We check for mitigation controls for 17 types of cyber attacks: account compromise, unauthorized access, ransomware, network intrusions, malware infections, sabotage, security policy violations, and more.
Has everyone in the organization received the appropriate and easy to understand security awareness training? If yes, then do they even remember anything from it? Has anyone tested their understanding?
How many vulnerable machines/apps can a company have in its network?
Through the Virtual CISO service, we help our customers establish and manage a Vulnerability management program, which will gradually reduce their network vulnerabilities.
Getting access to a corporate account may grant a hacker access to all internal systems. We protect our customers by implementing secure authentication, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of your communications.
Antivirus is just one of the 12 controls we implement to defend endpoints from advanced hacking attacks. We prevent the exploitation of these devices via malicious documents, scripts, 0day vulnerabilities, and more.
Every Information Security Program we build and execute for our clients is different. Their teams, infrastructure, applications used, and business objectives are different, and we often expand our services to serve them better.
3x the results of a regular CISO with our CISO Service
Step 1: Security Maturity Assessment
The only way to map a customer’s security journey is to assess where they are and where they want to be in a year.
We assess your current security controls in every one of the 14 areas above and find the critical items which pose the greatest, immediate risk of a security breach and generate a plan to close the gaps with compensating controls rapidly.
Our Security Maturity Assessment goes beyond just an audit – every question asked turns into a consulting session with your team. Our objective is to ensure your organization has a thorough understanding of why the problem is there and why the security controls must be present.
Step 2: Information Security Program development
The output of the Security Maturity Assessment is an Information Security Program.
It contains mitigation controls for implementation in every one of the 14 areas above and schedules gradual execution of the critical items which pose the greatest, immediate risk of a security breach.
We also find the medium-rated and low-rated vulnerabilities and missing controls and include them in the Information Security Program Plan that we create for you as an output of the assessment.
We then utilize the Information Security Program Plan as a list of objectives and help your team achieve every one of them within a year.
Step 3: Information Security Program implementation
The implementation phase can take your virtual ciso (virtual chief information security officer) between 2 weeks and a year, depending on the company’s size and infrastructure complexity.
All work happens in three phases for implementation: Critical, Medium, and Low. All Critical findings and security controls are worked on in parallel until completion; we follow the same process with the Medium and Low criticality security controls implementation.
Throughout the entire project, all progress is shown on a dashboard so that the customer can see all tasks in development, who is working on it, which are the pending items or blocking issues, and more.
After remediating all the vulnerabilities identified in the Security Maturity Assessment, we advise the customer to run a Penetration Test.
Password, Identity & Access Management
Our Identity and Access management service is part of the Virtual CISO as a Service and is an ongoing effort to work with our customers. We identify all business assets and all people having regular or administrative access to them during that time. We also identify potential ways to attack or misuse the access and come up with compensating controls for them.
A critical part of this project is to educate the customer’s whole team on the importance of not reusing passwords and how to use a password manager efficiently.
A vital objective to achieve with any customer is reaching passwordless authentication – something we deliver with a combination of services from Google (FIDO2), Microsoft (passwordless authentication), Yubico, and utilizing biometrics and physical security.
Every company has a different threat landscape due to the data it holds, its customers and competitors, and the resources it operates with.
Due to this, there are different attack methods hackers can use to compromise the security of the company and achieve their objective – to steal money directly from the accounting department, to steal confidential data, or even hold the company for ransom, as it happened with this famous law firm security breach.
We take a lot into account, but we also cover the fundamental types of attacks with all our customers:
Intrusions against networks
Unauthorized release or disclosure of information
Abuse of privileges
Unauthorized changes of information, applications, systems, or hardware
Information security policy violation
Suspicious system behavior
Password confidentiality breach
Sabotage / physical damage
Spear Phishing attacks
Web service breach
We come up with compensating controls for all of the above and implement them for our customers, depending on business priority and risk.
Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Customers who use our CISO as a Service offering receive regular, high-quality security awareness training, which helps every employee detect suspicious emails and report them.
