Cybersecurity threats and data breaches can have significant financial, operational, and reputational implications for your business.
A fractional CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) can help your organization navigate an increasingly complex cybersecurity landscape on a part-time basis.
These experienced leaders can help you secure your IT infrastructure, comply with various regulations, patch active breaches, and much more. Leaning on experience from existing companies, decisions, and scaling — you can ask strategic questions to someone who has done it before.
And how can you hire one? Does it make sense to bring on a part-time CISO executive vs. a full-time person?
Further Reading: Find out about the other Types of Fractional Executives and how to hire them.
Explore how to achieve operational efficiency by onboarding a Fractional COO.
What Is a Fractional CISO?
A fractional CISO is a part-time executive responsible for your organization’s information security and regulatory compliance requirements. Companies without a CISO may lack the insight to manage cybersecurity risks, leaving them vulnerable to data loss, breaches, and non-compliance with industry regulations.
These executives provide a crucial information security perspective to the CEO, CIO (Chief Information Officer), and other executives, ensuring that any strategic planning exercise takes cybersecurity implications into consideration.
They have the seniority, expertise, and ability to guide you through an audit, compliance requirement, or other regulatory finance/fintech required process. Spending the time and energy upfront with someone with this level of experience can save you countless hours and thousands of dollars later.
Having someone on a fractional basis presents the opportunity to see across companies that are experiencing similar issues in real time.
The experience of a full-time CISO is important, but a fractional CISO, with exposure to multiple industries, offers a broader range of expertise. A cybersecurity expert who would not otherwise take a full-time role or be too expensive for a startup to hire could actually save you money by avoiding the wrong choices and helping you figure out the right plan from the start.
Plus, having a senior cybersecurity expert like a fractional CISO is often a prerequisite for potential customers to sign up with your company.
However, a full-time CISO comes with a hefty price tag and dozens of overheads – and this isn’t always a feasible option. Thankfully, a fractional CISO offers the same services as their full-time counterpart at a considerably reduced cost — and with other significant advantages.
Fractional CISO vs. Interim CISO vs. Cybersecurity Consultant
Smart leaders recognize that they may not be able to get a full-time cybersecurity expert with enterprise-level experience into their smaller company. They don’t have the budget, the stock options, or the time to recruit them.
Therefore, bringing someone on a limited basis allows you to lean on experience while allowing someone to earn and leverage what they know today.
However, a fractional CISO comes with specific benefits over an interim hire or a consultant. Let’s look at their differences and see why a fractional CISO might be the best option for your business.
- Interim CISO
- Cyber Security Consultant
- Fractional CISO
In summary, a fractional CISO offers more than just recommendations for quick fixes. Hiring them provides your company with long-term, strategic guidance and can be much more cost-effective than a full-time CISO.
When Should You Hire a Fractional CISO?
Here are some reasons you may want to bring a fractional CISO on board:
- If your in-house security team could benefit from asking the right person critical questions on cybersecurity processes like risk assessment or vendor management.
- If there’s a clear demand for security compliance and processes from customers or regulatory bodies for your industry, and you want things done right.
- Your company requires expert guidance to swiftly address a critical security issue or lead a project without committing to a permanent hire.
- During mergers, acquisitions, or other organizational changes that could involve a transfer of sensitive information and assets.
- There is a stop-gap in current leadership due to family leave or other medical-related issues, and you want to ensure the team has someone competent to rely on.
- You are considering hiring a full-time CISO but want to determine the value and impact of such a position on your operations. In this case, a fractional hire acts as a trial phase.
- If any of the above is true but currently lack the budget for (or don’t require) a full-time CISO.
So, we’ve explained what a fractional CISO would do in broad terms. But if you’re wondering about what they bring to the table, keep reading.
12 Key Fractional CISO Services
A fractional CISO can help your company navigate the complexities of risk management, compliance, and mitigate cyber threats with precision.
Check out the most important fractional CISO services you can benefit from.
1. Risk Assessment
A fractional CISO identifies blind spots in overall information security, measures cybersecurity risks, and takes actions to mitigate them.
They evaluate each asset based on:
- Financial value
- Cost of breach
- Type of breach to which it’s vulnerable (For example, confidentiality, phishing, theft)
For example, to assess the cybersecurity risk of a SaaS suite, a fractional CISO will study the service provider’s cybersecurity policy, learn about their cloud security measures, the service level agreement (SLA) for data protection, and measures to tackle breaches.
They may also conduct penetration testing to examine potential vulnerabilities and analyze results to set priorities for additional measures in the cyber security program.
