What is a virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO)?

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A virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO or even fCISO) is a dedicated resource that serves that function in a virtualized or fractional basis. A vCISO combines expertise in business functions and processes, network operations and security operations. They uniquely equipped to assist with assessing cybersecurity risks, providing advice to your cybersecurity efforts and interacting and providing counsel for leadership and executives, during decision making. As threats against organizations continue to grow in frequency and complexity, 

A vCISO drives Security Operations and complements a vCIO, whose focus is more around Network Operations. Smaller organizations may not always make the distinction between Network monitoring versus Security monitoring, which are vastly different things. In the same way, cybersecurity experts fall into vastly different specialized roles that non-security people may not recognize, like security experts would.  

For example, the Security Architect who is expert at designing the protections, the Analyst that watches for Indicators of Compromise, the Auditor that evaluates systems and controls and even the Forensics professional that can trace and investigate a suspected cyber incident. Usually, a real forensics review for an incident is best done by a vendor of your cyberinsurance carrier, as you want to make sure any incident is truly examined for potential loss or ongoing threats. Verizon’s 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) estimated the mean time to detect a cyber attack for organizations with all the right detection tools, could be as soon as days (60%). However, 20% could be months or more. Breaches occur just after an IT Manager proudly proclaims “everything is fine” and some notorious breaches have come after getting a clean bill of health. There is no major bullet and no such thing as 100% secure.

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Why do I need a virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO)?

Maybe you think you don’t. But, please distinguish the difference between real cybersecurity expertise versus real network expertise. Security is focused at a high level on the CIA triad of Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability.  

The Fulcrum Group has selected the CIS Critical Security Controls Version 8, as the best security framework to support SMB organizations. A key feature of CIS is that it employs a prioritized set of safeguards to be more cost efficient for small organizations. The organization created three different Implementation Groups to help prioritize our efforts. So while the largest or more complex organizations would have all 153 Safeguards in place, smaller organizations with limited resources are focused towards Implementation Group 1 and its 56 safeguards as a baseline for good basic cyber hygiene.  

 In the event of a cybersecurity incident or data breach, a vCISO can provide guidance and leadership to help mitigate the impact, coordinate incident response efforts, and facilitate communication with stakeholders, regulators, and law enforcement authorities.

Many industries are subject to regulatory requirements and compliance standards related to cybersecurity, such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, etc. A vCISO can help ensure that your organization remains compliant with relevant regulations and standards, reducing the risk of non-compliance penalties and fines.

Cyber threats are constantly evolving, and organizations need to continually assess and mitigate their cybersecurity risks. A vCISO can conduct risk assessments, identify vulnerabilities, and develop risk management strategies to help protect your organization from cyber attacks and data breaches.

Employee awareness and training are crucial components of a strong cybersecurity posture. A vCISO can develop and implement cybersecurity training programs to educate employees about potential threats, security best practices, and their roles and responsibilities in protecting sensitive information.

A vCISO can help align your cybersecurity efforts with your overall business goals and objectives. They can assist in developing and implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that addresses your organization’s unique risk profile and compliance requirements.

What does the company’s top executive need to do?


Access to a vCISO does not guarantee success. Smaller organizations tend to have looser controls and require an internal champion to be a change agent for security efforts. Since there is an inverse relationship between security and networking, security initiatives can sometimes cause challenges to get better. Whether it’s policies that need an executive to hold everyone accountable, new settings that reinforce concepts such as “least privilege”, “separation of duties”, “role-based permissions” or simply holding everyone in the organization accountable for security awareness training, it can be tough.  Below are the top four items that would be a key part of any CEO to a vCISO success recipe. 

Youll be impressed what a vCISO can do

What should a quality vCISO provide to a Small or Medium sized organization?

A strong vCISO should be able to educate a leader, with just understanding for the executive to make smart technology decisions.

