Rebuilding Trust After Cybersecurity Lapses

Rebuilding Trust After Cybersecurity Lapses

Promising to prevent a re-occurrence is not nearly enough to repair the damage with clients.

Trust is a business fundamental, and cybersecurity lapses can rattle the trust of important constituencies. Customers avoid buying from companies they don’t trust. Investors and employees worry about their prospects and livelihoods. Security managers worry about future incidents. Even community support can wane in the aftermath of a cyber event.

Today, most people know that cyber breaches, hacking and data compromises are unfortunate facts of life. It is the response to these incidents that will determine the impact on trust and the trajectory of the affected company after an incident. A well-handled, sincere response can actually bolster trust and strengthen the foundation for future business successes. 

Read more: A New Age in Corporate Accountability for Data Breaches

Certainly, the initial response must be to inform the injured parties and, as much as possible, to repair the damage. Promising to prevent a re-occurrence is not nearly enough to rebuild trust. Here are some recommendations to consider:

1. Start early

Companies have only a few days—a week at most—to provide accurate and complete answers and avoid a further loss of trust. The best way to provide a timely response is to be prepared beforethe cyber event takes place. Implement systems to detect and stop cyber intrusions, but also to know exactly what data was vulnerable and exposed.

2. Commit to transparency

After an incident, commit to monitor and report meaningful metrics to the relevant parties. Regular and consistent reporting on meaningful metrics confirms to each constituency that you understand what is important to them and are taking those factors seriously.

3. Implement countermeasures

Once the nature of the cyber security lapse has been determined, develop and implement countermeasures to improve asset protections. Make sure the root cause or causes are found and understood, and you have a plan to neutralize them.

4. Communicate the changes

Implement the indicated countermeasures, and then communicate the changes to all constituencies. Almost certainly, this will be hard because someone will be embarrassed by the findings, or nervous that communicating the changes will somehow compromise security. Don’t be fooled – cyber attackers are already well aware of potential weaknesses. Communicating that you continue to take these matters seriously, and have taken action as promised, is an essential step in rebuilding trust.

5. Keep communicating

Continue reporting security improvements, and the ongoing results, longer than you thought necessary. Building up trust takes time, and repeated confirmations that you are worthy of that trust. The concerns of every constituency will linger, including your own employees and the community.

6. Internalize and formalize

Nurture the internalization and formalization of a secure organizational culture. It is impossible to predict every security threat, and occasional security reminders and refreshers will pay handsome dividends in security awareness.

For every security breakdown, the pathways to regaining trust are basically the same, and a long period of consistent effort is required. If you already had a firm base of trust before the incident, and were prepared to respond accurately and appropriately, then you start this process with a big leg already up. Don’t wait for a cyber event to happen to you—start preparing now.

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