Using such quantitative and qualitative methods on all assets allows a fractional CISO to paint a complete picture of the organization’s cybersecurity posture.
They would then prioritize risks based on their potential impact on the business and design a cybersecurity program to address the most pressing vulnerabilities first.
2. Strategic Planning and Execution
Based on the findings of their risk assessment, a fractional CISO works with your security team to define and refine cybersecurity objectives and optimize your overall IT infrastructure accordingly.
Some of the tasks they oversee include:
- Establish elaborate security controls from physical (locks on server rooms, badge. access for unlocking, etc.) to technical (firewall, intrusion detection, etc.) to mitigate breaches.
- Design a security strategy for employee authentication, including biometrics, multi-factor authentication, OTPs, certificate-based authentication, etc.
- Manage budgets and deadlines for all cybersecurity projects.
- Explore and onboard new, effective cybersecurity solutions – for example, AI-driven tools to detect shadow data and potentially risky activity.
- Offer support to marketing and sales teams on what information security aspects to highlight to potential customers.
They would collaborate with other department heads to ensure the cybersecurity strategy is integrated across all business functions.
Once the security strategy is defined, the fractional CISO will oversee its execution, establish feedback mechanisms, and make periodic adjustments to the plan.
3. Cost Estimation & Budgeting
Cybersecurity costs cover:
- Technology, talent, and processes (e.g., antivirus, spam protection, etc.)
- The price of wrong decisions and course correction
- Legal considerations and partners to work with
Cost estimation and budgeting are pivotal to ensure that all risk management and security initiatives are well-funded and align with your financial resources.
To allocate budgets carefully, a fractional CISO would work closely with the CFO, CTO, and CEO to prioritize cybersecurity projects and prevent cost overruns.
For example, suppose the C-suite decides to prioritize customer retention over acquisition for the quarter. The fractional CISO can divert the budget toward securing existing customer data and systems instead of scaling infrastructure to support new customers. This ensures that the existing customer information is protected, which reinforces their loyalty and aligns with your retention strategy.
Fractional CISOs also coordinate with vendors, service providers, and hiring agencies to come up with accurate estimates for the total cost of your cybersecurity program.
Such careful budgeting is aimed at achieving an optimal cybersecurity ROI.
A fractional CISO ensures your company gets the critical regulatory compliance certifications and meets the standards laid out in various data protection frameworks meant for specific industries.
- Healthcare companies must comply with HIPAA and HITECH regulations to protect sensitive health data, such as patient records.
- Finance firms must ensure compliance with PCI DSS and SOX to safeguard confidential financial information, such as credit card transactions.
- EdTech companies must comply with FERPA, which protects student information.
- Service companies that deal with customer data may choose to comply with SOC 2 to demonstrate their commitment to data security and privacy.
Fractional CISOs also conduct regular audits and update your company’s cybersecurity measures according to the latest compliance requirements.
A fractional CISO would have a network of experts and partners, which they can leverage to fill gaps and ensure you get the right partners and guidance at the right price.
Plus, they may already have experienced five times what you're going through now. That experience is invaluable.
Ultimately, an experienced fractional CISO ensures your company is bulletproof against any cybersecurity-related non-compliance.
5. Support in Mergers and Acquisitions
The due diligence involved in the post-acquisition integration of assets can be a taxing process, riddled with regulatory and cybersecurity challenges.
A fractional CISO will:
- Investigate past breaches, incidences of non-compliance, dealings with risky third-party vendors, etc., of the company being acquired.
- Create an inventory of acquired assets, such as user data, intellectual property, in-house knowledge base, employee data, etc.
- Assess their cybersecurity risk and categorize assets according to vulnerability
- Estimate the costs of securing acquired assets and quantify the potential cost of future breaches.
- Integrate these assets into the organization’s current infrastructure while ensuring end-to-end security alignment and continuous monitoring of their risk of cyber threats
- Communicate with key stakeholders before and during the asset integration to ensure a smooth transition
This goes the other way around, too.
If your company is getting acquired, the fractional CISO protects the integrity of your essential assets.
For example, if the agreement lets you retain ownership of the intellectual property, they will design a security protocol to protect the IP from a tech standpoint. This could be through advanced security technologies, conducting security awareness training for employees, working with legal teams, and more.
This way, the transition will be smooth, and the combined organization's cybersecurity will remain uncompromised.
6. Information Security Policy (ISP)
A fractional CISO drafts an ISP that provides guidelines for risk management, including access authorization, network security, incident responses, and much more.
Why is this important?
