Virtual Workforce and Workplace, and the role of a vCISO (Virtual CISO) in the Post-Pandemic World

Today, in the midst of a ravaging pandemic, business entities have been increasingly adopting virtual workplaces and virtual workforce solutions. Hence, enterprises globally are feeling a pressing need for hiring a virtual CISO (vCISO). Moreover, the focused efforts from a vCISO, his experience and expertise in various business and security domains, and cost-effectiveness make it an ideal option for SMBs with a modest budget.

A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) has become one of the most sought-after executive positions in various organizations globally. The challenges before a CISO are immense as their responsibilities extend beyond offering the highest level of cybersecurity guidance. It’s also about managing various internal and external stakeholders such as the board, the security teams, regulators, etc. Instances like the Target data breach or UK’s TalkTalk data compromise reiterate that the presence of a CISO as a guiding force is vital to organizations. However, at times, SMBs (Small and Mid-sized Businesses) on a limited budget may not be able to afford a full-time CISO. There could also be the case when even the large organizations may want to seek a second opinion or want to have an additional layer of security for independent business units within the organization. There lies the importance of a vCISO as a cost-effective alternative or a dedicated CISO for a business unit or department. Also, when businesses move online, a vCISO becomes a well-fitting option to the virtual workspace.

Who Is A vCISO (Virtual CISO)?

A vCISO is an outsourced security advisor who owns the responsibilities that the traditional CISO does but may be operating or managing from remote locations. Today, many SMBs and small enterprises have their presence and function online. As many SMBs and SMEs may have smaller or no dedicated security budgets, they may find it difficult to hire a full-time CISO. At the same time, maintaining a robust cybersecurity posture is essential to survive in the digital age. A virtual CISO or a vCISO offers an excellent cost-effective option wherein one can employ adequate levels of security while saving on the costs simultaneously.

Challenges Facing Conventional And Virtual Workplace

The challenges facing the conventional workforce were huge, but in a virtual work environment, these are multifold. Here are some of the common challenges that organizations can expect a virtual CISO to address:

The Expanding Threat Landscape: With more business entities working online, malicious actors have an opportunity to cast a wider net. These malicious actors keep pace with technological developments and keep inventing innovative methods to infiltrate and affect network systems. Thus, vCISOs have to contend with an expanding threat landscape.

Cybersecurity Budget: SMBs and small enterprises may not have massive budgets to formulate robust cybersecurity strategies, develop a comprehensive cybersecurity framework, or to implement the required security controls. They have to manage with low budgets as these businesses work on wafer-thin margins. Hiring a vCISO can help reduce overheads to a reasonable extent.

Continuously Evolving Regulatory Landscape: As new threats keep emerging every day, regulatory compliance requirements keep evolving with ever-changing regulations. Maintaining data privacy and security both are critical to businesses. Many regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, and others require organizations to comply with stringent security and privacy requirements, and it may not be feasible for them to keep a focus on their core business objective.

Shortage Of Skilled And Knowledgeable Employees: People are the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain, and malicious actors search for the weakest links to barge into the organization’s information systems and networks. Unaware or unskilled personnel inadvertently present convenient opportunities to these malicious actors to break into the network.

Growing Number of Devices And Secure Connections: The number of devices accessing the network increases by the day because of the growing number of devices. The pandemic has also forced employees to work from home and added a few more devices to the count. It entails accessing the organization's network from remote locations using personal devices and private internet network connections. More devices accessing a network means more potential entry points for adversaries.

How Can A vCISO Add Value To Enterprise Security In Comparison To A CISO?

Generally, SMBs prefer to hire the services of a vCISO. One of the prime advantages a vCISO has over the regular CISO is the saving in costs. Besides, a vCISO can add value to enterprise security compared to a CISO in the following ways.

● Unlike the regular CISOs, the vCISOs are independent professionals that update their knowledge with the latest technologies and innovations to ensure they are aware of the emerging threats. CISOs require regular training and certifications regularly at the organization’s cost.

● The regular CISO is a full-time employee of the organization. Hence, they generally take an active part in organizational dynamics that could take up their valuable time. On the other hand, the vCISO focuses solely on cybersecurity responsibilities to provide more value to the organization.

● A vCISO offers flexibility to the organization as the latter can discontinue the relationship at any point if it is unsatisfied with the performance.

● Compared to a regular CISO, the vCISO requires less onboarding time to adapt to all business situations. They are trained professionals with a complete understanding of risk tolerance and other organizational objectives before implementing their strategies.

● The vCISO is a cybersecurity professional who relieves the internal IT security, and internal audit teams of the daunting responsibilities of maintaining a robust cybersecurity framework and assessing it timely. Besides, they work for multiple clients and have exposure to diverse issues that the regular CISO might not. Hence, their productivity levels are higher.

Who Should Be Hiring A vCISO?

Generally, corporate entities and large organizations have established cybersecurity practice with teams working 24x7 to secure their enterprise network. These massive business entities have the financial capacity to hire a specialist CISO to entrust the cybersecurity related tasks. On the other hand, smaller businesses and start-up enterprises work on small budgets. Hence, they should explore the concept of hiring a vCISO. Similarly, professional entities like law firms, consulting firms, etc., can also employ a vCISO as they need not spend vast amounts on hiring a cybersecurity specialist.

Role of A vCISO In The Post-Pandemic World

With more business entities working online round the-clock and their employees working from home in the post-pandemic world, there is an increasing need for organizations to hire vCISOs. The vCISO has an inherent advantage; they can handle multiple responsibilities in more than one business entity. They can apply the diverse knowledge, skills, and experience gained from various projects to their following critical duties.

● Cultivate an updated view on the risk posture as the IT industry is constantly evolving.

● Bring innovative thinking like adopting cloud-based services, Zero-trust policies, and re-evaluating risk profiles, especially third-party service providers.

● Bring in the capabilities to maintain the high availability and security of VPNs and ensure that employees working from home use them securely to access the office network.

● Keeping a watch on insider threats such as, disgruntled employees, usage of third-party applications, etc.

● Focusing on application and network security, change and configuration management, secure SDLC (System Development Life Cycle), Identity and access management and privilege access management, etc.

● Ensuring better regulatory compliance and establish a better corporate cybersecurity risk-aware culture.

Final Words

The continuous lockdowns and economic downturn due to the pandemic have hit almost all businesses hard. SMBs and small enterprises having modest budgets cannot afford to hire a full-time CISO. However, the post-pandemic world is witnessing a rise in cyber incidents globally. Therefore, such organizations can explore the possibilities of hiring a virtual CISO or vCISOs who can perform the responsibilities of cybersecurity framework development, information risk management, formulating and managing cybersecurity strategies efficiently. This cost-effective way is becoming the trend today as the vCISOs come equipped with unique skill sets to handle tactical and strategic cybersecurity strategies efficiently and can help organizations build a cybersecurity-aware culture where security is deemed everyone’s responsibility.


  1. Drinkwater, D. (2018, March 09). What Is A Virtual CISO? When And How To Hire One? CSO.
  2. Happiest Minds. Virtual CISO.
  3. RSI Security. (2020, March 27). vCISO Vs. CISO: What's The Difference?

Previous Post Next Post