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Business objectives and vision

a vCISO must help secure data and networks but always remember that organizations are in business, to stay in business, or charged with missions to accomplish for their constituents. Through discussion with leadership, a vCISO helps executives understand the trade-offs in ease-of-use and security, to find a point appropriate to the organization and end-users.

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Keys to the kingdom

a vCISO and an owner or top executive must identify together the most important applications and data repositories. This could start with identifying the organizations key processes, mapping out data workflows or establishing data classifications. There are also automated scanning activities that can help identify applications or map out systems. We have to know what we’re trying to protect before we can set up defenses properly and cost efficiently.

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Budgeting and resource management

No organization has unlimited time or money. A vCIO would look for ways to deliver the desired results within the constraints of the organization. Expertise in leadership, team management, project management or vendor management skills could potentially save thousands and thousands of dollars.

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a vCISO, owner or top executive and network operations must work together as if they’re on the same team, because they are. Like any management team there must be some disagreement to come up with the best concepts but everyone must work together after the decisions are made. Operations feels the pain if technology doesn’t seem easy, security feels the pain if there is an incident or data is lost in the executive is to hear about everything that’s a perceived problem.

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Strategic vision

Seek to understand the business context first, then align IT strategies with the overall business direction. Focus innovation on priority areas and perhaps take advantage of emerging technologies or trends. Our network assessment template includes a current capabilities review of areas such as cloud, applications, Microsoft 365 environment, network and server infrastructure, cybersecurity and business continuity, to name a few.

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Cybersecurity knowledge

a vCIO must bring a breath of cybersecurity knowledge from technologies, trends, compliance, third-party risk and policies. Certifications like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) reinforce our abilities to understand, effectively design, deploy in stages and create cybersecurity programs and supporting documents.

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How does the Fulcrum Group handle the vCISO services?

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Our team has on staff personnel capable of assisting with most vCISO functions, in-house, including a CISSP. We are also part of a national network, the Trust X Alliance, of over 300 similar organizations in the US and Canada. Via the relationship, we have additional access for specialty cybersecurity skills and services from those firms, already vetted by the organization.

Key to our vCISO service efforts are our processes and deliverables.

  • Cybersecurity strategy and planning- at a strategic level, we assist in aligning security efforts with existing networks and business context. Small organizations may focus too much on only Protective efforts, missing out on important Left of Boom and Right of Boom activities. It is hard to see cybersecurity near and far the same time, but a vCISO can utilize simple tools like the Cyber Defense Matrix to map different aspects of technology to the National Institute of Standards and Technology five core functions, of their Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF 1.1). 
  • General Risk Assessments- our framework-based risk assessment is focused around the 18 CIS Control areas and 56 specific Safeguards in Implementation Group 1. This checklist-based review helps us understand your current cybersecurity efforts and activities, to give back an executive overview how close your organization is to Good Basic Hygiene. 
  • Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance (GRC) – there is a vast difference between the various compliances that require prior knowledge or intimate understanding.  We’ve conducted Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security Rule risk assessments, per 45 CFR § 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(A), on both Covered Entities and Business Associates and embraced Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices HICP 405(D). We also currently comply with Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Security Policy for our local government clients and work with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS 4.0) clients, though, not as an Authorized Scanning Vendor.  
  • Scanning and testing- we are able to provide a variety of cybersecurity efforts and reports such as vulnerability scanning, automated and manual pen testing and others. We also offer various security tools as part of our MSSP offerings, or as a single cloud offering. 

Contact our sales team at our main number 817–337–0300 for more details or request more information at the link below. 


your Technology road map allign to your goal

We employ the creation of logical network maps, application and data workflow maps and technology roadmaps to establish concepts. We developed these deliverables originally to assist our managed services Service Desk ramp up on new clients, but these Visio drawings also seem to assist non-technical executives visualize their own technologies, 

And we regularly employ metrics to assist us with understanding the impact of our efforts in guiding us on a continuous innovation journey and maintaining leverage in network operations 

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