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How a virtual CISO can become part of a managed security regime

13 May 2019

Article by NCC Group risk management and governance consulting APAC Head Joss Howard 

In a world where Netflix provides TV shows and movies as-a-service, Spotify offers music as-a-service and Microsoft delivers software-as-a-service, it makes sense that cybersecurity should also be delivered and consumed as-a-service.

Like other forms of as-a-service offerings, cybersecurity-as-a-service is becoming an increasingly appealing option for organisations looking to dynamically navigate the broader cyber threat landscape while still keeping costs in check.

With this in mind, security-as-a-service is a particularly compelling option for smaller businesses that perhaps do not yet have the resources to adequately maintain a cybersecurity regime internally, or for larger organisations that are at a point where they need a step-change in terms of capabilities, but aren’t yet in a position to go it alone.

This is where managed security service providers (MSSP) typically step in.

The MSSP option is a good start for organisations wanting a more manageable approach to security, partly by shifting their security costs out of capex and into opex, but also by outsourcing the security tasks that require specialist knowledge or systems that may be tricky to obtain internally.

However, this is just the start.

A good MSSP should represent the perfect partner to step in and immediately take on the day-to-day security operations of an organisation.

But what about the broader strategic direction needed to point an organisation in the right direction when it comes to protecting itself now and into the future?

This is something most good MSSPs can certainly help with.

However, when it comes to finding a guiding hand to continually evaluate, maintain and improve an organisation’s security posture, especially during growth phases of the business, an extra level of oversight is sometimes desirable.

For a larger enterprise, this would ideally come in the form of a chief information security officer (CISO), and for medium-sized organisations, a good chief information officer (CIO) or a particularly knowledgeable security manager would play a part in ensuring the organisation is on the right path.

For organisations that don’t have these internal resources but still require C-level security expertise to underpin their security operations, a virtual CISO may be the way to go.

Some MSSPs offer virtual CISO services, which usually include regular dedicated onsite time by a qualified CISO, as a way to give organisations the value of the high-level direction an internal CISO is able to deliver at the enterprise end of the market, but without the associated expense.

Here are three ways a virtual CISO can help organisations make the most of their managed security services:


A good CISO is typically someone who can lead security transformation programs in large enterprises and maintain oversight of the security operations, budget, resources and third parties while reporting directly to the board of an enterprise.

These people represent the guiding hand that directs an organisation’s security strategy and execution.

A virtual CISO is able to take on these responsibilities and, drawing upon the individual’s experience and knowledge-base, establish the most appropriate ongoing strategy for an organisation.


Because CISOs are part of a broader outsourced security team, they can enable quick implementation without waiting for additional recruitment.

This situation also gives CISOs the ability to personally select the best tools to meet the organisation’s needs and effectively augment its security operations.

Moreover, virtual CISOs have the ability to provide best-in-class cybersecurity strategy practices from other sectors and add these to the operations of the organisation they are actively working with.

Perhaps most importantly of all, virtual CISOs are in a position to garner C-level buy-in and ensure adequate resourcing for a strong cyber posture.


The strategy is in place, the C-level buy-in is secured, so what comes next?

This is where an MSSP would typically be able to provide a set of products or services that should provide the best mix of security measures for a sound security regime. 

A virtual CISO can act as a proactive intermediary and provide explicit direction to the MSSP in an effort to identify and implement the best short, medium and long-term solutions to obtain and maintain an appropriate and sustainable security posture.

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