An ISP is instrumental in setting up any cybersecurity program and training employees, besides being a strong USP for cybersecurity-conscious customers.
To prepare your company’s cybersecurity policy, a fractional CISO first understands the business expectations, regulatory compliance requirements, and operational needs of the team. They also incorporate key stakeholders’ feedback to draft a comprehensive ISP.
Under a fractional CISO, an ISP is never a static document. They conduct periodic reviews and incorporate changes based on the feedback received and lessons learned on the ground.
Moreover, they familiarize the team with the ISP and its purpose. This helps to cultivate transparency about the company’s cybersecurity policy.
7. Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
By analyzing process interdependencies, a fractional CISO maps out how even a minor cyber incidence can cause full-scale business disruptions.
As part of their BIA, a fractional CISO:
- Identifies IT-dependent business processes and the security threats they’re exposed to
- Estimates the financial and process cost of downtime
- Suggests alternative ways to ensure business continuity in the event of a breach
- Works with other departments to figure out a seamless way to manage maintenance downtime and other proactive security measures
- Creates a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) to get things up and running after a cyber incident has been dealt with
This way, your company has a business continuity plan even in the face of potential disruption.
8. Combat Security Breaches
Despite having all the cybersecurity measures in place, you can’t entirely eliminate the possibility of another cyber risk.
Thankfully, a fractional CISO would have created a step-by-step protocol as part of the security strategy for a swift resolution to the crisis if a security breach happened.
All tools and practices for continuous monitoring of your organization’s information security status would be in place. In case of a cyberattack, the fractional CISO would be among the first to know and respond.
The action plan to deal with security breaches may include real-time reporting and cross-departmental collaboration to ensure the whole team presents a united front. While they work to maintain business continuity, your fractional CISO guides the IT department to implement effective fixes to patch the breach.
Post-resolution, they analyze the flaws in the system and take corrective measures to prevent such incidents from ever happening again.
They help set up Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and checklists for your business and conduct contingency training (“What to do in case of emergency”) for the security team.
9. Security Awareness Training
The popularity of remote and hybrid work models and "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) policies mean employees must now be trained in the basics of information security.
Part of a fractional CISO’s ongoing duties is to ensuring that all employees know the common security risks and do their best to safeguard critical data.
This involves conducting regular training sessions around topics like:
- Anti-phishing awareness
- USB safety
- Client privacy
- Employee verification, etc.
A fractional CISO’s expertise in communicating the importance of cybersecurity ensures their training modules are easy to understand, even for non-tech-savvy employees.
Ultimately, hiring a fractional CISO helps nurture a culture that values cybersecurity.
10. Mobile Device Management (MDM)
Whether your employees work on your company devices or carry their own, MDM software provides comprehensive coverage to protect sensitive organizational data. Using this software, you can wipe device data remotely, geo-fence devices, enforce bespoke security protocols, and much more.
A fractional CISO works with the IT team to create an inventory of all the devices in use and determines if your organization really needs MDM software. They capture the associated risks and possible solutions to mitigate these risks.
For example, if your company faces a serious risk of hacks, a fractional CISO will place encryption and sophisticated identity verification features on a higher priority when scouting for MDM software.
A fractional CISO will then get a proposal from vendors, finalize the best solution, and ensure that your company derives actual value from MDM. This includes integrating it seamlessly into your tech stack, training employees in adopting the software, and monitoring its ROI.
This ensures that MDM software responds to your company’s ISP and compliance requirements, safeguards your company devices, and mitigates risks associated with third-party devices.
11. Vendor Management
Whether you hire an agency for a couple of tests or work with long-term service providers for on-premise SaaS applications, your fractional CISO will be the single point of contact with all external security vendors.
Before onboarding a vendor, a fractional CISO evaluates their:
- Compliance experience
- Business continuity plans
- Personnel qualification in risk management
- Installation roadmap
- Price negotiations
Once onboarded, they make sure the vendor complies with all the information security clauses in the service level agreement and delivers the desired results. This safeguards the company from any potential vulnerabilities that can happen through external entities.
Knowing what the top partners and vendors charge in today's market is a competitive advantage. Having someone who has recently signed with and rolled out a vendor is a great way to ensure you get the best integration and price.
Fractional CISOs track all essential information security KPIs regularly.
Here are some important metrics that helps them gain a complete overview of the organization’s risk levels and general security preparedness:
- Incident response time metrics: Time to first response, time to containment, time to recovery, etc.