The training is delivered periodically; we help the customer’s team track its completion. Besides the regular exercise, customers also receive our frequent updates on new attack methods that hackers use globally, which keeps their team alert and up-to-date.
The human element in every defense strategy could be the weakest link, or it could be your most reliable link – it all depends on how well people prepare before they encounter an attack.
Cloud Security Architecture
Are you using any major cloud providers – Google, Azure/Microsoft 365, or Amazon Web Services?
We develop secure architecture guidelines and help our customers implement them regardless of which cloud provider they use, even if it is a small, regional one. The mindmap you see here created by Atlant Security is used as the foundation of the elements to be protected in any cloud deployment.
We also offer cloud security consulting as a separate service – so make sure to check it out if you want to start with cloud security only. However, it is more effective to get everything in one package.
What does it take to secure your IT infrastructure?
Here’s a surprise: your printer can act as the most straightforward entry point into your network! Just check this PDF from BlackHat out: modern printers have an operating system and often contain administrative credentials.
But there is more to security than securing printers!
Windows 10 has 282 security settings, of which 25 are critical. The situation is the same with Windows Server, Exchange, Mac OS, network devices, firewalls, and switches. We take pride in our enterprise system hardening procedures, and we don’t stop there.
Just look at the diagram below, which shows our process when securing our clients:
Very few CISOs go to the length and depth of our Virtual CISO as a Service offering. It is not cheaper than a full-time Chief Information Security Officer’s salary – but it achieves at least three times more than if our customers hired someone internally.
How vulnerable are the elements in your network, and do vulnerabilities decrease over time?
Every element in your network can and usually does have vulnerabilities. When our clients sign up for our Virtual CISO consulting services, we help them create and manage an efficient vulnerability management program.
Switches, routers, firewalls, servers, desktop computers with various operating systems, and all the software installed on them have new vulnerabilities posted for them every week.
Do you maintain a record of the following:
How many vulnerabilities you have in your network on average per month
Does that number decrease over time
Do you improve the speed at which you patch vulnerabilities once they become known
How often do you scan, and what do you do with the scan data once it discovers new vulnerabilities
Do you improve your patching practice, and your vulnerability management KPIs over time?
Securing email, collaboration, and instant messaging communications
Part of our Virtual CISO as a Service offering is protecting email services on-premise and in the cloud and safeguarding collaboration tools such as Trello, Jira, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and instant messaging services used by our clients.
The reason they need to be protected is simple: hacking them is easy. It can take less than 2 minutes if you have not made an effort to secure them!
We take on ourselves by becoming your CISO is the constant security monitoring of all email accounts and services for signs of unauthorized access. Even with 2-factor authentication enabled, breaches are still possible. That is why it is critically important to integrate proper security monitoring with any security control.
When should Attack Simulation / Penetration Testing be performed?
Penetration testing is an essential element in every Information Security Program and is part of our Virtual CISO as a Service offering.
However, it is often performed without any strategic planning or instead of a comprehensive Information Security Assessment. It is crucial to execute a penetration test after the major efforts to build a company’s Information Security Program are already complete.
If attack simulation is the first stage of a company’s security efforts, the penetration test results will only show the lack of security controls. In that case, it will be a complete waste of time and resources.
Why is Secure Software Development a part of our Virtual CISO as a Service offering?
Secure Software Development is more than following an industry best practice or guideline.
It is about culture.
The culture of enterprise architects designing secure solutions; Development leads requiring specific standards of secure coding from their developers;
QA testers knowing which security vulnerabilities to look for – logical and technical, the IT administrators building secure development, testing, and deployment environments for everyone working on the product;
Security testing is when the product has to be declared safe and secure to use by its clients and users.
We help startups and software development companies build and nurture this culture.
Policies and Procedures are a company’s Constitution.
Our Virtual CISO as Service experts carefully study every client’s business before starting work on their security policies and procedures.
There are many policies and procedures our Virtual CISO as a Service can create for you – but it takes decades of expertise and experience to know which of your business processes need extra security in a policy or a procedure. For example, we could create a “Security Hardening Procedure” for your IT department, which is not on the image below, or combine several policies into one. It all depends on a customer’s business requirements and what makes sense.
