Help, we’ve been hacked!

Normally data hacking flies under our daily radar but Australia's #censusfail and the ensuing public relations nightmare should give every business owner pause for thought.

The alarming truth is that ransomware is at unprecedented levels around the world.

A survey by global security company PhishMe found a staggering 789% jump in encryption ransomware attacks in the first three months of 2016.

PhishMe CEO Rohyt Belani said “Individuals, small- and medium-sized businesses, hospitals, and global enterprises are all faced with the reality that this is now one of the most favoured cyber-criminal enterprises.”

Whether you decide to pay or not, it can be costly to the bottom line and your reputation. Does coughing up suggest you were unprepared to handle customer records in a secure way? How are you going to reassure clients and suppliers (current and potential) that you can be trusted with their information? And what steps are you taking to stop it from happening again?

No matter what business sector or size - if you hold any kind of data, you are at risk of a potential public relations nightmare. And if you haven’t contemplated a ransomware attack as part of your overall communications plan, you could be in trouble.

Here are some things to consider:

Put up your hand - if you don’t own the story, others (e.g. competitors) will tell it for you. Admit any mistakes, acknowledge any problems, and communicate what you’re doing in response.

Tell it truthfully – this is not the time to sugar coat, gloss over, or spin what’s going on.

Remember the 3Cs – in all communication (internally and externally) show your Concern for those impacted, show you are in Control of the situation, and show your Commitment to preventing a recurrence.

Make a list - think across your business about who you need to communicate with i.e. clients, members, visitors, staff, volunteers, government, business partners, donors, media.

Use the right channels – make sure your message gets through by using the most suitable and effective internal and external channels to communicate with different audiences.

Keep at it – constant, reliable, authoritative communication in bad times will make your stakeholders more likely to listen (and respond) in good times!

Your reputation is worth seeking expert communications advice and spending time and effort preparing a proactive crisis communications plan because the cost of prevention versus the cost of paying a ransom and/or rebuilding your brand is a no brainer.

- Barbara Cox

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