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Why FISOs (vCISOs) are Resonating With the C-Suite

Any size of organization can now obtain the full advantage of having a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) via a convenient new option in the corporate leadership space: the virtual security executive.

Whether the service offering is titled "Fractional CISO" (aka, FISO) or "virtual CISO" (aka, vCISO), the contracting organization will gain the security leadership it needs in a world without enough CISOs to go around.

A good CISO can make all the difference in maintaining a solid cybersecurity program. The difference between a legally defensible organization risk posture and the alternative of allowing bad actors, and the vulnerabilities they use, to jeopardize and undermine every aspect of your business operations.

From Enterprise Level to Small- to Mid-Sized Businesses (SMBs)

Enterprises generally have a large body of C-suite team members—the organization’s executive leadership. These members of the leadership team are necessary for the appropriate steering of the organization toward its primary objectives. Chief Executive Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Marketing and/or Sales Officers, and Chief Human Resources Officers are generally seen as critical roles, but whether those same individuals wear multiple hats or the organization has separate roles for such things as the Chief Customer Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Legal Officer, and Chief Information Security Officer, the responsibilities associated with these roles are critical to any modern organization as well.

Expert Ciso
Webcheck Security FISO, Brad Lewis

The CISO role is especially designed to support the development and management of an information security program. Oftentimes, the CISO must also maintain knowledge of applicable privacy issues as well. To fulfill this role effectively, an individual must have a wealth of knowledge and exposure to a broad range of concepts, technologies, project management approaches, and communication styles that is beyond what the typical individual filling any other leadership roles is prepared to provide. The individual must diplomatically bring about compliance, keep up with the latest cybersecurity attack and defense trends, know how to identify and lead response efforts for intrusions, and much more.

Security is typically an area with a unique focus, especially when expense reduction and profit generation is necessary. CISOs must provide strategic vision as well as tactical expertise in information security and privacy management. A CISO must also be on task virtually 24x7x365. They are expected to excel at making the right calls all the time, which is a level of performance that even the best of leaders can struggle to cope with, physically and emotionally. CISOs must be energetic and yet battle-hardened but calm; personable and yet firm; among many other seemingly contradictory traits.

Ben Card, Webcheck Security FISO

The leaner organizations likely do not have the luxury of breaking out leadership roles into dedicated titles associated with single areas of responsibility. Rather, the owner, general technology or operations leader, or even the head of Human Resources may have been tasked with all the responsibilities that typically fall to a CISO—or leaders have spread out pieces of the CISO responsibilities among many members of the leadership team. They are trying to ensure their daily, granularly focused, tasks for their primary roles are completed while simultaneously caring for security and privacy concerns. This oftentimes means considering business drivers in a way that is directly opposite how most leaders are trained to think. The foreignness of the security and compliance mindset and the depth of technical expertise required often leads to leaders spending excessive amounts of time trying to bring themselves up to speed, pushing security and privacy to the bottom of their priorities, or ignoring it altogether.

This is especially risky for modern SMBs, as the latest trends in attacks see small organizations being targeted with many of the same highly dangerous attacks as enterprises, privacy laws and other regulations are now being applied to SMBs when they were previously given a pass, and customers are expecting secure services regardless of business size.

Lori Crooks, Webcheck Security FISO

The Perfect Answer for Any Organization: a FISO

The part-time, fractional, or virtual CISO is exactly what SMBs need as they work to meet the modern pressures, helping them ensure a robust information security program is developed, maintained, and enhanced when they lack the internal resources to make that happen.

The FISO is also the perfect answer for large organizations that may be struggling to find good CISO candidates in a world where such individuals are scarce. Additionally, the entire process of locating and onboarding at the C-level can potentially stretch across many months due to the levels of experience, knowledge, and performance. A quality FISO can bridge the gap between full-time CISOs, or can become a permanent part of the leadership team—even as they are not dedicating the entirety of their work lives to a single organization.

Top 5 Benefits of a FISO

FISOs, vCISOs, or however the service is named, provide a number of compelling benefits, some of which have been touched on above. Below is a list of some of the top benefits for ease of reference.

1. Rapid Deployment. FISOs are adept at gaining the in-depth knowledge of a client’s operations that they need to provide appropriate security leadership.

2. Remote Work. Most FISOs can work remotely and thereby reduce commuting and other travel expenses, as well as the requirement for the individual to move to the area of the organization’s offices. This means that most organizations can use FISOs from around the world. Many FISOs are oftentimes also able to attend critical meetings in person while working remotely the rest of the time. Remote work avoids the issues associated with in-person work during pandemics.

3. Fresh Perspectives. A FISO brings in new ideas, different approaches, and broad security knowledge to the decision-making and leadership processes. They have years of experience in the technology and—specifically—security fields and are adept at working collaboratively and non-abrasively with other leadership team members for the purpose of implementing information security programs. Experienced FISOs have either seen a plethora of approaches for solving business problems or have the professional development skills to quickly learn what they need to know.

4. Service Provider Strengths. A FISO who belongs to a security firm can readily tap into the skills and additional resources that a single consultant does not have available. Oftentimes, security consulting firms have templates, internal knowledge pools, and backfilling service capabilities that can fill in gaps as needed. By hiring a single FISO you actually get the advantage of having an entire team at your disposal.

Curt Jeppson, Expert FISO

5. Instant Respect. Quality FISO candidates come with resumes packed with the types of experiences that create instant recognition of their qualifications, in addition to holding key degrees and/or professional certifications. They command instant respect from technical and non-technical personnel alike.

A Final Note: Hiring a Permanent CISO is Difficult

Two primary reasons often stand in the way of organizations hiring on their own permanent CISOs:

  1. High Cost. Given the knowledge, experience, and unique character traits necessary for a CISO to be effective, it is no wonder that the average CISO earns in excess of 200K USD per year (per and similar sources). The typical CISO also wants the full range of C-level perks. All modern organizations need someone to fill the CISO role, but the majority cannot afford one.

  2. Scarcity. In the modern world, security has necessarily become one of the top priorities for organizations. Cybercrime has surged and data breaches are becoming increasingly prevalent. Attack complexity, speed, and rate are all increasing. Organizations need a comprehensive set of controls and technology to safeguard their data, and this is very difficult to accomplish without a CISO. The pool of quality candidates for the role is, unfortunately, very small compared with the needs that exist around the world.

Webcheck Security is one of the few security consulting firms that maintains a roster of highly qualified and battle-hardened FISOs. Contact us today to schedule a meeting to discuss how you can take advantage of the benefits of a FISO. Every modern organization lacking security leadership has an urgent need to be filled, and Webcheck Security’s services are designed to help you rapidly meet that need.

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