What is CISO as a Service and Why Do Businesses Use Them?

Securing your business’s online presence is not an easy task. It’s complex, resource-heavy that many businesses don’t quite know how to approach or manage effectively. There’s a lot of misinformation out there; it’s tricky for executives to know what security direction to go in without an internal Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or a CISO as a Service provider.

However, resolving cybersecurity misconceptions is crucial. Without clear knowledge of your needs, it’s difficult to develop and manage a cybersecurity program that can meaningfully protect your online assets (bearing in mind, however, that no program can guarantee total protection).

This is where CISO as a Service (CISOaaS) can be an invaluable option. 

Today we’re going to explain why this is and how businesses are leveraging CISOaaS options to keep their security program and initiatives up-to-date and in tip-top shape.

What is CISO as a Service?

CISO as a Service covers the outsourcing of security leadership roles to a third-party expert, such as a security consulting firm or independent security expert. The contracted CISO will work closely with a company’s executives, internal security team, and information technology people, to fill knowledge and skills gaps.

Working with a CISO can be for a short period of time or as part of a long-term relationship.

As Zach Fuller, Founding Partner at Silent Sector puts it, “With CISO-as-a-Service, companies have the opportunity to access tailored security advice and guidance without having to make the large commitment and expenditure for a full-time, in-house resource. This allows a company to work with the right people, at the right time, and keep every aspect of their security programming in a good place.”


Knowledge Accessed With CISO as a Service

Any fractional CISO should ultimately expand and hone a company’s overall skills and knowledge of its security posture and cyber risk management program. It should effectively address existing concerns at the security management level and give direction on how to best move forward.

Examples of services a CISOaaS provider can deliver often includes:

  • Compliance readiness
  • Cyber risk assessments
  • Compliance gap assessments
  • Internal training and education
  • Cybersecurity program development
  • Cybersecurity management guidance
  • Governance documentation preparation
  • Third party vendor assessments

💡Tip: What Services Should You Not Use a CISO as a Service Provider For?

  • vCISO services do not replace all the functions of an internal security department. CISO as a Service should enhance and strengthen your current security initiatives and management processes - not run all the tools and respond to incidents for you.

Why Do Businesses Leverage CISO as a Service?

There are many reasons why a business needs CISO services. All organizations are unique and each has their own unique reasons for enlisting support from a CISOaaS provider. However, in general, businesses leverage CISOaaS in order to build their information security strategy and governance without having to invest in a fulltime CISO officer. 

Or, they may need specialized support that their security leaders aren’t well-versed in. For instance, they may bring on a fractional CISO who has the unique expertise they need to fill knowledge gaps in their cybersecurity program.

However, three of the most common underlying reasons why businesses choose to work with a CISOaaS provider is:

  • They need to meet compliance requirements for contractual obligations.
  • They want to meet compliance requirements to expand their client base.
  • They lack the necessary resources to bring on an internal CISO full-time.


3 Benefits of Working With a CISOaaS Provider

Save on Labor Costs

Employing leaders isn’t cheap and many companies simply don’t have the resources to bring on top-level security experts full-time. However, the risk of not having someone in that role is far more costly in the event of a cyber attack.

With CISOaaS, companies have the option of filling that role without the hefty price tag. Companies often save between 20 - 40 percent with fractional hiring practices instead of traditional ones.

Remember the saying, “Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” Well, with CISOaaS, you pay for the milk but get the whole cow for free.


Expand Business Potential

More and more companies are requiring their vendors to meet certain cybersecurity standards in order to do business with them. For instance, to be a contractor for the Federal US government, businesses must comply with certain government contractor requirements.

Or, anyone who wants to do business in the healthcare industry must comply with requirements that may include:

  • HIPAA security rules
  • HHS405(d) regulations
  • QSR - Medical device manufacturing regulations

Meeting one or more of these compliance requirements isn’t simple. It requires in-depth analyses and action plans. A fractional CISO can help companies meet these requirements and ensure they don’t miss out on valuable business opportunities due to compliance issues.


