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What would you do if, tomorrow morning, you opened your work laptop to see a ransomware demand? “Oops: Want Your Files Back? Here’s How to Pay”.

It’s a pretty terrifying prospect. In that moment, IT and senior management are rushing to restore previous versions via advanced cybersecurity – or if they can’t, they’re considering paying up.

As for the rest of your company’s employees, their online training modules in how to prevent a cyber-attack or create a secure password won’t help them here. With all systems down, clients still need servicing. Business continuity can’t take another hit after COVID. And who will safeguard their jobs if the company loses money? Employees are in the dark, meaning chaos isn’t far away.

Emergency Mass Notification System (EMNS)

37 percent of respondents indicate implementation of an EMNS solution set up in their organisations This sounds like every manager’s worst nightmare, though surprisingly little is done to prevent confusion and disruption should an unexpected incident occur. According to the 2019 Gartner Security and Risk Management Survey, only 37 percent of respondents indicate that they have a full implementation of an Emergency Mass Notification System (EMNS) solution set up in their organisations. However, with the variety of challenges all organisations faced in 2020, devastating fires, civil unrest and of course, the pandemic, crisis managers have begun to invest in solutions beyond EMNS that help them plan, detect, respond and recover more quickly to any critical event a modern enterprise may face.

Many are beginning to consider how the right technology could help mitigate any further disruption when we all return to the office but – as the ransomware, example proves – this sort of speedy, secure crisis communication isn’t just for the post-COVID season. Disruption can happen at any time, to any organisation, working in any location.

Critical Event Management (CEM)

Organisations must choose a Critical Event Management (CEM) solution which perfectly suits the needs of their business. Crisis managers will want to consider the following four questions.

Four vital questions to pinpoint the right CEM

  • What Keeps You Awake? As a business owner, what can potentially disrupt your business operations or create a dent in your firm’s reputation? While we can develop response and recovery measures to address the threat of natural disasters or other potential man-made threats (example, active shooter incidents, building fire emergencies, etc.), there may be other potential risks we may not have planned for. In this instance, the first probable response is to reach out to your most important stakeholders, provide assurance or instructions, and seek acknowledgment from your stakeholders as part of your communications strategy. Being able to account for your team members will then allow you to better size up your next best response to a critical event, collectively.
  • Who Regulates You? Businesses operating in specific sectors may be subjected to regulatory requirements. For example, organisations operating critical information infrastructures (CIIs) may be expected to report cybersecurity incidents within a specified timeframe to “sector regulators”, with relevant details that should include the extent or progress of containment and resolution. The expectation is not only confined to the speed of escalation and reporting to the regulator(s), but there is pressure within the organisation’s IT or cybersecurity team(s) to provide a complete situational picture of the incident while facilitating swift resolution. Given the nature of such a threat, business leaders will be taking an unnecessary risk by relying solely on email and SMS communications. Instead, a secured platform that can support the entire incident response lifecycle via a common operating picture through automated alerting and collaboration with relevant stakeholders would be a better option.
  • Who Are You Responsible For? When a critical event has the potential to result in the loss of lives (or any near equivalent), companies have an expected duty of care to their staff and other concerned stakeholders. This should not be confused with accounting for only those operating in the physical premises, but anyone who is contracted by the company needs to be accounted for (yes, remote workers and outsourced service vendors should be included). Businesses still relying on the manual call tree system will experience the excruciating pain of reaching out to staff one by one or must wait for the “next identified tier leader” to reply. Instead, communications platform that can quickly push out alerts, record acknowledgments and facilitates critical information sharing with first responders can significantly reduce response and recovery time.
  • Does Anyone Need to Know? When a critical event occurs (or is about to occur), do the senior management team or Board members need to receive first-hand information? How about other staff and essential vendors within the company? Relying on emails and SMS alone can be problematic, particularly when critical events occur in the middle of the night or on a holiday weekend. If critical events require authorisation for certain responses to proceed, surely it should not wait till the next morning. To mitigate this risk, a reliable and robust CEM platform with the ability to provide deliver assurance and secure two-way communication should be considered to ensure prompt dissemination and response.

What’s non-negotiable in a CEM platform?

Should be able to manage last minute ‘live’ critical plan changes on an accessible and secured platform Whichever CEM solution crisis managers choose, it should be able to manage last minute ‘live’ critical plan changes on an accessible and secured platform. A disruptive event is always in flux, and as such, any technology must be able to quickly communicate the latest plans from leadership teams.

The platform should also enable swift notification in the event of activation; provide a means of accountability tracking; facilitates critical information gathering and management from operational and tactical response teams; and, most importantly, enable collaboration between all those who have a stake in keeping the business operating smoothly.

Security standards

These tactics are nothing without a secure platform. If it can be hacked, the reliability of all information transferred through its network is cast into doubt. Each platform should have industry-recognised security standards and demonstrate resilience to hack attempts. Many now have a managed services team behind them, able to provide trusted assistance whenever an emergency happens.

Chaos arises not from the source of business disruption, but from the panicked reactions of teams. With CEM platforms, calm can be restored among all stakeholders while a solution is found, dramatically reducing the impact of the event on the day-to-day operations of the business.

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