What is a vCISO and how can financial companies benefit from it?

Security risks are increasing for financial institutions. A recent Trend Micro survey found that banks saw a 1,318% increase in year-over-year ransomware attacks in the first half of 2021, even as financial firms overtook retail businesses as as the third most popular target for phishing attacks.

According to research firm Deloitte, this evolving security landscape speaks to the need for financial firms to design a “modern toolkit for risk and compliance.” In practice, however, this is not always a straightforward task: banks need to identify potential vulnerabilities, assess their impact, and develop remediation strategies on ever-growing networks.

To help streamline this process, many companies have turned to CISOs, highly trained and experienced IT security professionals who can help banks get the most out of today’s security solutions and find new ways to improve overall protection.

But what about small companies or fintechs that have just entered the market? What about community banks and credit unions whose budgets don’t allow for hiring a full-time CISO? For those, a virtual CISO can help bridge the gap, without breaking the bank.

READ MORE: Find out how AI can help financial institutions mitigate risk.

What is a vCISO?

A virtual RSSI is actually an “on-demand RSSI”. Instead of spending time researching the right candidate, conducting interviews, shortlisting candidates and defining the scope of full-time responsibilities, financial firms can turn to virtual CISO services to quickly onboard finance professionals. high-level security in ongoing operations.

Virtual CISOs are typically offered by vendors who have created and organized a cadre of experienced personnel who can transition seamlessly into an institution’s operations. Before signing a vCISO for a fixed-term contract, the internal staff of the financial company usually have the opportunity to connect with the vCISO and ensure that he or she is the right person for the organization.

It should also be noted that “virtual” in vCISO is not specifically about remote work. While hybrid frameworks are increasingly common among financial firms and many security tasks can be handled virtually – particularly if they involve cloud or mobile services – the term “virtual” simply refers to the fact that vCISO are not regular company employees – instead, they are contractors hired for a fixed term or professionals working on assignment to help organizations achieve specific goals.

When does hiring a vCISO make sense?

There are several situations where hiring a vCISO can be more efficient than hiring full-time staff. The first is budget: CISOs are experienced security professionals who receive significant salaries and benefits given their role and responsibilities. Financial firms may also have specific security tasks they seek to accomplish, such as creating defensible hybrid work solutions, which are best addressed on a project-by-project basis.

Consideration should also be given to the benefits of connecting with a vCISO to circumvent the challenges that come with a market-wide skills gap among cybersecurity professionals associated with the continued impact of the Great Resignation on financial firms. of all sizes.

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How can virtual CISOs benefit financial institutions?

There are three main areas where banks and credit unions can benefit from the services of a vCISO:

  • Cost: According to research firm Gartner, total cash compensation for a full-time CISO now ranges between $208,000 and $337,000 per year. And while experienced CISOs are well worth the cost, many banks simply don’t have that kind of money in their staffing budget, especially as they seek to navigate the new finance landscape. mobile-focused post-pandemic.

Virtual CISOs can help financial institutions save money without sacrificing security. Instead of paying a full-time salaried employee, organizations can hire a vCISO on a contract basis. Need help for three months? Six? No problem. Businesses can find the best-fit vCISO who understands the industry, then leverage their talents for a set period of time to complete a specific task or complete priority projects. Once the contract is completed, no obligation exists on either side.

  • Compliance: CISOs can also help banks comply with regulations. This is critical as compliance expectations continue to evolve: as of April 1, 2022, banking organizations are required to report any “significant” cybersecurity incident within 36 hours of discovery. In practice, “significant” means an incident that materially affects a bank’s ability to provide its products or services or that has a negative impact on the viability of its operations. Virtual CISOs can identify potential vulnerabilities to reduce the risk of compromise and assess damage from cybersecurity attacks to determine whether incidents should be reported.
  • Trust: The increasing use of cloud and mobile technologies in the banking industry, coupled with the rapidly changing nature of security threats, often leaves staff and leaders feeling uneasy about when, where and how to new attacks will occur. However, by hiring vCISOs, financial firms gain the peace of mind that comes with in-depth knowledge and expertise. While it is possible for banks to follow do-it-yourself security frameworks using available solutions and personnel, vCISOs are experienced security contractors who have identified, addressed, and resolved issues in a multitude of network configurations and infrastructure models.

Although hiring a permanent CISO is not an option for an institution, a vCISO can offer the best of both worlds: real value without the cost and complexity of hiring full-time staff.

This article is part of BizTechit is Equity Blog Series. Please join the discussion on Twitter using the #FinanceTech hashtag.