Maximize Asset Value

Understanding how to use the tools, hardware, and software at your disposal to better fortify your business and security program often needs an expert’s view. A qualified CISOaaS provider will assess a company’s current security assets and provide guidance on how to maximize its usage before suggesting expensive overhauls.


Overcome Cybersecurity Growth Ceiling

“Almost all business-to-business companies hit what I call the cybersecurity ceiling at some point in their growth cycle. This is the ceiling of complexity where the company struggles to meet cybersecurity and compliance demands of its clients.”

Zach Fuller, Silent Sector

In order to meet customer demand and overcome the challenges of meeting multiple compliance requirements, a fractional CISO can be brought on for this objective.


Not All CISO as a Service Providers Are Equal

Learn How to Find the Right vCISO For You - Listen to Ep.105 of the Cyber Rants Podcast!

Listen Now

How to Get the Most From Your CISO as a Service Relationship

As with any business partnership, how you navigate the relationship will have a huge impact on on the success of your investment. Below are some tips on how to get the most out of your CISOaaS relationship.


Understand the Role of a Fractional CISO

Always keep in mind that a fractional CISO is a part-time security leader who provides strategic guidance and expertise. They are not a replacement for your internal security team, but rather a way to supplement their expertise.

A CISOaaS provider can help your fill security knowledge gaps, provide strategic direction, and ensure your security strategy is helping you achieve your strategic goals. 

However, they are not typically involved in day-to-day operations or hands-on tasks and should not be viewed as a quick-fix to internal solutions.

What to Expect From a CISO as a Service Provider

Fractional CISO Should Do

Fractional CISO Should Not Do

Provide strategic guidance

Manage day-to-day security and compliance tasks

Fill knowledge gaps

Replace your internal technical team

Ensure your security program supports your business goals

Overrule your internal technical team


Manage Expectations

It's crucial to manage both you and your providers expectations throughout your engagement. Everyone must understand what role the CISOaaS provider will play on your leadership team, what services they will provide, and the established goals you want to achieve through this relationship.

Be sure to define and regularly review the following expectations:

  • Relationship goals and objectives
  • Know the scope of their services
  • Set realistic timelines
  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs)


Keep Communication Open

Open and regular communication will be key to get the most out of your CISOaaS relationship. Remember, you need to work closely with your fractional CISO and clear communication is necessary. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and that any issues or concerns can be addressed promptly.

It's also important to provide feedback and updates regularly. This helps the fractional CISO adjust their approach and strategies as needed to better serve your business.


Support Your Internal Team

Integrating a fractional CISO into your team can be a significant change. It's important to support your internal IT as they may feel threatened or uneasy with a new leader. Your team needs to understand the role of the fractional CISO as well as how they can benefit from their expertise. 

Remember, a fractional CISO is there to support and guide your existing technology professionals, not replace them. Giving your team the information they need to understand this will help to ensure a smooth transition and make room for a successful partnership to develop.


Work with a Qualified and Trusted CISO as a Service Provider

At Silent Sector, we provide companies with consultants who have the expertise, education, and skills needed to propel their business forward. We also go the extra mile. 

While many CISO providers offer exceptional insight, they don’t stick around to help you implement their recommendations. We know this can lead to issues and is why we offer more including penetration testing, security engineering, and security architecture.

We’ve helped numerous companies meet the compliance and security requirements they need to secure their assets and expand their reach - and we can help you too.

Contact our team to learn how we can get your company in the position you need to meet business goals and security objectives.

About the Author

Written by Haidon Storro

Cybersecurity Research & Content Manager, Silent Sector -- Haidon Storro is a Cyber Security Analyst for CVS Health. She has her BS in IT Cyber Security as well as security certifications like CompTIA Security+ and ISC2. While Haidon is newer to the security community, she has dedicated herself to learning as much as she can through internships, online courses, and conventions like DefCon. In her free time, she enjoys reading about new advancements in technology, going to security meetups and participating in cyber defense competitions. One of Haidon’s goals is to make the connected world safer by bridging the human aspect with technology.