How comms teams can help fight ransomware

Comms pros from Google, APCO and WE Communications provide key action steps.

How comms teams can help fight ransomware

Several notable ransomware attacks have occurred in the U.S. over the last couple of months, serving as a reminder that comms pros must be prepared for such an event at their own organization.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, Russian-based criminal organization REvil carried out a cyber attack on Kaseya, a Miami-based software company; in June, meat producer JBS paid $11 million in bitcoin to resolve a cyber attack; and in May, Colonial Pipeline paid $5 million to hackers after a ransomware attack. 

PBS recently cited the Institute for Security and Technology, which reported that the amount of victims paying ransom in these types of attacks has spiked more than 300% from 2019 to 2020.

PR pros shared with PRWeek the following best practices for comms teams to counter cybersecurity threats. 

Kaylin Trychon, who leads security communications at Google, provided these steps:
1. Develop a security incident response playbook. 

2. Identify key stakeholders. People who will be involved in the responses will likely need to review all comms.

3. Know the reporters. Journalists covering security incidents are unlikely to be your day-to-day beat reporters.

4. Rehearse tabletop exercises, which help organizations uncover blind spots or areas of weakness. Comms teams should practice responses and identify where they need to make adjustments.

Bob Winslow, senior director of technology and disruption at APCO Worldwide, recommended the following:
1. Develop mechanisms to determine extent and source of the exposure, using data, analytics and forensics to assess the risk.

2. Conduct audience mapping in advance for rapid internal and external communications.

3. Establish media mapping in advance, identifying reporters most likely to scoop and or cover the story. Know your friends and your enemies.

4. Create and exercise your cyber playbook. Plan for scenarios involving all aspects of the organization from business executives, legal, the board and global operations, and keep the process fresh with annual tabletop exercises addressing different scenarios.

Scott Love, SVP of technology at WE Communications, gave these proactive pointers:
1. Be prepared. Work closely with executives and information security professionals, getting on the same page, well in advance of a threat. Outline potential scenarios and agree upon approaches. While each situation is unique, a company must quickly respond and assure stakeholders that it is engaged, proactive and transparent.

2. Know your communications. What you convey to employees, customers and other key stakeholders about security scenarios in advance of an event is just as important as when it happens. Make sure that employees know their roles in the comms plan and how responsibilities will evolve with new threats. Keeping customers safe and assured requires support with executives, security, and communications, internally working together.

3. Evolve (and keep evolving) your approach. The bad guys keep evolving their attacks and methods. Companies and organizations must keep up-to-date on what’s happening in the cybersecurity industry and how it could potentially affect communications. Everyone needs to understand the new and evolving vulnerabilities that could affect a company and know how to routinely activate the playbook.

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