fractional ciso

Questions to Ask a vCISO

CISO as a serviceCISO (Chief Information Security Officer) services can be an excellent business solution, but it doesn’t come without challenges. Many companies rush into finding vCISO services and end up with a relationship they did not expect. If your organization is considering going this route for your cybersecurity initiatives, you’ll want to compare providers. Start your hiring a CISO-as-a-Service by asking potential partners these questions.

Why Should You Consider Hiring a CISO-as-a-Service?

There are many reasons that companies choose to hire a CISO-as-a-Service. It allows companies of any size to have a robust, best-in-class cybersecurity strategy and plan. It’s an affordable approach to managing cybersecurity activities and enables organizations to mature their cybersecurity posture. Many startups or leaner enterprises don’t have the option to pay a high salary for a CISO.

You can engage a CISO-as-a-Service provider to provide strategic and tactical support. There’s no training time involved in hiring a consultant, so there’s no delay in getting started.

Time to Ask the Right Questions

There are many options for CISO-as-a-Service for businesses. However, they aren’t necessarily equal in their capabilities, experience, or breadth of services. Some providers also treat the service as one-size-fits-all, and that’s not in anyone’s best interest. Every company is unique and has its own sets of risks and challenges. To best compare the offerings, ask the right questions.

1. Do they have experience in your industry and the compliance regulations specific to it?

Highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance, have specific needs when it comes to CISOs and cybersecurity. There are laws and regulations to which you must adhere. If that applies to your business, it’s imperative to ask about their past experience with these compliance measures. Without specific experience, you may find the provider hitting a learning curve, which could cause delays and exposure to risk.

2. Do they have audit experience?

On day one, the CISO-as-a-Service should perform audits to understand where your cybersecurity is and where it needs to go. These are fundamental activities, but this doesn’t mean every provider offers them or has experience with them.

The most important audits are a data Breach Prevention Audit (BPA) and a CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification) audit. Ask the provider about how they conduct the audits and what the deliverables will look like. Request samples of these audits if available.

3. Have they developed and implemented strategic security plans?

The main objective of hiring a CISO-as-a-Service is for the firm to develop a strategic security plan and then implement it. When assessing vendors, dig deep into their experience with these two things. It’s one thing for a provider to say they’ve created plans in an abstract way. It’s another when they have specific examples of doing so for other customers and what they have helped them achieve.

For a CISO-as-a-Service to be legitimate and reputable, they don’t need a long list of well-known brands as customers. What they do need is case studies and data that show they were able to execute on developed plans. Viewing a high-level cybersecurity roadmap example can instill great confidence that the company has the experience to lead your security efforts.

4. Do they have expertise in strategic and tactical roles?

As noted, a CISO-as-a-Service can serve both a strategic and tactical role. In most cases, businesses want to leverage both. They must have expertise in both areas. Here are the differences:

  • Strategic CISO-as-a-Service roles assist leadership teams with cybersecurity strategies that align with business objectives. This strategy includes one-, two-, and three-year roadmaps. You’ll receive guidance and recommendations on cybersecurity best practices to prevent incidents and breaches.
  • Tactical CISO-as-a-Service roles actually execute the tasks within the strategy. The CISO-as-a-Service acts as a project manager to offer oversight on these activities.

5. Is there one point of contact?

Typically, CISO-as-a-Service isn’t one individual. Rather, it’s a team of experts that have knowledge in multiple areas. That’s certainly the model you want to find because it means you have access to a group of experts. But what helps is having one point of contact to discuss tasks and deliverables. A dedicated project manager helps keep things organized and streamlined so you’re always up to date.

6. What kind of reporting do they offer?

Reporting is key to cybersecurity. From regular reporting, you learn about vulnerabilities, threats, user behaviors, and more. At a minimum, you should receive monthly reports on these concerns and what the CISO-as-a-Service has deployed.

7. Do you have Incident Response Plan experience?

If you don’t currently have an Incident Response Plan (IRP) or haven’t revisited it in a while, this need will shift to your CISO-as-a-Service. Make sure this deliverable is part of their services. They can quickly develop an interim one, then work to craft a formal IRP and ensure all parties are aware of it and know their roles.

8. How do they stay up to date with cybersecurity trends?

Cybersecurity threats are always evolving. Threat actors use sophisticated phishing techniques, and hackers deploy many attempts to penetrate networks. You need a team that has a pulse on what’s going on right now in the security world. Ask potential partners how they stay up to date and learn about new challenges, solutions, and tools.

Ready to Hire a CISO-as-a-Service?

If you’re planning to hire a CISO-as-a-Service, be sure to ask these questions as you evaluate vendors. Our solution is comprehensive, cost-effective, and delivers value for your business. You can get started by booking a discovery session with me today!