Testing Top Leadership’s Muscle Memory With Data Breach Simulations

How would your organization’s leadership fare in its response to a full-on data breach? Regular and ongoing training can improve top leaders’ ability to respond to a cybersecurity breach and avoid doing additional damage to the reputation of the company as they deal with the repercussions.

Organizations simply cannot afford to be lax about their level of preparation to a cybersecurity event: Shareholders, government regulators and consumers won’t be keen on businesses who take a weak approach to cybersecurity. A data breach is something that has to be not simply considered and discussed a couple of times a year, but actively prepared for and drilled against. Obviously, incident response teams must practice and fine-tune their responses on a near-continuous basis, but many organizations don’t realize that executives should do the same.

Only the best-prepared companies engage in realistic incident response drills. The rest usually partake in tabletop exercises reminiscent of the duck-and-cover public announcements of the 1950s. Instead of ducking and covering, top executives need to take an engaged, active approach to evaluating the performance of their incident response teams as well as the rest of the C-suite.

Practice Makes Perfect

Could the response to a cyber event do more damage than the breach itself? Absolutely. What about your own organization’s response? Don’t guess — put it to the test. IBM’s X-Force Command Centers (XFCC) offer a portfolio of simulations that help train incident response teams by exposing them to realistic scenarios.

Last year, IBM Security vice president Caleb Barlow shared an exciting new concept that enables leaders to practice their “muscle memory” when responding to a breach. The all-day course at the XFCC aims to “train executives in the crisis leadership skills they’ll need to respond to a breach.” Leaders will work alongside technical staff to understand the scope of a breach, and work to detect and stop the attack before switching into recovery mode.

More recently, in June 2017, IBM opened a new X-Force Command Center in Poland to support its global clients in responding to cybersecurity incidents, especially in light of the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements. As Barlow wrote, the intent behind the XFCC-based simulations is to “infuse executives with the confidence and experience of doing something that their MBA training and business experience likely failed to address.” Can your global business afford to fail in its response to a GDPR-covered breach?

The Value of Data Breach Simulations

Few executives have experience with the urgency of a real-time response to an active data breach. Frankly, that’s normal. Until recently, the world had never seen a threat that could ravage a company in a matter of minutes or hours, and subject it to lawsuits and fines for years to come.

Would your executives’ responses to a cyber event be more analogous to fanning a fire into an inferno or dousing the flames? Organizations should ensure that their top leadership knows how to respond to a breach appropriately. Data breach simulations are designed to help analysts and executives test their skills and discover areas in which they need improvement. If you’re wondering how your top leadership would respond to a security incident, stop wondering and start planning data breach simulation to find out.

Experience a day in the life of a cyber attack: Schedule a visit to the IBM XFCC

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Christophe Veltsos

InfoSec, Risk, and Privacy Strategist - Minnesota State University, Mankato

Chris Veltsos is a professor in the Department of Computer Information Science at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he regularly teaches Information Security and Information Warfare classes. Beyond the classroom, Chris is also very active in the security community, engaging with community groups and advising business leaders on how to best manage information security risks.