This is not a drill! Now what?

The worst case scenario for your company became a reality this morning. You were reading the morning news and stumbled across an article with details from a data dump released the night before by a cybercriminal organization. Some of the details are strikingly accurate about research for a new product line being developed by your company that have yet to be publicized. After further review of the released data, your suspicions are confirmed. The details released contain over 100 GBs of your company’s data. What do you do now?

The accessibility, openness and reach of the Internet – while great for learning – is also the reason behind the saying, “once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever.” Data published on the internet never truly goes away. The way your company responds in the coming hours and days will have a lasting impact, and can even affect the severity of the event.

Don’t be shy about asking for help

Your company should immediately enact its crisis management protocol. Appropriate notifications should be made to stakeholders, but you should also have an internal discussion about how to move forward – and the sooner the better.

Your company’s protocol may involve hiring an outside crisis management firm, or you may have a designated crisis team in-house. Company executives should provide direction to crisis managers regarding business decisions, but the crisis managers should be the ones providing guidance to all key players involved in the response.

The crisis response will more than likely involve several outside vendors who can fill the need for technical expertise in specialized areas. Whether or not you need multiple vendors will depend on your company’s available resources and the nature and severity of the crisis. Given what’s at stake for your company, many separate functional roles will be running projects simultaneously during the response efforts and require coordination. These functional roles can create overlap, with multiple vendors working on the same project.

The importance of seasoned crisis managers

The complexity of the crisis response means it is vital for crisis managers to be experienced in cyber crisis management, and that they have your company’s best interests in mind. The crisis response can be a period of chaos and confusion with public relations fallout, unnecessary efforts by vendors and the general lack of visibility into the response efforts. Crisis managers wear many hats during the crisis response, including as advisors, project managers and vendor managers, just to name a few.

Management of vendor scope creep can be a skill that really sets one crisis management firm apart from the others. A powerful and lasting impression of a great crisis management firm will be one where the entirety of the response was handled in a timely, effective and cost-efficient manner.

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