Using CISO-as-a-Service is gaining popularity among the $500m – $2b businesses.
Can a team of seasoned CISOs and security subject matter experts replace the CISO role at an organization by taking the Virtual CISO role?
In 2009 a CISO had to make sure they passed their annual audits and that their antivirus was working correctly. In 2019, a CISO must:
Ensure patching is on-time for all 9000 different applications, operating systems, firmware, and drivers in their environment
For all the same 9000 elements, maintain daily/weekly/monthly vulnerability management.
Maintain yearly penetration tests, ensure the findings get fixed before the next one
Choose between a plethora of security vendors selling their Data Leakage Protection, Next-Gen Firewalls, Blockchain and AI-based antivirus, antispam and anti-(insert snake oil salesman keyword here), all of whom mostly sell just a fancy box with a fancy name which the hackers don’t even notice as they come in and take your data.
Herd all your employees into security compliance
Establish Security Incident Prevention, Detection, and Response
Communicate risks to the board and get adequate funding for their mitigation
The likelihood of finding someone who can successfully contain all the knowledge and achieve your performance objectives mentioned above is incredibly low.
Our CISO As a Service team will build or re-build your security program.
Protecting business-critical data needs to be aligned with business needs. On top of that, which elements would you like to have as part of your security program?
We help organizations improve processes like threat management, building an Identity Management Program, establish Prevention, Detection, and Response to cyber-attacks and even provide security awareness training for executives, regular employees, and IT departments (all of them need different levels of detail and different knowledge).
Traditional security program building takes too long. You need to figure out the right path, the tools and techniques you’re going to use to really jump ahead in it.
We have seen some old processes and old technologies being used – and the people using them thought that just because it was in use for so long, it was still effective and relatively risk-free.
Instead of having to train your own staff and grow your own internal capabilities – now you can access a senior resource part-time, maybe a day a week or 4 hours a week to speed things along.
Some organizations decide to buy things like security appliances and software – and within 2 years of going that path, they start to realize that the value of the things they bought is not what they expected it to be. Sometimes your budget for a product but then realize you also need to find the right people to operate it or train them – and their compensation was not budgeted at all! That ends up considerably slowing the whole process down.
We can navigate that kind of a minefield and ensure that everybody thinks of that kind of variable before making decisions and investing in a technology or solution.
What is the price for CISO-as-a-Service?
The price for having our team be a company’s CISO depends on our security assessment results and the number of people and hours dedicated to defending your company. As all our clients are of different sizes and have different needs, our prices reflect the same. If you want an answer now: the price is slightly higher than what you would pay for a full-time CISO because you get more people, more technology, more know-how and experience, and a higher quality of service, which does not go on vacation nor could leave you for a higher-paying job.
What is the average Virtual CISO hourly rate?
Get a Virtual CISO/CISO as a service, instead of spending months searching for a good Information Security Manager. Our service is billed annually or monthly because we essentially become a part of your team and deliver results on a project basis, targeting specific defense objectives. But since so many people ask us for the price, we can say that the price for smaller projects is higher and is around $200 an hour. For larger projects, where the work is distributed over a long period of time and involves much more billable hours, the price can go as low as $100/hour. Virtual CISO consulting services rates strongly depend on the project complexity, too – as with all averages, the median is far from the maximum or the minimum rate.
Comparing a full-time CISO to a Virtual CISO
A dedicated full-time CISO usually spends one, two, or even three months to really understand what’s going on in a company, the capabilities of its people, processes, technologies, and assets, because it’s important to be non-disruptive by getting into processes you don’t yet understand, even if you are vigilant to raise the bar in defense of the organization quickly.
From there, one could determine the level of maturity an organization is at and build a strategy.
Differences and Similarities
The goals are identical, but there are some differences and similarities between a CISO and a virtual CISO.
We, as the virtual CISO provider, don’t get to be at the company every day.
We don’t have the time to sit back for 30, 60, or 90 days and learn the organization before acting and delivering value.
There are certain expectations from leadership – we get paid for results rather than just being there for compliance.
