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What Is vCISO-As-a-Service and How Can It Benefit SMBs?


Small and medium businesses (SMBs) often need help finding the right investment balance for cybersecurity. Too much, and they are wasting resources that could be better used to grow the business, while too little, and they risk being a victim of a cybersecurity attack. According to a recent report by IBM, the average cost of a breach in 2022 is now $4.35 Million. CPO Magazine reports that many large organizations pass these costs on to their customers as a business expense. However, only some SMBs have that luxury. Such an attack would be catastrophic and could close a healthy business for good.

Many businesses follow the traditional path of setting up firewalls and installing anti-malware software on computers. They also know to back up their data (but don't always test the backups). They may even provide some employee training to "not click suspicious emails." However, even with standard precautions, many are still victimized each year. Where did they go wrong? Is cybersecurity an unsolvable problem?

Why SMBs Are Turning to vCISO Services

Cybersecurity is one of those areas of business where it makes sense to "look at the big picture." The industry is beginning to recognize the virtual CISO, fractional CISO, or vCISO-as-a-Service as viable alternatives. As CSO magazine notes, a virtual CISO can bring strategic and operational leadership to small companies that cannot otherwise afford it.

Just as with retaining outside legal counsel or accounting services, cybersecurity requires a strategy and a plan provided by an impartial industry professional. Likewise, with legal or accounting professionals, many companies have internal staff to deal with day-to-day activities but bring in senior-level support for cybersecurity planning and strategy.

To be more specific, an expert vCISO can support your business in several ways. The following list summarizes several areas where a vCISO can help.

Customized Cybersecurity Plan

A vCISO can learn the risk profile of your specific business and then customize a cybersecurity plan to your particular industry, ecosystem, and risk profile. This plan will use industry-standard approaches from NIST, MITRE, ISO, and others to identify and address various risks to your organization.

Gap Assessment

A vCISO can review your current cybersecurity products and solutions against that plan to make sure there are no gaps in coverage and that they are well integrated. For example, in addition to firewalls and anti-virus tools, you may also need Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools or Network Intrusion Detection (NID) tools for more complete protection.

Appropriate Security Technologies

On the other hand, a vCISO may spot redundancies in your security solutions and be able to select security products that complement and reinforce each other. The vCISO will be conversant in many of the brands and be able to make recommendations to save you money- both in purchase costs and management resources.

Security Compliance

A vCISO can respond to detailed requests for security compliance from partners and insurance companies. A good vCISO can ensure your responses are correct and sufficiently detailed to prevent the back-and-forth that often delays contract closure. More importantly, your vCISO will be able to respond to regulatory compliance requests in areas such as Credit Card handling (PCI-DSS) and consumer privacy, such as the GDPR for EU customers. In addition, the vCISO may have IAPP certifications to stay on top of changes in law, such as the California Consumer Privacy Regulations (CCPR) evolving to the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA).

Monitor, Detect and Mitigate Cyberattacks

Finally, a good vCISO will stand by your side if an attack occurs and help you work through the situation. The vCISO will lead the steps to detect and shut down the attack, determine the damage, and recover from it. They will also help you to report to the authorities and create the proper messaging to partners, customers, and the press. In doing so, they can help protect your reputation and save additional money and resources.

Although this list is comprehensive, it only touches the surface of a few of the areas where a vCISO can help. Each of these will be covered in more detail in future blogs.

Selecting a vCISO-As-a-Service That's Right for Your Company

As a virtual member of your executive team, a vCISO should be chosen with the same care as hiring an executive employee. After all, you will be trusting them with the responsibility to develop and maintain your cybersecurity posture and strategy. Not only that, but unlike other members of the C-suite, a CISO possesses highly specialized and intensive skills in various technical areas.

Therefore, while a CFO might help augment a COO or vice versa, it's rare for anyone else in the C-suite to be able to step into the CISO role with any degree of competence, even temporarily. Further, incompetence introduces real risk. A vCISO lacking the necessary experience can place the entire company at risk. The bottom line is that the selection of a vCISO is extremely important and must be handled with care.

So, where do you start? What criteria are critical in choosing the right vCISO for your company? Here are some thoughts to consider:

Ability to Scale Services to Support Your Company's Growth

You certainly plan to grow your business, and you'll want to work with a company large enough to have the resources to stay ahead of your growth. While many regional companies promise to work with you, they may not be able to scale when you are ready.

Breadth and Depth of Services

Of course, your vCISO will provide executive guidance and expertise, but you'll also want to choose a company that can back that up with action. Calance has a broad array of security services and expertise in deploying security solutions.

Partnering with a company like Calance means that your vCISO will have a broad supporting team to call in when needed, saving you time, reducing your risk, and giving you peace of mind. In addition to that, Calance is part of a group of companies that can offer services beyond traditional security services. These include IT Helpdesk functions and DevOps enablement services. This is important because large security initiatives often involve these functional areas as well. Having these services available from the same source will ensure that complex security projects go smoothly.

Partnerships in the Security Industry

Calance has experience and partnerships with security companies like Artic Wolf, CrowdStrike, Proofpoint KnowBe4 and Avertium. Calance has carefully chosen these best-of-breed partnerships to offer end-to-end integrated solutions when needed at any time and place. Therefore, you won't risk deploying obsolete or orphaned solutions.

The Right Partner for Your vCISO-As-a-Service

Clearly, more and more SMBs are engaging vCISO-As-a-Service, and it's easy to see why. It provides incredible value to companies who can't afford to hire a full-time CISO, nor do they need to. The vCISO approach can provide all the benefits at a much lower cost. Meanwhile, selecting a vCISO from an established player in the industry reduces risk and gets your security plan up and running much faster.

If you have further questions or want to discuss how a vCISO can help you and your company, contact Calance today at www.calanceus.com.