If you’re a small or medium-sized business, you might have a need for an information security specialist – but the stark reality is – you might not have the budget to hire a full-time Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO). We get it, money doesn’t grow on trees! 

But there is another option. Hiring a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer could offer the ideal solution to supercharge your security-strategy – without having to fork out for a full-time salary.

I’m Stuart Barker: information security specialist, ISO 27001 Ninja, and Founder of High Table – the fastest growing ISO 27001 company, globally. At High Table, we’re all about sharing our knowledge and offering industry advice to businesses like yours in the information security space.

Read on to find out what a vCISO can do for you, whether you need one, how much it’ll cost you, and how to find a good’un.

What does vCISO stand for?

VCISO is an abbreviation of Virtual Chief Information Security Officer.

Other names for a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer

There are many labels for the role of the vCISO. Here are a few that you may (or may not!) have come across:

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  • Information Security Officer (ISO)
  • Information Security Manager (ISM)
  • Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO)
  • Virtual Information Security Officer (VISO)
  • Outsourced CISO
  • Fractional CISO
  • Interim CISO
  • Chief Information Security Advisor (CISA)
  • Chief Information Security Consultant (CISC)
  • Managed CISO
  • External CISO
  • What is a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)?

A CISO is a senior-level executive who is responsible for the supervision and management of a company’s information, cyber, and technology security functions. The role of the CISO involves creating, implementing, and ensuring compliance with security policies with an overarching objective of safeguarding crucial data assets.What is a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO)?

A vCISO is a cybersecurity expert with extensive experience who provides virtual, on-demand CISO services to businesses. A vCISO typically operates on a contract basis, offering guidance, expertise, and strategic direction in overseeing a company’s information security.

The role of a vCISO is similar to an in-house Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), with the benefit of being an external resource. The vCISO works closely with the organisation’s exec team, IT department, and other stakeholders to assess their risks, develop information security strategies, and implement security controls. 

Do you need a vCISO?

Do you handle sensitive data? Most businesses do these days, and if you’re serious about protecting that data (and your security posture), hiring a vCISO could be the right decision for you.

What does the role of a vCISO involve?

The role of a vCISO is to provide strategic direction, expertise, and guidance in managing an organisation’s information security. They are essentially acting as your Chief Information Security Officer. By collaborating with senior management and teams, the vCISO helps to set up efficient security measures, alleviate risks, and safeguard the company’s assets from cyber threats.

To achieve this, a vCISO will take on the following responsibilities (dependant on your organisation):

  1. Cybersecurity Strategy: A vCISO will create and execute a comprehensive strategy that aligns with your business objectives. 
  2. Risk Assessment and Management: They will carry out risk assessments to spot weaknesses and threats, as well as assessing the risk landscape, advising on mitigation measures, and integrating the right risk management frameworks.
  3. Security Policies and Procedures: They will implement security policies, standards, and procedures and ensure that your business has crystal-clear guidelines in place for protecting confidential data, managing controls, and sustaining security throughout the IT infrastructure.
  4. Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: They will make sure that your company is complying with applicable information security laws, regulations, and industry standards. This includes monitoring changes in frameworks such as ISO 27001, and providing guidance on what needs to be implemented to meet the requirements.
  5. Security Incident Response: They will introduce incident response protocols and procedures to mitigate security incidents, ensuring that your business is ready to respond rapidly.
  6. Security Awareness: They will encourage a culture of security awareness and provide company training to educate employees.
  7. Supplier and Third-Party Risk Management: They will assess and approve the security posture of suppliers and partners. The vCISO is responsible for conducting due diligence, making sure best practices are in place, and ensuring that third-parties are meeting their contractual requirements to protect your organisation’s sensitive information.
  8. Security Technology and Tools: They will keep up with developing security technologies and install solutions that best fit with your organisation’s needs.
  9. Security Governance and Reporting: They will communicate regular reports on your organisation’s current security position, potential risks, and ongoing security efforts. 
  10. Continuous Improvement: They will stay updated on changing threats, security trends, and best practices, prioritising ongoing learning and professional development to stay current in the ever-changing cybersecurity field.

What are the benefits of hiring a vCISO, and what can they do for your business?

There are several reasons why your business may benefit from hiring a vCISO (virtual Chief Information Security Officer):

Knowledge and Experience

An experienced vCISO should know their stuff when it comes to information security. They know industry best practices and effective security measures inside out, and they can spot emerging threats before they have time to do serious damage. They can help your business navigate complex security challenges and make the informed decisions to keep your company secure.


Hiring a full-time, in-house CISO can be costly, especially for small to mid-sized businesses. Engaging a vCISO allows you to access high-level security expertise without the expense of a full-time salary and benefits. A vCISO typically works on a contract basis, providing flexibility and cost-efficiency.

Strategic Advice

A vCISO can develop an in-depth cybersecurity strategy taking your individual business needs into account, helping you prioritise projects in line with your objectives. They can assess your risk profile, identify weaknesses, and implement necessary security measures – such as internationally recognised certifications like ISO 27001. 

Scalability and Flexibility

As your business expands or experiences security issues, a vCISO is a flexible resource who can scale their services up or down to suit your requirements. This means that you will always have access to an information security expert, but on your terms, and only when you need it.

Objective Outlook

As an external resource, a vCISO brings an impartial perspective to your security plan. They can evaluate your security posture neutrally, identify gaps or vulnerabilities, and provide unbiased suggestions to improve your security setup. This is a great way to uncover blind spots that could go unnoticed internally.