The speed of project and control implementation is higher with a virtual CISO due to less incentive to procrastinate – we get paid for results.
Our goal is to help the business run safely and efficiently.
The resources needed to achieve a certain level of defense are very similar: you need to buy the same software and hardware.
How do we deliver the Virtual CISO service?
Depending on the maturity level of the organization, we might start with different projects. The first thing we usually start with is something like a NIST CSF (NIST Cybersecurity Framework) assessment and how the organization matches its requirements. In most cases, we run our Cybersecurity Risk Assessment service, which includes NIST CSF elements but is based on the NSA-ISAM (NSA Information Security Assessment Methodology). Sometimes we go deep and include breach susceptibility (penetration testing).
Using the results and the report from it, we establish a baseline for the client – in parallel to understanding the environment and culture at their company.
We also look at the deliverables set in front of us by the client (if any) and prioritize according to the risk to the business. We identify the major priorities for the first 3 months – the biggest items on our list are usually the risks identified that are presenting a direct threat to the organization.
After identifying those and beginning to work on them, we develop a 2 to 3-year strategy for the larger organizations and a one-year strategy for the smaller ones, detailing everything we can tackle from a budget and resource perspective.
We also utilize any input the organization might give us from their own assessments – usually, those are like the CIS Critical Security Controls – but these rarely go into as much detail, and depth as our assessment does.
The limitations we are presented with from the customer’s side are usually time, people, and resources available for security – and so with the results of our assessment, we strategically prioritize them together with the client. There are many cases when we can request more people and resources to cover the risks identified before they can materialize realistically.
The toughest part of a CISO job is fighting fires all day – usually involving lots of politics and inter-team friction on minute items that an external resource usually doesn’t deal with – we have the chance to focus on deliverables. Since the client is paying for our time, they also do that, and in the end, we turn out to be more effective than a hired full-time resource.
We are very client-driven – irrespective of vertical our various clients have different needs and priorities and different states from a security program perspective.
It’s all about protecting business data and ensuring that it can still be profitable while still protecting it.
One of the things we love most about the service we deliver to our clients is the knowledge transfer part of it. We consult every day – and we see consulting as providing our experience gained with various clients to every client we work with.
We love to see how an organization is transformed from one not having a security program or having a very weak one into a digital fortress – a very efficient and secure business unit.
What kind of clients are typically most interested in ordering CISO as a Service?
It depends a lot on their business, but small to medium size operations at some point realize they need someone to take care of security. Usually, those are businesses between $500 million to $2 billion. These are typically organizations that don’t currently have a dedicated person or even someone on their team who is well versed in cybersecurity. Some clients are a little more mature from a security program perspective but need our assistance going faster.
For them, our team can come in and speed up some of the initiatives to get their maturity level up quicker.
What are the costs involved?
The first point we usually get into when people look at the virtual CISO option is cost – and from a pricing perspective, it is generally going to be less expensive to have a virtual one. A CISO typically makes around $200 000 per year, and most organizations generally have not budgeted that amount for someone to take care of security. Sometimes you can’t even find a good one on the market, to begin with!
Hiring and keeping the right talent is expensive and risky – many people leave within a year or two, and you would have to go through the same process all over again – which can take up to six months even with good recruitment or head-hunting team.
Let’s not forget that’s just the salary – excluding the price of any software, hardware, and external help they need to order – such as penetration testing, incident response, EDR, SIEM, and all kinds of other security services.
If you decide to get a dedicated CISO, you will also need to get a headcount below them.
Let’s do the math, budgeting for a CISO position:
The average CISO makes around $200 000 a year.
The average security firm also needs to hire people to man the security tools in a company (especially those larger than 1000 people): someone has to maintain all those firewalls, SIEM (Security Information and Event Management), Antivirus engines, antispam, Data Leakage Prevention, exploit mitigation, Enterprise Detection, and Response tools (EDR), vulnerability management and patching tools… consider each of the new hires costing the company $50 000 – $80 000 per year.
All the tools mentioned above have licensing costs. The SIEM alone can cost in a range of $40 000 per year.
