What is a vCISO and How to Hire One?

Two people working on a project.

In an era defined by an increasing number of cyber threats, many organizations are realizing the need for robust cybersecurity. However, not every organization has the resources or the need for a full-time Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Enter the Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) – a modern solution to an age-old problem. In this post, we delve into what a vCISO is and provide a comprehensive guide on how to hire one.

Find out why clients trust SideChannel to build their cybersecurity program


1. Understanding vCISO

A vCISO is a seasoned cybersecurity expert who offers the knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities of a traditional CISO but operates remotely, usually on a contractual basis. They are tasked with creating, updating, and maintaining an organization’s cybersecurity program. They work directly with existing teams to implement and oversee the firm’s cybersecurity strategies.

Benefits of Hiring a vCISO:

  • Expertise on Tap: Gain instant access to top-tier cybersecurity know-how without the commitments of a full-time position.
  • Flexibility: vCISOs can be engaged for short-term projects or long-term strategies based on the organization’s needs.
  • Cost-Effective: No need to invest in a full-time salary, benefits, and other associated costs. Plus, avoid the costs related to high turnover rates in CISO positions.
  • State-of-the-Art Tools: With their specialized knowledge, vCISOs often bring along advanced tools and methodologies.
  • Fresh Perspectives: Being an external entity, a vCISO can offer unbiased insights into your organization’s security posture.

2. When Should You Consider Hiring a vCISO?

Consider hiring a vCISO if:

  • You’re a small to mid-sized company that cannot yet afford a full-time CISO.
  • Your current CISO has left, and you need an interim expert while searching for a replacement.
  • Your organization needs a fresh, external perspective on its cybersecurity strategy.

3. How to Hire a vCISO

a. Determine Your Needs:

Start by defining what you expect from the vCISO. Are you looking for strategic leadership, compliance expertise, or someone to help with a specific project?

b. Look for Qualifications:

It’s essential to hire a vCISO with a proven track record. Check for credentials such as CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) or CISM (Certified Information Security Manager).

c. Experience Matters:

Apart from certifications, delve into their practical experience. How have they helped organizations in the past? Which industries have they worked in? Have they been a CISO before?

d. Soft Skills:

A vCISO isn’t just about tech expertise. They need to communicate complex ideas to non-technical stakeholders and lead teams. Assess their communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills.

e. Interview Process:

During the interview:

  • Discuss past challenges and how they addressed them.
  • Ask about their familiarity with regulations pertinent to your industry.
  • Gauge their adaptability to new technologies and threats.
  • Discuss their approach to risk assessment and crisis management.

f. Ask for References:

Get feedback from their previous clients. Did they bring value? Were they proactive and communicative?

g. Discuss Terms Clearly:

Ensure that the roles, responsibilities, deliverables, and terms of engagement are clearly spelled out in the contract. Define measurable KPIs to assess their performance.

4. Ensuring a Smooth Onboarding Process

Once hired, the vCISO should be introduced to your organization’s key personnel and given an overview of your existing cybersecurity infrastructure and strategies. They should also be provided with the necessary tools and resources to perform their tasks effectively.

Hire a vCISO with SideChannel

A vCISO can be an invaluable asset to organizations, offering expert cybersecurity guidance without the constraints and costs of a full-time position. By understanding your needs, vetting candidates thoroughly, and ensuring a smooth onboarding process, your organization can harness the benefits of a vCISO, ensuring a more secure and proactive approach to cybersecurity. SideChannel emerges as a beacon in this space, providing expert guidance, tailored solutions, and a dedicated virtual team.

SideChannel vCISO Engagement Steps


Full Risk Assessment

SideChannel leads the assessment and gap analysis leveraging our technology platforms RealCISO and Enclave to fully understand your environment, cyber risks, threats to you, and organizational goals.


Build Cyber Roadmap

We develop a written and scalable cyber program to be built that will address findings from risk assessment.


vCISO Services Start

vCISO services begin with a formal governance structure and we lead the cyber program for your organization while maturing it going forward.

If you’re considering hiring a vCISO, partnering with SideChannel not only guarantees you industry-leading expertise but also ensures a cybersecurity solution uniquely crafted to fit your organizational needs. As threats evolve, ensure you have a partner like SideChannel by your side, making your cybersecurity journey proactive, efficient, and resilient.

Find out why clients trust SideChannel to build their cybersecurity program