Over the course of two decades, I’ve seen Incident Response (IR) take on many forms. Cybercrime’s evolution has pulled the nature of IR along with it — shifts in cybercriminals’ tactics and motives have been constant. Even the cybercriminal psyche has completely rebirthed, with more collaboration amongst gangs and fully established ransomware enterprises running. When I was first starting off, I never would’ve guessed “ransomware as a service” would be a thing. I certainly wouldn’t have thought my job would evolve to helping power cities, ships dock, busses stay on track, or grocery stores stock their shelves.

What does that have to do with IR? Well today, everything.

Modern-day cyberattacks have evolved past solely impacting data systems and IT environments. They now impact our access to essential services and goods and the economy. It’s becoming more palpable to businesses and consumers every day. Whether a driver is unable to access gas or a business is spiking its product prices, cyberattacks are leading to real-world repercussions. Hospitals, food manufacturers, schools are also among the victims we’ve seen brought to temporary standstills by ransomware gangs over recent years.

The result? Incident Responders today are charged with much more than defending against data theft; they’re tasked with ensuring the world continues to run. The new front line is digital and those defending it are what stands between society and disruption.

So, to our cyber frontline responders, I say thank you. Thank you for all that you do to keep businesses, consumers, and the world secure. We see you silently tirelessly and passionately holding the line — a line that may not be distinct to the bare eye for many, but one that is certainly there keeping more than our online access, safety, and services intact.

We see you fighting multiple battlefronts in tandem, as the industry deals with a talent shortage that struggles to keep pace with the persistence of cyber threats. And we see you doing all this far from the limelight and accolades, but humbly and confidentially in service of your clients — whether civilians or businesses.

This Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I invite all my peers across the industry and cyber community to celebrate our cybersecurity Incident Responders. They are the men and women who will hop on a plane at a moment’s notice and forego time away from their families for days, even weeks, on end to thwart off cyberattacks and recover control of systems for businesses, governments, and entire countries — dealing with immense pressures as they do so.

And the pressures are many. A timely IBM study showed that in the face of major cybersecurity incidents — from the likes of the infamous 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya attacks to the more recent 2020 Solarwinds incident — IR teams face considerable mental strain, fully aware of their heavily weighing responsibility to secure critical systems.

It’s a sense of service that drives the IR community to do what they do, and we salute them for it and the sacrifice that follows. In fact, the IBM study found that a sense of duty to protect and the opportunity to help others/businesses were the most common reason Incident Responders enter the field. This drive often overrides genuine struggles these individuals encounter because of responding to cyberattacks, such as stress, anxiety, insomnia, impact on personal life — all of which are various forms of effects cited by Incident Responders.

I hope you’ll all join me in recognizing our unsung cybersecurity heroes and celebrating them throughout the month. Consider customizing your own appreciation post to use on social media to give a shoutout to your organization’s #CyberResponders: https://ibm.biz/cyber-responders

Interested in hearing directly from incident responders? Sign up for the “Tales from the Digital Frontlines” webinar with IBM X-Force incident responders on Wednesday, October 12 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Celebrate #CyberResponders

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