Hardware and storage costs for all the data needed to be processed and stored for security purposes
With our service, you get to use our whole team of seasoned professionals under one service name: CISO as a Service.
The cost savings are obvious. Let’s take recruitment, for example:
Any head-hunting company charges one or two monthly salaries for finding a CISO, and the same applies to other people in the security department.
The average lifespan of a CISO in a company is 1-2 years (source: ISSA.ORG). That means that every 18 months, you will have to spend $20 000 – $40 000 on finding a new CISO and another $5000 – $8000 for each additional team member.
With our service, you are saving roughly $40 000 every 18 months just on recruitment costs, and you’re getting a higher quality of service. Add to that the cost of re-training every new hire, as they spend up to three months (paid!) while learning about their new job and requirements.
Multi-national corporations with many different sites might not be the ideal customer for us as they would probably already have a security team and a senior security person in place. Still, even they can use our organization and service to augment the resources and time allotted to their CISO and speed projects up by a huge margin.
Depending on where the organization is, it might even be viable only to do quarterly engagements with a virtual CISO team or even only be brought in to speak to the board and exchange strategic guidance from a cost perspective. The way we’ve built the service allows us to be super flexible in the way we deliver value with it.
Another benefit of the Virtual CISO consulting service is that, depending on the organization’s maturity, a lot of the activities can be done on a project-by-project basis.
For example, if we are building an Incident Response Capability for your company – it can be part of an ongoing long-term plan or project.
The next step as a decision point is how to go in risk ownership – if something goes wrong, such as a security incident, especially if it is a major one, usually the CISO gets fired. With a CISO as a service, the company delivering it has defined responsibilities, and execution is agreed with the client’s senior management – so if any contractual obligation was not followed, there is a certain liability on the virtual CISO part. In contrast, the liability of a CISO is limited to their employment.
On average, the longevity of a CISO in a company is around 2 years – because they can lose their job for all kinds of reasons, security incidents being just one kind. This is yet another reason to go with a virtual CISO – you get to keep improving your security program with the same team, avoiding some of the political and interpersonal relationship risks present when tensions between CIO, CEO, and CISO arise.
For a security program to be successful, every employee of the organization needs to stand behind the security strategy laid out in front of them – including the IT team, the leadership team. Everyone should care and participate equally, trying not to click on phishing links, reporting suspicious activities, trying not to bypass security measures and instead report when they are ineffective so the security team would find better ones in terms of usability and efficiency.
From a CISO service delivery perspective, our responsibility is to help everyone on board to stop seeing security as the ‘department of No’ but as a department that supports business and ensures its survival in the long run.
Our message is: “Here is our assessment of the situation, here are the risks, here are the potential remediation actions from a risk perspective – accept, mitigate, transfer, etc..”
Then the response method, based on the options provided, is with the client’s leadership team.
Who should the Virtual CISO report to?
In most cases, especially in organizations with a less mature security program, the CISO function reports to the CIO – and it might be the most effective form of reporting for them, as being inside the team is oftentimes better than being outside the IT team and telling people what to do without seeing the impact of your suggestions on their projects directly.
If the networking team in the company also does security (which is often the case because… they take care of the firewall and in many companies, the Antivirus and the Firewall are the only security they have), when a CISO as a Service expert comes, it they are viewed as a threat – as the networking team is going to be afraid the security reports are going to claim Networking is not doing a good enough job – and so we need to understand the personnel culture right from the start and then be able to tactfully diffuse things – and over a short period of time to be able to build trust.
Often, even after the service is already brought in the company, we still need to sell ourselves to the internal teams and team members – and we do.
Virtual CISO Responsibilities
The Information Security Program defines the responsibilities of a virtual CISO (or the company delivering the CISO as a Service offering) created for a customer. They may range from external consulting only to hands-on implementation, assessments, team, individual employee mentoring, security awareness training, security hardening audits and random spot checks, financial reporting on the money spent on cybersecurity to the board much more.
The Virtual CISO is also responsible for building all the necessary security capabilities and maturity in a customer’s company, such as Security Monitoring, DFIR, Threat Modeling, Threat Hunting, Security Hardening of desktops, apps, servers, databases and applications, network devices, etc.
