How SMBs Can Afford a Chief Security Officer

How Are SMBs to Navigate Today’s Cyber Threats?

In today’s world, security threats are coming from all sides. While security has always been a hot topic in the IT industry, recent high profile cyber attacks (such as the Kaseya attack in early July, the JBS attack in June, and the Colonial Pipeline attack in May) are making it increasingly evident that businesses must be prepared.

Small to medium sized business (SMB) leaders have a lot on their plate. Managing employees, budgets, business strategy, and more, in addition to leveraging technology properly, is a lot to manage and prioritize. When it comes to security, there can be no room for error, but SMB leaders simply do not have the bandwidth to manage such a critical component of your business.

Enterprise companies typically hire a dedicated Chief Security Officer (CSO) or Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to oversee all aspects of risk management, security policies, and IT infrastructure. This individual is usually CISSP certified, follows NIST (or similar) standards, and ultimately has a deeper level of expertise in the cybersecurity field. They are security specialists providing a level of understanding dedicated solely to keeping the business protected.

You may think the skills of a CSO sound so specialized that hiring one, like any other CXO, is expensive. And you would be correct. Hiring a CSO into your organization costs on average $173,000 per year, and oftentimes more. The majority of SMBs do not require a full-time CSO and cannot justify this in-house cost. And yet their businesses are still at risk, just as much as any Fortune 500 company. Enter…the virtual Chief Security Officer, or vCSO.

vCSOs – The Benefits of a Chief Security Officer Without the Price Tag

A virtual Chief Security Officer is ideal for companies who cannot justify the expense of a full time, in-house CSO, but still need to leverage the knowledge of a security expert.

The vCSO is a contracted, (mostly) remote role that allows for the cost of this expert to be spread across several organizations. SMBs can get the level of security consulting they need at a fraction of the cost. Typically, vCSOs cost about 30-40% of the salary for hiring a full-time CSO.

Plus, because they have vast experience in varying sized organizations and industries, they bring an additional level of expertise to the partnership. vCSOs stay abreast of the everchanging cyber landscape and can implement changes within your business quickly (if necessary) to keep your cyber defense strong. Additionally, since they work with multiple organizations and are not isolated to one company, they can offer unbiased ideas and perspectives for your business and your security strategy.

So now that you know a CSO is attainable for your business, what does it look like after you’ve hired your vCSO?

Network Assessment

To begin, the vCSO will assess every aspect of your company’s technology infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities or improvements. If your industry has regulatory compliance requirements such as HIPAA, alignment with these requirements will also be evaluated.

Following this assessment, the vCSO will work closely with your management team to define top security priorities and develop your organization’s overall security strategy. Even if you do not hire a vCSO full time, it is advantageous to leverage their expertise to understand your business’s security strengths and weaknesses, as well as guidance on security projects.

Continuing to Strengthen Your Security

As the vCSO becomes more familiar with your organization and technical environment, they can begin long-term security advising, beyond the initial assessment. Security gaps can begin to be remedied. This includes implementing or improving system controls, creating and testing Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans, and advising management on security best practices regarding new projects and organizational changes.

Part of Your Organization’s Long Term Strategy

A vCSO is available to be a partner of your organization for a long time.

A solid vCSO will serve in an advisory capacity to your management team, working alongside them to support any changes your organization undergoes. They can provide consultation and testing of security incident response plans, Disaster Recovery plans, and Business Continuity plans. Such strategic plans should be reviewed periodically to withstand modern cyber threats or unforeseen natural disasters. Your vCSO will offer recommendations about new and upcoming security tools and best practices, allowing your business to stay ahead of security game.

vCSOs can also assist with both internal and external security audits. For internal audits, your vCSO will ensure your organization has ongoing discussions about IT security, supporting less technical individuals on your management team in their understanding of what needs to be continued or altered.

For external audits, your vCSO can serve as a liaison between the external and internal teams to facilitate communications and streamline the process. If you are considering cyber insurance, your vCSO can assist with preparation for a cyber insurance policy, making sure you follow policy requirements so you maintain full coverage in the event of an incident.

SMBs Can Conquer the Cybersecurity Landscape with a Virtual Chief Security Officer

Cyberthreats are an overwhelming concept to tackle, keeping business leaders awake at night contemplating the impacts if their organization was attacked.

While a full-time Chief Security Officer is impractical in both scope and cost for small to medium sized businesses, a virtual Chief Security Officer offers to meet their needs in the middle, supplying affordability without sacrificing knowledgeability. Having a vCSO allows SMBs peace of mind that they have a competent individual advising and helping to manage their security posture without breaking the bank.


Interested in learning more about a vCSO for your business? Request a Quote >>

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July of 2020 and has since been updated for accuracy and relevance. 

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