Blog posts by Christopher Schuetze

Cyber-Attacks: Why Preparing to Fail Is the Best You Can Do

Nowadays, it seems that no month goes by without a large cyber-attack on a company becoming public. Usually, these attacks not only affect revenue of the attacked company but reputation as well. Nevertheless, this is still a completely underestimated topic in some companies. In the United Kingdom 43% of businesses experienced a cybersecurity breach in the past twelve months, according to the 2018 UK Cyber Security Breaches Survey. On the other hand, 74% say that cybersecurity is a high priority for them. So where is the gap, and why does it exist? The gap exists between the decision to prioritize cybersecurity and the reality of handling cyber incidents. It is critical to have a well-prepared plan, because cyber incidents will happen to you. Only 27% of UK businesses have a formal cyber incident management process. Does your company have one?

How do cyber-attacks affect your business?

To understand the need for a formal process and the potential threats, a company must be aware of the impact an incident could have. It could lead to a damage or loss of customers, or in the worst case to insolvency of the whole company. In many publicly known data breaches like the ones Facebook or PlayStation Networks had, the companies needed significant time to recover. Some would say, they still haven’t recovered. The loss of brand image, reputation and trust of a company can be enormous. To prevent your company from experiencing such critical issues and be able to handle incidents in a reasonable way, a good cyber incident plan must be implemented.

The characteristics of a good plan for cyber incidents

Such a plan should describe the processes, actions and steps which must be taken after a cyber-attack incident. The first step is categorization, which is essential to handle an incident in a well-defined way. If an incident is identified, it must be clear who will be contacted to react to this incident. This person or team is then responsible to categorize the incident and estimate the impact for the company.

The next step is to identify in detail which data has been compromised and what immediate actions can be taken to limit the damage. Subsequently, the plan must describe how to contact the staff needed and what they must do to prevent further harm and to recover. Responsibilities have to be allocated clearly to prevent a duplication of efforts when time is short. In a recent webinar KuppingerCole Principal Analyst Martin Kuppinger made the point, that IT teams responsible for cybersecurity should shift their focus from protection to recovery. While a lot of investments in cybersecurity nowadays still go into protection, this is not enough anymore. “You need to be able to restart your business and critical services rapidly,” Martin explained.

Cyber-attacks are not an IT-only job

Apart from the necessary actions described above which will be executed by IT and cybersecurity professionals, a process must be defined which lays out how corporate communications deals with an attack. In big companies there is an explicit top-down information chain. If a grave cyber-attack occurs, the Chief Communications Officer (CCO) has to be informed. Imagine the CCO not knowing anything about the incident being called in the morning by a journalist. This puts the company into a weak place where it loses control over crisis communication. Depending on the severity of the incident, a press release must be send out and customers must be informed. It is always better when companies are confident and show the public that they care instead of waiting until public pressure urges them to act.

Can companies deal with cybercrime all by themselves?

When it comes to personal user data being compromised, cyber-attacks can have legal consequences. Then it is wise to consult internal or external lawyers. External support from dedicated experts for specific cyber incidents are usually part of an action plan, too. To react as quickly as possible, a list with experts for external support categorized by topic should be created, containing contact persons and their availability.

Since cyber-attacks can never be entirely prevented, it is of utmost importance to have a plan and to know exactly how to react. This can prevent a lot of potential mistakes which are often made after incident has already been identified. In the end, it can prevent the company from losing customer confidence and revenues.

To understand and learn this process, to build necessary awareness and know how to deal with cybercrime in detail, you can attend our Incident Response Boot Camp on November 12 in Berlin.

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