In terms of data security, SMBs and enterprises have more in common than ever before. The 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) identified the top threats for small and large organizations, and in both categories, phishing scams were the most common, with malware and stolen credentials also ranking high. They also face the same expectations to protect data. According to research, 74 percent of SMBs receive customer inquiries about how they handle personal information, compared to 73 percent of large organizations.

Companies of all sizes are fighting the same fight and need the guidance of a chief information security officer (CISO) to combat the never-ending barrage of cybersecurity threats. CISOs can assess the complexity of IT environments, along with potential threat vectors, to build a defense strategy that is right-sized for the organization. In regulated industries like healthcare, finance, and legal services, CISOs are especially valuable in helping to balance security priorities with evolving compliance requirements. They understand how security impacts business success and possess the acumen to articulate that relationship to decision-makers.

In spite of clear benefits, research suggests that only 37% of SMBs report having a dedicated IT or cybersecurity team, much less security leadership. For many, funding dedicated resources is not a viable option, despite the indisputable benefits they provide. Instead, many smaller organizations are turning to virtual CISOs (vCISOs) to reduce security risk and further business goals. These on-call experts can provide SMBs the necessary leadership to develop and execute effective security strategies that protect data, employees, and systems against an increasing number of cyber threats.

Here are four reasons why SMBs are choosing vCISO services:

  1. More Cost Effective

According to research, 62 percent of companies say their security teams are understaffed, and 50 percent cite poor financial incentives as a reason why they struggle to retain the talent necessary to address security challenges. As an alternative, vCISO services offer security expertise and leadership without the costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and employing someone in-house. Working with a vCISO provider will also eliminate the lengthy recruitment and hiring process. Organizations gain protection more quickly and can reinvest the money saved toward vCISO-led initiatives that build a stronger security posture.

  1. More Comprehensive Skill Set

Assessing and retaining security talent is a challenge for businesses of all sizes, but it is especially difficult for SMBs with more limited financial resources. By engaging with a vCISO, companies do not have to sacrifice experience and skill level because they were unable to meet salary and benefit expectations. Additionally, vCISOs are very familiar with SMBs and possess a greater scope of insight and knowledge. Past or concurrent work with similar organizations provides unmatched insight about the specific challenges SMBs face.

  1. Faster Time to Value

For many SMB IT departments, security is just one of many responsibilities. As a result, much of their time is spent covering the basics and solving immediate problems. A vCISO can onboard quickly and bring immediate value by assessing maturity and making recommendations for improvement. Based upon this experience, vCISOs can implement strategies that address future needs, update policies, initiate employee training and awareness initiatives, and implement business continuity, disaster, and recovery plans.

  1. Greater Flexibility and Continuity

vCISO providers work with SMBs to build a service plan that aligns with the company’s size, complexity, risk factors, and business objectives. Organizations may need a vCISO at more regular intervals to address immediate concerns, then consult with them on a consistent basis to maintain the appropriate security posture to achieve business goals. Given the IT security talent gap that exists, by bringing on a vCISO, an SMB does not have to incur the cost or be concerned with replacing a valued expert who leaves the organization for another opportunity.

Size does not alleviate cyber risks for SMBs. They are just as vulnerable to attacks and beholden to compliance regulations and customer expectations as multi-billion-dollar corporations, so it is incumbent upon them to invest in security leadership. For businesses with cost and resource restraints, vCISO services are an excellent alternative to achieving the level of cybersecurity maturity necessary to protect critical assets and deliver on customer expectations.

Ken Jenkins is the founder and principal, EmberSec, a division of By Light.

CISO stock photo by LeoWolfert/Shutterstock