4 Reasons to Consider a Virtual CISO

March 18, 2020   |   Ken Reiher

A 2018 study by the Ponemon Institute revealed that an overwhelming 74% of healthcare IT leaders attributed insufficient staffing as a challenge to keeping their organizations’ cybersecurity program from being fully effective. In fact, lack of resources was the highest ranked of all challenges reported in the survey responses, which also included insufficient budget, lack of leadership and lack of expertise.

These statistics are not terribly surprising, given what we see every day working with healthcare IT teams who constantly advocate for the right resources and expertise to fight against threats that seem to change daily.

Coupled with HIPAA’s requirement that healthcare organizations must have a designated security official responsible for managing security policies and procedures, the need to fill gaps either in hands to do the work, or in subject matter expertise, is unmistakable.

Thus, the rise of virtual CISO (or vCISO) services. Let’s take a look at 4 reasons to consider a virtual CISO at your organization.

  1. Fill the resource gaps.

    A variety of circumstances could necessitate a vCISO.

    Perhaps your current CISO retired or otherwise left the organization, and you need to fill a temporary position until a permanent replacement is hired. A vCISO service can be a viable stop-gap in this situation.

    Or, maybe you need an extra set of hands to finish a stand-alone project, such as an annual HIPAA compliance audit, or a response to a payer audit. Virtual CISOs can be hired on a project basis to complete a wide array of testing exercises, assessments and walkthrough audits.

    You may have an initiative that requires specialized expertise, and though you don’t need to hire a full-time employee, you do need a subject matter expert who can guide or assist your in-house team. This can include activities such as disaster recovery/business continuity planning, internal vulnerability and external penetration testing, or cybersecurity tactical simulations.

    And, depending on the size or structure of the organization, you may need to completely outsource your IT function. Small, rural and critical care hospitals, along with individual providers may need to look to a virtual CISO program to manage IT, compliance and security more efficiently than what they can do on their own.

  2. Provide an unbiased, objective point of view.

    Often, IT leaders and teams seek out an independent point of view on privacy and security issues, either to help bolster the case for funding, or help resolve internal conflicts that arise during audits, or to help educate the C-suite on prioritization.

    Since they are not involved with internal politics or competition, a virtual CISO can serve as the needed third party to provide an unbiased and transparent perspective on these types of challenges, helping drive strategy and execution.

  3. Assist with vendor risk management.

    With potentially hundreds of business associates (BAs) or third-party vendors that interact with PHI for a single healthcare organization, IT teams regularly find they simply do not have the bandwidth to handle a comprehensive vendor risk management strategy.

    Pair that with the fact that many business associate agreements (BAAs) are signed and managed by other departments or service lines, making it even more difficult to have a universal inventory of BAs, and thus an accurate assessment of risk to the organization.

    Having a vCISO at your disposal to implement vendor risk management policies and procedures can help safeguard your organization against third-party breaches. A virtual CISO service can inventory BAAs throughout the organization, perform audits, evaluate the risk profile of each BA, establish action plans to mitigate risk and follow through to confirm the action plans have been completed.

  4. Monitor a security operations center (SOC).

    A fully functional SOC requires network monitoring 24/7. This usually translates to three shifts per day. You can imagine the bandwidth and resources it takes to manage this type of constant monitoring.

    But it’s not enough to simply monitor the network. Healthcare organizations need staff who are technically capable to respond to issues that arise during monitoring. If, for example, monitoring indicates symptoms of an attack – such as unauthorized network traffic – staff need to be able to determine if it really is an attack, and be proficient in ways to address and resolve the situation quickly.

    In this type of scenario, outsourcing the management of a SOC to a vCISO service could be a practical solution, especially for healthcare organizations that view IT security as too risky to handle in-house.

    Another good reason to consider a vCISO? You can generally get up and running in a short amount of time, depending on the scope of the project or need. Of course, the length of the engagement also depends on the need; most virtual CISO programs (and especially ComplyAssistant’s vCISO program) are completely flexible to meet your organization’s requirements.

Additional vCISO resources from ComplyAssistant:

Solution: Virtual CISO program from ComplyAssistant

Blog: 5 Reasons to Hire a Healthcare Compliance Consultant

Guide: How a Functional Compliance Program Can Protect PHI

Solution: HIPAA for MSPs

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