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The Role of the CISO in Risk Management: 4 Key Areas to Know

Regardless of company size, staying compliant in the whirlwind of changing regulations is difficult. In addition to a record-breaking number of data breaches, the risk management and compliance landscape continues to evolve with unique state laws and new or changing regulations.

Young creative business people at officeDespite the rise in threats to businesses, many executives overlook their cybersecurity strategy and aren't doing enough to protect themselves or their customers. The 2022 Tech.co survey revealed that 83% of large businesses considered cyber risks an impediment to business growth, while only 43% included cybersecurity as one of their top 3 priorities.

With so many ways to fail, maintaining a strong risk management program may feel daunting.

So, what should you do?

If you're thinking about bolstering your security and IT team with some serious firepower, such as an outsourced Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), then you're in luck.

Whether you are looking to hire a full-time CISO or outsource your CISO services, also known as the Virtual CISO (VCISO) services, this is the first step in achieving your risk management and cybersecurity objectives. Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of adding a permanent staff member versus exploring an outsourced VCISO arrangement is a significant initial move.

Let’s start by defining the role of a CISO.

What is the Role of a CISO?

The CISO is responsible for developing and implementing security policies and procedures to protect the organization's assets, including sensitive data, intellectual property, and IT systems. They also work with other departments to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).


One of the primary responsibilities of the CISO is managing risk. Risk management involves identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities, evaluating the likelihood and impact of those risks, and implementing measures to mitigate them. This is critical to ensure that the organization's assets are protected from cyber-attacks and other security breaches.

The role of the CISO in risk management can be broken down into four key areas, including risk assessment, risk mitigation, incident response, and compliance.

4 Key Areas of the Role of a CISO

#1 Risk Assessment

The first step in managing risk is to conduct a thorough risk assessment. This involves identifying potential security threats and vulnerabilities to the organization's assets, including sensitive data, IT systems, and physical infrastructure.

To get this done, the CISO works with other departments to gather information about the organization's assets, including:

  • How they are used
  • Who has access to them, and
  • What controls are in place to protect them.

Once the risks have been identified, the CISO evaluates the likelihood and impact of each risk.

This involves considering factors such as the following:

  • Potential for financial loss,
  • Damage to the organization's reputation, and
  • The impact on customers and stakeholders.

Based on this analysis, the CISO develops a risk management plan that prioritizes the most significant risks and outlines the steps that will be taken to mitigate them.

#2 Risk Mitigation

The next step in risk management is to implement measures to mitigate the identified risks. This may involve implementing technical controls, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption, as well as organizational controls, such as access controls, security awareness training, and incident response plans.

The CISO is responsible for ensuring that these controls are effective in reducing the likelihood and impact of the identified risks. This may involve regular testing and monitoring of the controls to identify any weaknesses or vulnerabilities that may be exploited by attackers.

#3 Incident Response

Despite the best efforts to prevent security breaches, incidents can still occur. When a security breach occurs, the CISO is responsible for coordinating the organization's response to the incident. This involves quickly identifying the scope of the breach, assessing the impact on the organization, and implementing measures to contain and remediate the breach.

The CISO will work with other departments, such as legal, public relations, and IT, to ensure that the response is coordinated and effective. They will also work with external stakeholders, such as law enforcement and regulatory bodies, as necessary, to ensure that the breach is appropriately handled and reported.

#4 Compliance

Compliance with applicable laws and regulations is critical to managing risk. The CISO is responsible for ensuring that the organization is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations, including the GDPR, PCI DSS, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

This involves staying up to date with changes in regulations and ensuring that the organization's policies and procedures are in line with those regulations. The CISO will also work with other departments to ensure that employees are trained on compliance requirements and that the organization's controls are designed to meet those requirements.

Determining if an Outsourced VCISO is Right for you

Full length of group of happy young business people walking the corridor in office togetherAs you can see, the role of the CISO in managing risk is more important than ever before. Although having a C-level executive CISO on your team can be immensely valuable, the decision to include one in your staff lineup requires careful consideration of the associated benefits and costs.

To determine whether a fractional CISO is a viable option for your organization, you must first comprehend how they function. Typically, fractional CISOs work on a retainer basis, with predetermined expectations established during the planning stage. The fractional CISO relationship is adaptable to your requirements, whether you need full-time or part-time support and can be expanded or contracted as necessary.

Although investing in a fractional CISO for strategic cybersecurity consultation may be substantial, it is less expensive than hiring a full-time senior employee. The CISO's role is critical to ensuring that the organization is protected from cyber-attacks and other security breaches. By working hand in hand with management and the other departments and stakeholders, he/she can ensure the organization is prepared to handle security incidents and that the necessary controls are in place to prevent future incidents from occurring.

Making the Case for Hiring a Fractional VCISO 

Sanjay Deo
Sanjay Deo

Sanjay Deo is the President and Founder of 24by7Security Inc. Sanjay holds a Master's degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University, and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Healthcare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (HCISPP), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). Sanjay is also a co-chair on the CISO council and Technology Sector Chief at FBI InfraGard South Florida Chapter. In 2022 Sanjay was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President of the United States. Subscribe to the 24by7Security blog to learn more from Sanjay.

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