Expert guidance on responding to cyberattacks

Mark Seifert of Brunswick Group shares crucial crisis response tips and essential preparation for the inevitable.


What would you do if your company website and servers got hacked?

Perhaps the better question is: What should you do to prepare for when your company gets hacked?

Global ransomware reports have increased by 715% since last year, according to Mark Seifert, co-chair of cybersecurity and risk for Brunswick Group, who spoke at a recent Ragan virtual event. He says every company should consider itself “fair game” for hackers, and notes that “the current remote-work environment means a larger attack surface for threat actors to exploit.” As hacks continue to hammer the highest levels of our government, and affect companies from virtually every industry around the world, this threat should be top of mind for communicators.

Among his practical tips for comms pros, he shared an “Anatomy of a Successful Cyber Response Plan.”

Slide via Mark Seifert

According to Seifert, communicators should anticipate the worst and be prepared at a moment’s notice to respond to a hack. He cites five common data breach messaging “fails” that unprepared companies make in response to hacks.

  • Paying the ransom to “eliminate” the threat.
  • Thinking your customers won’t care.
  • Expecting your board to stay out of the incident.
  • Assuming reporters won’t write about the incident, even if you don’t call back.
  • Ignoring the ransom request and expecting the hacker to disappear.

How, then, should comms pros prepare for such an inopportune event? Essential prep work includes buttoning up the following—before something bad happens:

  • Strategic communications counsel to minimize legal and reputational risks.
  • Strategic plan for establishing and executing internal and external communications.
  • Key message development and communications material tailored to key stakeholders.
  • Scenario planning and holding statements.
  • Media monitoring, analysis and coverage reports.
  • Digital strategy and execution, including social media monitoring, coordination, and content.
  • Rapid media response.
  • Coaching for executives to prepare key stakeholder conversations, potential media interviews.

None of this will be going away in 2021, of course. If anything, ransomware and hacking attempts will likely increase, according to Seifert. The question is: Is your organization ready to respond?

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