How Natural Disasters Affect Cybersecurity

Frankie Wallace

When some management teams think about cybersecurity, often they only concern themselves with proper passwords and the awareness of viruses, not the hacker.  However, to truly protect your business, you need to think about the hackers and what they really are: agents of havoc. They want to trick you with scams and smoke and mirrors, and they also like to take advantage when users are distracted the most. It is imperative to understand how cybersecurity and natural disasters coincide, and how a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) now can help.

Natural disasters are one of those occurrences where hackers like to try their newest tricks. They know that people are scared and panicked; therefore, they strike where we aren’t looking, and are often successful. If your business is hit by a storm or even is within the vicinity of a storm, you need to be prepared for cybercrime in its many forms. Let’s talk about the importance of preparation, a DRP, and what you can do now to be prepared.

Cybersecurity and Natural Disasters

When it comes to natural disasters, the first thing that comes to mind is saving lives. Cybersecurity rarely comes to mind in these instances, and hackers are well aware of this. Therefore, it is a must to understand how cybersecurity and natural disasters can affect you and your business. In the past, there have been several occurrences of cybercriminals taking advantage of a natural disaster.

It is said that Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, causing countless deaths, and not to mention over $160 million in damage. Instead of concern for others, the malicious hackers were creating fake donation websites and starting fictitious phone scams where they asked for funds for disaster relief, only to take advantage of the personal information supplied by the victims. Similar behavior occurred during Hurricane Florence, where phishing scams spiked as hackers attempted to trick the vulnerable people of North Carolina.

The point is, even if a natural disaster does not physically impact businesses, scams are likely taking place, and hackers could be taking advantage of your distraction to steal your corporate data. Since every state in America has its share of threats, your company must begin planning now so you can mitigate the damage during the next catastrophe. You need a DRP, and it must include cybersecurity protection. 

This DRP requires a strong leader who can create a team that will compile a list of all of the potential cyber risks that could happen during a storm and create solutions for how you will protect against them both during and after the weather clears. Each member should have a list of responsibilities, and if they cannot complete them in full, someone else must be chosen for the task. In addition to understanding the risks, this DRP must also include an employee training strategy and proactive measures that you can employ now, so you are prepared for the unexpected.

Preparation is Key

Whether a storm hits your building or not, your staff will likely be in a panic thinking about their loved ones and their jobs. If they haven’t already been trained on the threats, they are likely not going to start thinking about threats at this time; therefore, training is necessary now, so they can keep security in the back of their minds. Whether your organization is public or private, the management team may be equally preoccupied during a disaster, therefore, it would behoove an organization to bring on a cybersecurity expert whose position is to be aware of all current threats and best solutions – should they surface. When a disaster strikes, this expert will remain focused on cybersecurity, and the protection they provide could make this the best investment your company has ever made.

If your area is especially prone to natural disasters, then all employees must be trained on the tactics that hackers use in these scenarios. This training should also be included in all new-hire orientation programs. As mentioned, when big storms hit, hackers like to set up fake charity sites while stealing the card information of those trying to help people in need. To attract users to fictitious websites, many hackers use phishing emails and texts to pretend they are a real and charitable organization, however, the links included only lead to dangerous malware. Advise employees to never click on these links, especially on their work devices. If they want to donate, they should manually type in the URL of the organization to ensure a proper experience.

Be Proactive 

Your security expert and IT teams need to work together to ensure that all systems are up-to-date and that your data is protected, which is an essential task to prevent any type of security issue but is especially important in the case of an unexpected storm or natural disaster. All data needs to be backed up on servers that are separate from the main system, and these servers need to be updated whenever a new version or patch becomes available. 

Since larger organizations can compile vast amounts of information, part of your DRP should be to compile a list of all of your corporate data and decide what is expendable and what absolutely must be salvaged. That information should be backed up, secured, and encrypted so it cannot be lost. Management should assign a team member to this specific responsibility, and that individual must ensure that the data is always secure. One important step after a disaster occurs is to take photos of damaged items and send them to the insurance company to recuperate your losses. This same step should be taken with your backup servers along with essential office equipment.

Another proactive measure is to move all data and essential programs to a cloud computing service. One major advantage of this setup is that if your office is damaged, your employees can still resume their work remotely as they will have access to their necessary programs from anywhere. On top of that, most cloud computing companies also have their own in-house security teams that watch your data in real-time, which is especially important when you are preoccupied with a natural disaster.

This may be a lot to take in, but the fact is that you never know when a natural disaster will occur, and it is best to be prepared and understand how cybersecurity and natural disasters can be costly. Create a team and create your DRP now, and you will have one less thing to worry about when the inevitable storm hits.

Frankie Wallace

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