Relationships are important both inside and out of the organization; that is the same for us as the service provider. We have a huge network of friendships, acquaintances, vendors, and industry professionals. We always leverage that network to offer a more streamlined and cost-effective service.
On the other hand, when a CISO stays for a long time in the same position and the same company, its professional network starts becoming stale and offers less leverage over time.
One of the great benefits of working with our company is the talent we have – even if one is not a PCI expert when our clients fall under PCI compliance, we can always bring in a phenomenal PCI expert from our team to help them. We also have people on the technical side of things – penetration testing, forensics, incident response, security assessments – and at any point in time, any stage that a customer’s project is, we utilize them at the right time to make our CISO as a Service most effective, this works much better for our clients than depending on that one CISO.
Another point is sharing industry knowledge with other consulting companies – 99 percent of the time, we’ve got the same attackers, we defend the same infrastructure types. We have about the same technology, and we all have the desire to share success stories to help others mitigate the threat we just dealt with.
Together at Atlant Security, we also share information internally in our daily meetings, internal chats – the speed of information flow is much faster than a CISO can afford to read during their daytime job activities.
Our primary responsibility is to communicate risk to the business and provide the right tools and expertise to act accordingly.
Assistance with your migration to the Cloud
These days, almost everyone is using one or many cloud services – businesses even migrate all their infrastructure and data to the cloud. The digital transformation movement is swift, and technologies change quickly – quicker than many full-time employees are comfortable with.
That is where our CISO as a Service comes in – to bridge the gap between the data and services you need to migrate and the internally available resources.
We always have the needed skills and personnel available and speed your cloud migration significantly, reducing friction and risk.
We might be in an organization on Monday and work with their own set of business drivers and political obstacles to mature their security program – and on Tuesday, it could be a completely different organization, in a different vertical with different business needs and requirements, and it is challenging, but on the other side by overcoming different challenges we add to the whole team’s experience – and all our customers get to benefit from that.
Every time someone tells us they know something is wrong from our experience, they’ll fix it later; it never happens. But some things can be done right away! For example, 2-factor authentication.
Can a company outsource their complete set of security needs to a third party?
It’s important to understand that you can’t do everything at once. You need to identify the number 1 priority, which will bring the most impact quickly in improving the organization’s security.
No company out there can offer a full set of managed security services unless the client, in general, outsources most of their processes – their whole IT organization – to a third party.
If there is onsite infrastructure, someone, even if it is a member of the IT department, must be on-site and take care of things as instructed by our virtual CISO team.
Is CISO-as-a-Service the same as Part-time CISO?
Having a part-time CISO is even worse than hiring a CISO. Hiring someone full-time means, you pay one salary to the headhunter or recruiter/recruitment agency and you need to train the person in the specifics of your company. That training period usually lasts between a few weeks to a few months, depending on the company’s side and the CISO skills.
A part-time CISO needs even more time to learn about the company and commute as a full-time employee. Due to the lower pay, it is even less motivated to achieve their defense objectives on time and with the highest quality. Part-time CISOs are, as a rule, less experienced and less competitive on the market.
This is not the case with the CISO as a service (virtual CISO).
The team serving as your CISO is always motivated and always performs at their highest capacity due to the KPI-based contract between our clients and Atlant Security and the performance rewards system based on client satisfaction and goal achievement.
When you have a CISO-as-a-Service contract with us, it clearly defines the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and objectives. Our invoicing depends on those to be performed at or above the target, agreed and approved by the customer before each invoice is issued.
Imagine if you had the ability to approve the work of your full-time or part-time CISO before each salary? Their performance would have been amazing, too! Unfortunately, no labor law in any country globally would allow that. But it allows it with a service contract with a company!
Cloud Virtual CISO
If a company is on the right path – migration to the Cloud or already has all its infrastructure in the Cloud, then the best choice to make in defending all IT assets would be to have a Cloud Virtual CISO, or in other words, our own CISO as a Service.
A team of security experts will always outperform a full-time CISO and includes the cases when the object of defense is the company’s cloud environment.
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