Over the last few years, cyber threats have evolved significantly, becoming more sophisticated and targeted than ever before. Ransomware attacks, in particular, have increased in frequency and severity, with hackers using various tactics to gain access to an organisation’s network, often through phishing emails or exploiting software vulnerabilities. Once inside, hackers can lurk within the system for weeks or even months, gaining a deep understanding of the network’s infrastructure and data (the crown jewels) before encrypting it and demanding payment for its release. This method has become the most common type of cyberattack, causing significant financial and reputational damage to organisations across various industries. The evolving nature of cyber threats highlights the need for organisations to implement strong cybersecurity measures and remain vigilant in detecting and responding to potential attacks.
One of the best ways to mitigate the risk of a successful breach is to work with a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) as a Service or part-time CISO, which can be a trusted partnership in the making. Having a dedicated security person working with the IT department can be the difference between detecting and responding to a cyberattack in a timely manner or suffering from significant financial and reputational damage.
CISO as a Service
CISO as a Service provides strategic cybersecurity expertise to organisations. This service is particularly useful for small and medium-sized enterprises that may not have the resources to hire a full-time CISO. A part-time CISO can help the organisation reduce the risk of a cyber-attack or data breach by providing a strategic approach to cybersecurity that aligns with overall business goals. A CISO as a Service is best suited to a rolling partnership agreement over time so that the CISO can understand the business, the goals, and the security posture, and implement their recommendations. Furthermore, as the security landscape is dynamic and evolves over time, having a CISO in place will help keep business and IT team up to date as things change (e.g., updates to international standards, regulations, and current and emerging threats). However, there are occasions when a CISO as a Service is required as ad-hoc occasions (e.g. Incident response, post-breach and one-off project work).
Collaboration with IT
A CISO as a service works collaboratively with the IT department or CIO (Chief Information Officer) to lead the organisation on a security journey that prioritizes cybersecurity and risk management. This entails close coordination between the CISO and IT teams to keep each other informed of the latest developments and trends in the field, as well as any potential vulnerabilities or threats. Usually, the CISO provides strategic direction and oversight while the IT department implements and maintains security measures. It is essential that both teams trust each other and foster a culture of collaboration, transparency, and communication to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks or data breaches. By working together, the CISO and IT department can effectively manage risk and protect the organisation’s digital assets. The CISO may also have a team of security experts working with them in the background to further strengthen and speed up the impact of their findings.
The Role of a CISO
Reporting to the board of management or C-Suite, the CISO’s primary role is to lead the business on a security journey over time. This is done by first understanding the business objectives and overall security posture, then assessing the risks and determining the appropriate level of security needed to protect the business. The CISO will also work with the IT department to ensure that security measures are properly implemented and maintained. Initially, it is normal practice for the CISO to produce a risk register and a gap analysis to understand the security posture (current security position of the business). From there they are better equipped to deliver an overall IT security strategy tailored to the business and in line with its risk appetite. They can also help with vendor management, achieve, or align to an international cybersecurity standard or frameworks like ISO27001:2022, NIST / NIS2 or Cyber Essentials, formulate an incident response plan, and keep the business informed ahead of changes to the standards, data protection legislation and emerging threat vectors.
Some of the key responsibilities of a CISO include:
• Develop and implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy: CISOs are responsible for developing and implementing an effective cybersecurity strategy that protects the organisation’s information assets from various cyber threats. They work closely with other IT and business leaders to identify potential vulnerabilities and develop a plan to mitigate them.
• Ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations: CISOs are responsible for ensuring that the organisation’s information security policies and procedures comply with relevant laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
• Manage security incidents: In the event of a security incident, such as a data breach or cyber-attack, CISOs are key members of a security incident response team from an information and cyber security perspective
• Provide cybersecurity training and awareness: CISOs are responsible for providing cybersecurity training and awareness programs to employees, contractors, and other stakeholders to ensure that they understand their role in protecting the organisation’s information assets.
• Manage relationships with external stakeholders: CISOs collaborate closely with external stakeholders such as vendors, customers, and partners to ensure that they comply with the organisation’s information security policies and procedures.
Having a Cyber Security Expert on the Team
By working with a CISO as a Service, organisations can benefit from an expert pair of eyes that is not just focused on IT operations, but on the security that ring fences the digital assets of a business. The CISO will not only help the business reduce the risk of attack or breach, but also support business goals through effective management of IT security.
Benefits of a CISO as a Service
In the long run, the benefits of working with a CISO as a Service can be significant. By partnering with an expert in cybersecurity, businesses can better manage risk and stay ahead of emerging threats. This can lead to increased trust from customers, better protection of intellectual property, lower cost through less waste and tool consolidation, and ultimately, more revenue for the business by reducing the risk of downtime that can be caused by adverse security events.
In conclusion, a CISO as a Service can be a trusted partnership in the making for any organisation. By working together, the CISO and the CIO/IT department can create a strategic approach to cybersecurity that aligns with business goals. This can help the organisation reduce the risk of a cyber-attack or data breach, and ultimately support business objectives through effective management of IT security.
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