiences and skills. They are exposed to diverse security landscapes across industries, which can provide a fresh perspective and innovative solutions to your security challenges.
Hiring a full-time CISO can be prohibitively expensive for some companies. vCISO services, on the other hand, can be scaled to fit budgetary constraints, giving businesses access to top-tier security leadership without as much of a hefty price tag.
Flexibility And Scalability
As your business grows and evolves, so too can your cybersecurity needs. A vCISO’s flexible engagement model means you can scale cybersecurity leadership to match your changing requirements.
Deciphering The vCISO Selection: A Strategic Perspective
Selecting the right virtual chief information security officer is pivotal to the success of your cybersecurity strategy, especially in the wake of the “Great CISO Resignation.” You’re essentially recruiting an outsourced leader who can help guide your organization’s information security infrastructure and strategy, so you need to ensure that they not only have the expertise but that they also align with your organization’s culture and values. Here are some strategic suggestions for identifying the perfect vCISO for your business:
Evaluate Their Background And Experience
Start by examining the vCISO’s professional background. This includes their level of experience in your specific industry, as well as their familiarity with the size and type of businesses like yours. Their past roles and achievements can provide valuable insight into their ability to handle the unique cybersecurity threats and risks your business may face. Don’t hesitate to ask for a detailed track record of their experience and successes.
Assess Their Expertise
Probe into their knowledge of current cybersecurity trends, their ability to create a cybersecurity strategy, their understanding of regulatory requirements that are relevant to your industry and their experience in managing security incidents. You should also ask about their experience with various cybersecurity tools and technologies. A vCISO’s expertise should encompass not only tactical but also strategic thinking and planning.
Understand Their Approach
Get a sense of their management style, communication skills and approach to problem-solving. Cybersecurity is a team effort, so the vCISO needs to effectively work with and guide your in-house team. Are they able to communicate complex security concepts in a way that everyone in your organization can understand? Can they foster a security-first culture within the company?
Determine Alignment With Business Goals
The right vCISO should understand your business strategy and align security strategies to business objectives. They should be able to strike a balance between the necessary security measures and the operational needs of your company.
Consider Your Budget
Cost is always a critical factor. A vCISO can be more cost-effective than hiring a full-time in-house CISO, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. However, cheaper isn’t always better. While you’re considering your budget, also take into account the value the vCISO offers, like their ability to prevent costly security breaches.
Address Your In-House Knowledge Gaps
Evaluate your current in-house expertise and identify the areas that need bolstering. The ideal vCISO should be able to fill in these gaps and enhance your team’s capabilities. If your business lacks expertise in incident response, for instance, you would want to hire a vCISO who specializes in this area.
Ask For References
Lastly, ask the vCISO for references from previous clients. Direct feedback from these clients can provide invaluable insights into the vCISO’s professionalism, reliability and effectiveness.
Adapting To Change
Remember, cybersecurity isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. The perfect vCISO for your business will depend on various factors, including your industry, size, risk profile, regulatory environment and specific cybersecurity needs and goals. It’s a critical decision, so take the time to find the right fit.
The CISO exodus presents a challenge, no doubt, but it also pushes us toward innovative solutions like the vCISO model. By embracing this shift, businesses can ensure they have the robust cybersecurity leadership needed to navigate the increasingly complex digital landscape. The vCISO model may not replace the need for a full-time CISO in all cases, but it can certainly add a flexible and cost-effective tool to the arsenal of businesses looking to bolster their cybersecurity posture.