Communications In The Cyber Age: An Afterthought?

Strengthening the fortress when it comes to cyber is important. To avoid reputational damage, you will need to take a proactive approach to communications too.

Technology has reshaped the summer holiday. Suitcases weigh much less thanks to the rise of e-books. The drive to the villa is powered by a sat nav or navigation app. And contactless payment and smartphone banking are making traveller’s cheques obsolete.

But, as holiday season ends and we head back to work, we remember that technological advances are changing the way we work, too.

It isn’t all positive, though. New forms of technology let us down on occasions. And they’re becoming increasingly vulnerable to attack.

New statistics from the Crime Survey of England and Wales show that one in ten of us has been a victim of some form of cyber-attack. High profile cyber-attacks on organisations have also increased, with recent government research suggesting that two in three big businesses in the UK have faced some form of attack in the last 12 months.

Most businesses seem to recognise that the risk of a cyber-attack poses a threat to their day-to-day operations. But what about the threat it could pose to your reputation?

It’s critical for businesses to do all they can to prevent a cyber breach, but it is equally critical to be ready to communicate in the event they are exposed.

Cyber-crime is growing and most organisations will be affected. Put simply, cyber security could be a major reputational threat to any organisation which does not factor it in to its communications and crisis communications strategy. Not just who says what, but the channels used and the tone adopted. If the perception is you have not handled the situation well and have kept important stakeholders in the dark, the damage could be profound.

We need not look far for examples of the reputational damage caused by cyber-breaches (malicious or benign). Think dating site Ashley Madison, or more recently, Delta Air Lines.

To be prepared, organisations must apply the same rigour to their communications protocols in the event of a breach as they do to their operational ones. That means fostering an environment and establishing a process where all parties – senior management, comms, IT, operations – are in dialogue and sharing information.

How well would your organisation cope from a communications perspective? Click here to look at the key questions you must answer to check your communications team is ready for a cyber attack. Is your communications team ready for a cyber attack

Strengthening the fortress when it comes to cyber is important. Checking your website for malware and other infections, scanning for vulnerabilities and putting in place DDoS protection – you know the drill. But you mustn’t just see this as a “physical” threat. To avoid reputational damage, you will need to take a proactive approach to communications too.

Tom Yazdi
Senior Consultant

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Tom leads projects for Grant Thornton International, Bovill and Canada Life. He has a diploma from the PRCA.

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