VIRTUAL CISO-A Logical method to manage Cyber security compliance in Start-ups

VIRTUAL CISO-A Logical method to manage Cyber security compliance in Start-ups


During the current era, both big companies and small start-ups, are using Information Technology for ease of doing business, however it makes them vulnerable for Cyber-attacks. So, it becomes necessary for them to use Cyber security professionals e.g. CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) in order to protect information assets. ,It goes without saying  that information security activities in any organization consume more resources than ever before. Cyber criminals (Hackers) are becoming better all the time, and staying ahead of them is getting tougher. However, it’s not just more zero-day attacks by sophisticated criminals; competitors, growth of the organization, elevated infrastructure complexity and new compliance requirements also desire more cyber defence staff, adequate time and right technology to avoid becoming a victim of a cybersecurity breach.

In earlier days security was primarily focused on physical access to facilities and resources, or adding layers of logical controls to protect business application and data. However, security concerns of the present era don’t fit into this old traditional way anymore. Security concerns impact every aspect of an organization’s operations and should be an integral driver of strategic planning, along with all decision for future expansions.

Since cyberattacks have become smarter and more sophisticated at exploiting vulnerabilities, with the availability of many open-source tools it is easier for hackers to launch new attacks every other day. For the organizations and start-ups cyber security shall be a proactive program rather than a reactive which is to be launched at the time of cyber-attack. Thus, information security is an integral part of organizational strategic growth. It is just as important as goodwill, financial turnovers and product quality.



What is Chief Information Security Officer(CISO) and Virtual Chief Information Security Officer(V-CISO) ?

Top management team should be aware of the impact of lack of information security on their organization’s profitability and durability. A shortage of information security in the organization could result in heavy fines for non-compliance, punitive rulings after finding liability or negligence, or a loss of customers and partners after a confidence-shattering breach. There is a big risk of underestimating information security and it is too big to ignore.

In order to address the growing awareness of information security’s importance to strategic planning, many larger organizations and start-ups include a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at the executive level. Chief Information Security Officer is the executive who is responsible of Information security and cyber security compliance in the organization.

Many a times companies cannot afford the cost of having own CISO because of the huge salary range. There are situations where the organizations including start-ups need a CISO , but the budget doesn’t allow for a full-time person in that position.

However, there is a cost effective alternative. Organizations specially start-ups that lack the budget for a full time CISO can opt for an outsourced solution: The Virtual CISO, or V-CISO.

A Virtual-CISO is a information and cyber security expert who uses the expertise  of his/her years of industry experience to help organizations and start-ups  by developing and managing the implementation of the organization’s information security program in order to attain various government and non-government compliances. At a high level, V-CISOs help to build the organization’s security strategy, implementation and its management as well.

Organization’s internal security staff may work and report to V-CISO in order to strengthen the information security and cyber security framework and make it more impactful. In addition to this, the V-CISO is usually expected to be able to present the organization’s state of information security to an organization’s board, management team, auditors, or regulators.

Benefits of having a V-CISO

A V-CISO is generally a cybersecurity professional who works part-time basis offering information security services to multiple organizations at a time, working for several throughout any year. This gives organizations a flexibility to hire part-time CISO on requirement basis.

The V-CISO fills several needs through different types of services, including:

  • Information Security and Cybersecurity guidance to management executives in order to adhere compliance guidelines
  • Information Security architecture guidance
  • Incident management including response
  • Governance plans
  • Cyber Security readiness assessment
  • Compliance alignment recommendations (for ISO 27001,RBI Guidelines for banks ,NBFC, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI-DSS, CCPA and may more)
  • Remediation prioritization
  • Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery Plans and DR drills.
  • Identification of scope and objective for the information security compliance
  • Risk management (risk identification and treatment)
  • Vendor risk management
  • Coordination of audits by regulators or customers

Why you organization need a Virtual CISO?

If your organization needs more information security compliance -related guidance at the management level, consider whether a V-CISO would be a good potential option. If you are a a start-up and your budget won’t support a CISO, you might need a V-CISO .If any of the below mentioned scenarios  are similar to  your situation, your organization might need a Virtual -CISO.

  • If you are start-up and are really unaware whether you’re vulnerable to cyber security breaches: If your organization hasn’t yet assessed its information security risk, you might need a V-CISO to initiate and support that process.
  • Your organization has been breached and no one from your team was able to detect the attack: Post-breach investigations and recommendations often lead to organizational leadership remodelling. One of those remodelling includes information security member of the executive suite. If this is the case, you might need a V-CISO.
  • If you are a start-up dealing with critical customer data: In this case if you don’t want to hire a full time CISO, you need to have a V-CISO in order to safeguard your information assets and avoid high penalties because of non-compliance of various regulations
  • Important or major changes have occurred that could impact security: If your organization is having mergers or acquisition, security risk should be assessed. Any significant outside influences, such as a global pandemic or natural disaster, which could impact business continuity as well all information security. If your organization doesn’t have anyone who can guide during these times and ensure security is not compromised you might need a V-CISO.
  • If your organization wanted to share the workload for the existing CISO: Changes to the organization scope or environment, including new regulatory compliance requirements, may increase the demands of a CISO beyond their current capability. If your existing CISO requires helping hand, you might need a V-CISO.

There could be multiple reasons to have a V-CISO for your organization. An experienced V-CISO will provide valuable guidance and customised solutions as per your organizational needs. As well as it will save you from the burden of paying salary of a full-time CISO.

How to find a right V-CISO?

If you are struggling in your day-to-day information security requirements V-CISO would be a beneficial to your organization, and decided to have one. The very next step is how find the right one. A good amount or research and investigation can help you. Online reviews and existing customers feedback can help you to find a good fit, knowledgeable V-CISO for your organization.

The general process for engaging a V-CISO generally flows like this:

  • Set up an initial consultation meeting (commonly one hour at no charge)
  • The V-CISO delivers a proposal of scope of work including high-level information security readiness, proposed services and costs
  • You may accept or reject the proposal, and then moves forward
  • If you decide to engage a V-CISO, then negotiate an agreement that meets your requirements. If you need periodic gap and risk assessment and remediate report, make sure that is explicitly mentioned in the agreement deliverables.
  • An agreement with a V-CISO can be set up for a hourly, monthly or quarterly basis . Make sure that you are getting the services you are paying for.
  • A V-CISO can be an affordable and flexible approach to adding extensive information security experience and wisdom to your management team. If a V-CISO is a good fit, it can help your organization to identify and safeguard the weak links which could lead to aggressive cyberattacks.

#Key words- CISO,Virtual CISO, VCISO,vCISO, ISO 27001,GDPR,RBI, cyber security, information security, compliance, hackers, cyberattacks.

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