Is Crisis Communication Part of Your Cybersecurity Toolbox?

Post by
Net Friends
Crisis Communications for Cyber-attacks thumbnail graphic for Net Friends blog

Do you feel a knot in your stomach when you hear about a cyberattack?  We understand! But what if, instead of dreading the possibility, you felt empowered to handle it? Crisis communication planning for cyberattacks is an important part of your cybersecurity plan. It can transform a potential disaster into an opportunity to build trust and resilience.

A well-defined plan can help you navigate a cyberattack with clarity and confidence. Let us explore how a strong plan keeps you in control, what elements you need to succeed, and how to emerge from a potential attack stronger than ever. Together we will build a fortress of communication around your data to ultimately protect and preserve your reputation. Because in the digital age, preparedness is the ultimate defense, and clear communication is your shield.  

Net Friends takes cybersecurity preparedness seriously, and we recently completed our own internal Crisis Communication Plan review. We hope to never need to use it, but we know that we are prepared to manage potential incidents effectively.  

Importance of a Strong Cybersecurity Plan

The internet offers incredible opportunities for growth and connection, it also exposes us to a constant threat of cyber-attacks. The statistics show how important it is to not neglect your cybersecurity.

  • 73% of small businesses have experienced a breach [2023 Business Impact Report; ITRC]
  • Only 14% of those targeted are adequately prepared [Verizon 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report].
  • 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of being attacked [National Cyber Security Alliance].  
Having a strong crisis communication plan in place is one part of a solid defense strategy. Proactive planning can help mitigate the impact of the attack and potentially protect your reputation.

Preparation is Key: Before the Crisis Hits

Imagine a fire erupting in your building. Just like having a fire escape plan minimizes panic and ensures a coordinated response, a pre-defined crisis communication plan is essential for navigating a cyber-attack.

Here's what your plan should include:

1. Designated Communication Team and Roles

Identify a team responsible for crafting and disseminating messages during a crisis. Assign clear roles for each member, ensuring someone oversees drafting statements, coordinating with stakeholders, and managing communication channels.

2. Pre-approved Communication Templates

Develop pre-written message templates or outlines for various cyber-attack scenarios, like data breaches, malware infections, or denial-of-service attacks. These templates can be easily adapted to specific situations, saving valuable time during an emergency.

3. Contact Lists for Stakeholders

Compile a list of key stakeholders including employees, customers, media outlets, and regulatory bodies. Include contact information for all parties to facilitate swift communication during a crisis. If your customer base is in a CRM, make sure that the people you want to contact are tagged so you can send the information out quickly.

4. Defined Communication Channels

Determine the appropriate communication channels for reaching different stakeholders. This may include your website, social media platforms, email blasts, internal communication platforms, or press releases.

5. Notify Authorities

While not all breaches require notifying authorities, a well-defined communication plan ensures you reach the right authorities quickly and efficiently. Create a list of who to contact and under what circumstance.

6. Regular Reviews and Updates

Do not let your crisis communication plan collect dust on a shelf. Schedule regular reviews to ensure it remains current and reflects changes in your business and the cyber threat landscape.

7. Communicate Effectively During the Crisis

Speed is crucial during a cyber-attack. Do not wait until you have all the answers before reaching out to stakeholders. Transparency is key. Be honest about the nature of the attack, the potential impact, and what you know so far. Avoid speculation and stick to facts.  

How to communicate effectively during a cyber breach infographic
How to Communicate Effectively During a Cyber Breach

Proactively sharing what you know, acknowledging what's unknown, and outlining next steps builds trust and demonstrates your team's commitment to resolving the situation.

Here's a framework you can follow for your initial communication:

  • Acknowledge the Incident: "We are aware of a cybersecurity incident that has impacted our systems."
  • What is the Impact: “This incident impacts you in the following way.”
  • Emphasize Understanding: "We understand this may be concerning and apologize for any inconvenience caused."
  • Focus on Solutions: "We are working diligently to contain the attack and recover our systems."
  • Provide Updates: "We will provide further updates as soon as we have more information. We will update everyone at a regular interval [name the interval]."

Consistency builds trust during a crisis. Ensure all communication channels – website, social media, press releases, and internal communications – convey the same information and tone.

Proactive Communication Builds Trust

Cybersecurity incidents are a reality, and how companies handle them can significantly impact their reputation. Here is how clear customer focused communication can make a difference:

  • Missed Opportunity - Equifax Breach (2017): In this case, a six-week delay in notifying consumers impacted the public trust and Equifax’s reputation. Lesson Learned: Transparency is key. Promptly alerting stakeholders minimizes speculation and allows them to take necessary precautions.
  • Prioritizing Customers - Maersk Attack (2017): The shipping giant suffered a major attack that halted operations. Their response focused on minimizing customer disruption. Lesson Learned: Customer focus builds loyalty. Taking immediate steps to address their needs demonstrates commitment and helps maintain business continuity.

As Loren Dealy Mahler, a public relations expert, stated: "A skilled technical response team can ensure you still have data and infrastructure when you return to work after an attack. A skilled communication expert can make sure you still have a business to run once you get there."

By prioritizing transparent communication and focusing on solutions for impacted customers, companies can navigate cybersecurity events more effectively, minimize reputational damage, and even emerge stronger in the long run.

The Risks of Not Communicating

The consequences of failing to communicate effectively during a cyber-attack can be severe.

cyber breach statistic micrographic
  • Loss of Trust: 60% of small businesses fail after a cyber breach. A lack of transparency can damage your reputation and impact customer and employee confidence.
  • Legal Ramifications: Depending on the nature of the attack and the information compromised, legal regulations may require specific communication protocols. Failure to comply can lead to hefty fines and further damage your reputation.

Not communicating sets off a domino effect. It starts with lost trust, then moves into the legal repercussions that can arise from not following communication protocols. This highlights the importance of a well-defined communication plan.  

My father always said insurance is something you hate to pay for but are happy you have if you need it. Creating a crisis communication plan in the event of cyber-attack can minimize the disruption and protect your business from lasting damage. If you need it, you will be very happy you have it!

Need help building out your cybersecurity plan? Net Friends is here to support you. Set up an appointment with one of our trained experts to discuss your needs.

Not ready to make an appointment? Follow us on LinkedIn, we share information you can use and even the occasional axolotl video.

- The Three Little Pigs' Guide to SMB Cybersecurity
- 5 Tips to Improve Your Cybersecurity Culture
- My First Cybersecurity Incident

At Net Friends, we believe in the power of human expertise. While we leverage AI to enhance our content and processes, all blog posts are written and edited by our knowledgeable staff. You can trust you are getting insights directly from our team.

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