A virtual chief information security officer (vCISO) is a third-party cybersecurity specialist who performs the same functions as an in-house chief information security officer (CISO). But unlike their in-house counterpart, vCISOs are not employed by your company full-time and do not receive the same salary and benefits as a full-time worker. Rather, they are brought in as a consultant and are paid on an as-needed basis. This makes them an attractive option for organizations that do not have the resources to hire an internal CISO.
vCISOs perform many important roles with respect to protecting an organization’s digital assets. One particularly crucial responsibility of vCISOs is preparing companies for government audits.
Why are government audits important?
In order to protect the privacy of their citizens, governments develop security frameworks and enforce regulations that certain businesses must follow. These include the following:
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – applies to covered entities that handle and process protected health information
- National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) – may apply to any company that seeks to develop a framework for protecting their digital assets
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – applies to any business that handles the information of individuals from countries in the European Union
- Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) – applies to defense industrial base companies that have or seek contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD)
The government may perform audits to ensure that a company is complying with pertinent regulations. During these assessments, the auditors examine the components of an organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure and search for potential vulnerabilities. They also ascertain the steps that the company must take to address these flaws. In the case of CMMC, findings from the audit will also determine what types of contracts an organization may be awarded, if at all.
How can a vCISO help you pass government audits?
A vCISO's guidance is critical to ensuring that a company is compliant with regulatory requirements and is well-poised to pass government audits. They can help you:
Conduct data and vulnerability assessments
Businesses need to conduct data audits to determine the different types of data they handle and the regulations they must follow. A health insurance provider that has an office in Berlin, for instance, must comply with HIPAA and GDPR. At the same time, businesses must undergo vulnerability assessments to identify flaws in their current cybersecurity infrastructure that could result in them failing a government audit.
A vCISO can conduct both assessments remotely and gather the necessary evidence through online meetings, interviews, file sharing, and other digital means.
Develop policies and remediation plans
A vCISO combines experience and up-to-date knowledge of cybersecurity best practices to address any weaknesses in a company’s security posture. They can also review existing policies and ensure that these are in line with current standards.
Choose the right IT services
A vCISO can walk the company’s decision-makers through the services necessary for the organization to pass a government audit. These services will depend on the company’s needs and framework requirements and may include the following:
- Backup and disaster recovery
- Endpoint encryption
- Dark web monitoring
- External vulnerability scanning
- Security information and event management
The vCISO can also help the company assess the providers of these services, taking into account the company's budget, goals, and performance requirements.
Liaise with auditors
A vCISO can act as the point of contact between the company and government auditors, ensuring that communications are handled consistently and effectively. They make sure the company understands and responds to all concerns from the auditors and remediates issues in a timely manner. They also coordinate any follow-up, when needed.
Monitor compliance with framework requirements
Compliance isn’t a short-term goal — rather, it is a continuous endeavor that companies must commit to. A vCISO regularly tests, evaluates, and updates the company’s policies and security measures to ensure that these remain compliant with government requirements. They can also lead security awareness training and other long-term initiatives aimed at improving and maintaining the company’s cyber defenses.
How can Charles IT help?
Charles IT’s vCISO services connect you with a highly experienced cybersecurity specialist who’s dedicated to helping your company successfully pass audits by industry and government regulators. Our vCISO will assist you in every step of the way, from assessing for vulnerabilities to developing and implementing policies to communicating with auditors.