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Uncovering the Benefits of a vCISO in the Healthcare Sector

It is no secret that the healthcare sector is one of the most regulated entities in the U.S. economy. Thus, it is no stranger to heavy scrutiny. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic dealt a severe blow to the U.S. healthcare system, shaking its operational and technological foundations beyond levels seen before. Moreover, as the world sought to grapple with ongoing health emergencies, emerging technologies helped healthcare organizations to keep up with the demands of the growing market. Thus, offering cyber threat actors opportunities to exploit critical healthcare assets, such as sensitive data and systems.

In the past few years, there have been an increasing number of security incidents and data breaches across the global business landscape. These security incidents, especially ransomware attacks, are not only crippling to business processes, but they have also impacted the financial health of businesses whose operations were already being threatened by an unforeseen global pandemic. Therefore, convincing healthcare organizations that the need for a robust cybersecurity program is a critical piece of their business operation should no longer be an uphill climb because the protection of healthcare information is non-negotiable in today’s digital transformation era.

Developing innovative methods to meet the cybersecurity challenges that impact the healthcare business is pivotal to the healthy advancement of the U.S. economy. This article will focus on an innovative approach, virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO), which is a key to combating the cybersecurity talent challenges plaguing the healthcare industry today. 

What is Virtual CISO (vCISO)?

The vCISO is a security expert who utilizes their years of cybersecurity and industry experience to help businesses develop and manage the organization’s information security program. A vCISO manages the security of an organization’s information system from a strategic viewpoint, overseeing the structuring and reporting of security policies.

Internal Security staff can still exist, either reporting to or liaising with the vCISO and their team to implement an effective security policy. A vCISO is also typically required to present the corporation’s state of information security to the corporation’s board of directors, management, auditors, or regulators.

Dissecting the Cybersecurity Talent Short Crisis

Many healthcare organizations are facing staffing issues, according to a study by Ponemon. Of those industries, 79% encounter difficulties staffing their security teams. In addition, slightly less than half of the healthcare organizations do not have a designated chief information security officer (CISO) to help align security objectives with business goals. Therefore, 74 percent of companies struggle to maintain a resilient security posture without a certified cybersecurity official on staff.

The shortage of cybersecurity professionals poses a challenge for the healthcare industry. Fortunately, there are various methods to address the demand by deploying educational resources to train workers on security, promoting leadership, or hiring a virtual CISO. A virtual CISO can help the organization make informed decisions about the detective, preventive, and corrective security measures necessary to secure sensitive healthcare data, such as patients’ protected health information (PHI), without requiring a physical presence.

The Importance of a vCISO in the Healthcare Sector

The vCISO has a wide range of expertise regarding compliance issues. Having worked with the vCISO in various fields, they are familiar with taking accurate and prompt actions to manage security issues without compromising system performance. The vCISO will also choose a security aspect that the health care organization should monitor handle.

In some instances, the vCISO may be chosen for the role as the organization’s top management so that he will be able to convey the risk of the issue to management and make the right choice.

A virtual CISO can help manage the following challenges in a healthcare organization:

  • Limited Financial ResourcesThe prohibitive cost of managing personnel can be one of the main obstacles to developing and retaining the cybersecurity talent necessary to address security concerns adequately. Unless an organization has a security-level head, it can be forced to depend heavily on program managers or employees spread thin among different areas to handle its security concerns.

    This challenge could result in fragmented procedures and insufficient backup support that leaves systems vulnerable to danger. Alternatively, a vCISO can quickly become a skilled and expert security leader who brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership to policies and procedures, employee training, and business continuity within an organization.

  • Protection of Valuable Assets Healthcare organizations produce even more data than before due to new procedures and technologies. The first step in securing such data is identifying which pieces need to be protected and how the information is to be guarded. A vCISO can help such an organization determine what data to prioritize and how it will affect the organization, be it regulatory, financial, or reputational, if not properly guarded. For example, an average medical device report has been estimated to be worth $250 on the black market, with a sales average of $5.40 for the next highest value record (a credit card).
  • Compliance with Healthcare Regulations – Healthcare is highly controlled, so a vCISO with experience complying with relevant regulatory trends will be particularly helpful. In addition, due to the general use of public cloud computing, many organizations will have to comply with multiple guidelines, such as HIPAA, GDPR, and CCPA. Therefore, the vCISO will need to direct an adequate framework for the security of sensitive systems and compliance with reporting standards.
  • Evolving Attack Surfaces – Emerging technologies, such as IoT, AI, ML, Cloud computing, etc., medical professionals can offer their services to more patients who would otherwise be cut off from the healthcare system – telemedicine has transformed the healthcare sector in more ways than expected. However, the digital transformation of the healthcare system also introduces more attack vectors that threat actors can leverage for malicious activities. For instance, the use of telemedicine to communicate and manage sensitive patient data opens up a healthcare organization to both host-based and cloud network security threats capable of crippling entire healthcare systems.

Therefore, healthcare organizations must be aware of potential threats both internally and externally. A vCISO can bring immediate value by evaluating what technology, systems, and processes are used, assessing the potential threat to an organization, determining the amount of damage and impact it could cause, and providing recommendations for future improvement.

Who Can Benefit From a Virtual CISO?

Depending on their needs, different companies can benefit from having a virtual chief information officer ready to provide security thought leadership, industry-specific expertise, and enterprise-level collaborations. Below are some examples of why a vCISO could be the better option for your business:

  • Limited Budget – Depending on the current total cash award ranging from $208,000 to $337,000, it may not always be affordable for small or midsize corporate entities, some of which are not heavily regulated, to hire a chief information security officer (CISO). Therefore, these companies increasingly emphasize the importance of being realistic and becoming reliant on a leader appointed to guide the organization’s strategic planning and arranged franchise development.
  • Limited Time and Scope – In some businesses, their goal might be to hire the ideal candidate, but they do not have the time to conduct the search or hire a full-time CISO who has experience with their digital landscape. These types of businesses can benefit from presenting a virtual CISO with the ideal skills and understanding of best practices without having to go through additional training or education. Instead, with minimal effort, the virtual CISO may plugin and begin protecting the organizations’ technological platform and information assets.


The healthcare sector arguably handles private health information’s most sensitive data in circulation today, confidential health information. While the cybersecurity industry combats the growing skill and talent gap, it is imperative to note that organizations managing critical infrastructures, such as healthcare systems, no longer suffer due to the lack of skilled cybersecurity talent. Using a vCISO service, healthcare organizations will train and educate medical teams while also managing information security risks that threaten critical medical operations. As such, they offer healthcare leadership teams the proper tools and intelligence needed to make strategic decisions. 

If finding and evaluating a potential vCISO is a challenge for your leadership team, rest-assured because Goldsky will be attending the 2022 HIMSS Global Health Conference and Exhibition at (Booth 533) better to explain the importance of innovative IT security measures and demonstrate how its vCISO capabilities are designed with effective strategies to help your organization achieve a resilient cyber posture without breaking the bank.

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