Compliance and Regulatory Assistance

Compliance with industry regulations and standards like ISO 27001 is essential for many businesses. A vCISO can ensure that you meet these requirements, adhere to regulations, and implement the appropriate controls to mitigate regulatory risks. They can also prepare you for external audits, based on their wealth of experience.

Incident Response and Crisis Management

If a data breach or a security incident happens, a vCISO can play a vital role in incident response planning and implementation. They can offer guidance on containment, remediation, and communication strategies – mitigating the impact of the incident and protecting your business’s reputation.

Training and Awareness

A vCISO can create and conduct security awareness training programs for your teams. Here, they can educate your staff on policies, procedures and security best practices to encourage a security-conscious culture. This helps to reduce risks caused by human error and gives your security posture that all-important boost.

Access to Networks and Resources

A vCISO is likely to have links to a network of valuable industry connections, security resources and threat intelligence sources, which means they should be clued up on the latest security trends, evolving threats, and technological developments. This puts your business ahead of the game when it comes to keeping on top of potential risks.


Hiring a vCISO should offer peace of mind that your business has an experienced expert managing and monitoring your information security. Their proficiency, advice, and forward-thinking approach will help you detect and tackle security risks effectively, reducing potential incidents and giving you confidence in your information security measures.

What are the challenges of hiring a vCISO

Engaging a vCISO can bring challenges. (Especially if you don’t do you research!) The most common difficulties include:

Unfamiliar with your organisation

A vCISO may not understand your business and unique requirements as well as you do – which is why it’s important to find a good one! Good virtual CISO’s will take time to get to grips with your business processes, culture, and security needs. 


As a virtual resource, they may not be as accessible as an in-house resource. It’s important to get a contract in place that suits both parties from the outset.


Whilst hiring a vCISO can be cost-effective compared to a full-time, in-house CISO, it can still be expensive (especially if you choose one who’s more interested in your hard-earned cash than your security posture!). 

Finding a qualified vCISO

According to Security Intelligence, there’s a huge talent shortage in the cyber security space. Lucky for you, we’re going to recommend a good one. Keep reading!

How much will a vCISO cost?

According to Forbes Magazine, the average salary of a full-time CISO is around $584,000, making it completely out of reach for smaller businesses.

In comparison, you can hire a virtual CISO for a fraction of the cost. Boom! You’re back in the game! Let’s explore typical vCISO pricing:

Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) Hourly rate

These roles are not typically calculated on hourly rates, but broken down, this ranges between £100 and £250 per hour.

Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) Day rate

A vCISO day rate is between £750 and £1,500. This day rate typically depends on the number of days engaged and over what duration.

Typical Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) cost

Expect to pay between £1,000 and £4,000 per month on a 12-month contract.

What makes a good vCISO?

A good vCISO will be:

  • A qualified information security expert (do your research – we cannot stress this enough!)
  • A strategic thinker
  • Adaptable
  • A strong communicator 

They will demonstrate:

  • Leadership
  • Analytical abilities
  • Business acumen

They will:

  • Have a proven track record in the information security space
  • Collaborate well
  • Focus on results 
  • Stay updated on emerging trends
  • Be passionate about safeguarding your business against data breaches and cyber threats

What to look for when hiring a vCISO

You’ve now got a clear definition of what a vCISO will do. Now it’s time to trawl through Google for hours looking for the one that fits your business best. Or… you can choose to engage High Table: the information security people who give a sh*t about making your business secure.

High Table: Your Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO)

We’re different to the rest.

Let’s face facts. Information Security resources are expensive. They also tend to focus on what you can’t do, slowing the whole process down.

We’re commercially focussed, we’re qualified, and our goal is to deliver what you need.

Why us?

Straight Talking, Practical, No Fuss – we are here to get the job done so you can grow your business.

Experience Over 20 years’ experience delivering hundreds of engagements

Global With clients in UK, America, Australia, Canada, Europe

Specialist Start-up, early stage and growth business is our niche. Our clients are in Financial Services, Fin Tech and Software Development

Typically, the role takes care of your certifications such as ISO 27001 and SOC 2. Fully managing the ISO 27001 certification and ongoing certification. This includes the day-to-day operations of Information Security Management. As your dedicated resource, we attend all external facing audits as you. Whether that is client audits, third party questionnaires or conducting 

Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) FAQ

What are the names for on demand information security resources?

The market hasn’t settled on a particular title but some of the common titles are Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO), Fractional CISO (fCISO), Virtual Security Office (VSO), Virtual Information Security Manager (VISM), On Demand Security Officer (ODSO). It doesn’t really matter what you call them as they all do pretty much the same thing. As you are paying them, call them what you like. Within reason.

What does a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) do?

They take the role of the information security manager to manage the information management system (ISMS), keep it up to date, operate the process and procedures of the ISMS and take care of any certifications. Their role is to guide and advice the business on it’s business operations in relation to information security. The role can be tailored to your specific demands. Some clients also have the VSO act as them in external facing audits with clients and audit bodies.

What does a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) cost?

Typically between £1,000 and £4,000 a month on a 12 month contract.

What is the cost of a full time Chief Information Security Officer?

A Chief Information Security Officer will have a salary over £100,000. It will depend on the skills and experience of the employee.

What is the Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) Hourly rate?

The roles are not typically calculated on hourly rates but calculated they would range between £100 and £250 per hour.

What is the Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) Day rate?

A vCISO is between £750 and £1,500 per day. The day rate typically depends on the number of days taken and over what duration.

What is Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) as a service pricing?

Typically between £1,000 and £4,000 a month on a 12 month contract.