- Patch management metrics: Average time to patch breach, percentage of systems patched, number of unpatched vulnerabilities,
- Compliance metrics: Percentage of employees trained, number of policy violations, rate of unauthorized installations
- Anti-phishing metrics: Ratio of successful to unsuccessful phishing attempts
They prepare detailed reports, including:
- Detailed incident logs to cover causes and outcomes of cyber incidents
- BIA reports for C-suite executives and board members
- Actionable recommendations for the IT department
- All the necessary documentation that auditors or clients require to verify compliance credentials
Reporting is a critical fractional CISO service that keeps the leadership informed at all times to make proactive decisions and secure the organization.
Clearly, cybersecurity is a practical concern for all types of businesses, and a senior leader in the field can make a real difference.
But why go “fractional”?
3 Pivotal Advantages of a Fractional CISO vs. a Full-Time CISO
Fractional CISOs provide the same services as their full-time counterpart but with added benefits.
Let’s explore what these are.
1. Up-to-Date in the Latest Technology and Trends
The growing risk of cyber threats requires information security leaders to be abreast of the latest trends and cutting-edge technologies.
For instance, ransomware addresses received over 406 million USD in cryptocurrency in 2022, making them thoroughly untraceable to regulatory authorities. A fractional CISO should be aware of these trends besides knowing the mechanisms and currencies used for ransom payments. Only then will they be able to provide guidance on robust cybersecurity solutions for operational continuity and to protect sensitive data.
This mindset and practical know-how of dealing with a variety of cyber issues come from a fractional CISO’s diverse experience working with multiple companies across sectors.
A full-time CISO may not have this same breadth of experience — they may only focus on the technologies and threats relevant to their organization and industry.
2. A Cost-Effective Option for Small Firms
Protecting data is costly, involving expensive tests, software, professionals, and sometimes, downtimes. As a result, small companies, unable to bear heavy costs, may avoid hiring full-time senior professionals in the field.
This leaves them vulnerable to cyberattacks that are often deliberately targeted at firms with a weak security posture.
Hiring a fractional CISO (for a fraction of the time and money as a full-time CISO) gives you the financial leeway to continue spending on information security essentials without compromising on a leadership role.
3. Access to a Wide Network
Given their breadth of experience, a fractional CISO would have access to a wide network of seasoned IT professionals, business leaders, security analysts, agencies, and more.
You can leverage their network to:
- Hire cybersecurity professionals
- Pick the right software vendors
- Invite trainers to expand your team’s knowledge
- Learn best practices from other organizations
And if you hire a fractional CISO from Go Fractional, you get access to a range of seasoned professionals for all business functions — from marketing to product development.
Ready to hire a fractional CISO for your team?
How to Hire a Fractional CISO with Go Fractional
Find skilled and experienced fractional CISOs in our list of accomplished professionals.
You get to know your potential fractional Chief Information Security Officer through a series of interactions. And we manage all the admin tasks during the process without charging any hidden fees.
Discover your perfect match in these three simple steps:
Step 1: Connect
Start by exploring this list of talented fractional professionals. Once you have a potential candidate in mind, contact us to learn about the next steps.
We’ll suggest more options from a private member list (not published on our website) or recruit a new candidate from our wide network.
Step 2: Meet
Communicate your expectations and clarify the fine print about deliverables, timelines, and pay with your potential fractional CISO. Ensure they have the requisite skillset and are a good cultural fit for your organization at this stage.
If you feel confident with your choice, we’ll send you a detailed engagement proposal and invite your feedback on it.
Step 3: Begin
Ready to make it official?
Time to review the final proposal, discuss the starting date for your fractional CISO, and sign the dotted line!
How We Source Fractional CISO Candidates
At Go Fractional, each candidate undergoes a meticulous vetting process before landing on our website. A standard selection flow includes:
- Applications: We mainly pick candidates already in leadership roles to capitalize on their expertise.
- Interviews: Next, we evaluate candidates in extensive interviews to judge how well they fit within our community and your company.
- Profiles: We weigh each candidate’s achievements, past experience, and track record for excellence
How Much Does a Fractional CISO Cost?
The answer to this depends on how long they work with you, the scope of their responsibilities, their previous experience, etc.
Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, we adjust the pricing model of each fractional Chief Information Security Officer to reflect these factors.
But the basic structure is a completely transparent monthly retainer, typically between $10,000 and $20,000. We adhere to value-based pricing instead of tracking hours. The typical period of engagement that we usually see is between 10-20 hours per week at the pricing mentioned here.
Work with any number of fractional executives from Go Fractional — we’ll only send you a single monthly invoice for all of them.
So don’t delay the decision any further. Hire a fractional CISO with Go Fractional today!