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HR’s Role in Cyber Attack Contingency Plans
When it comes to cybersecurity, HR is naturally suited to provide essential resources to help in creating cyber attack contingency plans.

Home » Cybersecurity » HR’s Role in Cyber Attack Contingency Plans

HR’s Role in Cyber Attack Contingency Plans

When it comes to cybersecurity, HR is naturally suited to provide essential resources to help in creating cyber attack contingency plans.
Cyber attacks are a growing concern for employers across the globe but especially for those in the United States. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of reported U.S. data breaches rose 68% between 2020 and 2021, increasing to 1,862 incidents. Of these breaches, 83% involved sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers.

These breaches targeted various organizations and industries, including manufacturing, utility services, and finance. Essentially, any business that retains potentially valuable information could be a target; cybercriminals are frequently looking for the personal information of everyday citizens to sell or use to gain access to other systems.

Often, cybercriminals breach organizations via their employees; all it takes is one employee clicking into a phishing email (i.e., a fraudulent message intended to trick recipients into compromising essential data).

This is where HR comes in. HR teams are often tasked with communicating policy updates and workplace expectations.

 

Understand the Risks; Have a Contingency Plan

While it’s true that cyber criminals frequently target individuals’ personal information, that’s not their only goal. Sometimes, malicious actors will take that personal information and use it to access other secure points—potentially affecting other systems beyond the breached organization itself. For instance, a cybercriminal may steal an employee’s login and password, then use those details to access customer databases or even critical infrastructure.

A recent example of this came in 2021 when cybercriminals took down Kronos, the ubiquitous timekeeping software. With the cloud-based system down globally, employees couldn’t clock in or out—time punches were simply inaccessible. This proved very disruptive for payroll and time tracking. Yet, the more significant takeaway is that even if an employer does everything right, they can still be impacted if a vendor experiences a cybersecurity breach.

That’s why HR teams need to think about the vendors and systems they rely upon. These may include timekeeping software, case management software, or learning management systems. Consider what would happen if one of those tools stopped working or became inaccessible. How would those impact operations?

Considering these potential scenarios can help HR teams better strategize their responses. For instance, if timekeeping software were to break down, employees would be required to use an HR-provided paper form to track their time.

Additionally, with the vulnerability of cloud-based systems, HR teams can think about regularly backing up and archiving critical information, including customer details, time-tracking data, or transaction receipts. Essentially, if a vendor system breaks down, HR still needs to ensure day-to-day operations can run smoothly.

 

Develop Cyber Training and Contingency Plans

Preparation is critical for protecting an organization from cyber attacks. This primarily entails ensuring monitoring and security measures to prevent breaches and detect when they occur. While this preparation is a responsibility for IT, HR teams can partner with them to help contribute to cybersecurity: employee training and contingency planning.

Every employee in an organization should be trained on proper cybersecurity protocols and best practices. This includes knowing how to spot a phishing scam, maintaining strong passwords, using unique passwords for different logins, and reporting suspicious database activity. While HR teams likely aren’t comprised of IT experts, they can still help disseminate these and other cybersecurity best practices to employees. Even basic precautions can make a huge difference in protecting against critical data breaches.

However, not every breach is preventable, nor are all breaches the same. It’s one thing for a cybercriminal to get a list of first names; it’s another thing for them to steal both names and Social Security numbers. Moreover, employers can still have their data compromised even if they take all the proper steps. After all, a breach may occur at a third-party vendor, a situation over which employers have no control. This means it’s also vital for HR teams to strategize about cyber attack contingency plans.

Essentially, these plans can help employers make sense of a data breach once it occurs and kick off the recovery process. Generally, a cyber attack contingency (or response) plan should cover the following aspects:

  • What data has been impacted?
  • How sensitive was the data (i.e., does the breached data include addresses, Social Security numbers, or banking information)?
  • What is the employer’s obligation to report the data breach (i.e., sometimes customers, employees, the government, or all the above need to be notified)?
  • Based on the type of data breach, how quickly must the incident be reported to appropriate parties?

Depending on an employer’s state and industry, the answers to these questions will vary. That’s why it’s essential to address these issues in a cyber attack contingency plan before a breach occurs. Employers should speak with legal counsel for help understanding their coverage risks.

 

Assess a Breach and Be Responsive to Employees

HR teams must stay calm if and when a data breach occurs, as employees will be looking to them for messaging and next steps. HR will need to respond to employee concerns about the compromised data; other teams will likely address external messaging while HR focuses internally.

A data breach that affects an organization will also affect its employees, even if the compromised data seems unrelated to staff. That’s because employee credentials are often stolen to access more extensive databases. While employee credentials may not be the intended target of a breach, they can still get swept up during the cyber attack and other personal data pieces.In other words, regardless of the type of data breach or its scope, employees may have concerns about their information when it occurs. Therefore, HR teams should be ready to field employee questions about a breach and have meaningful response measures. For instance, if employee data is compromised (potentially or actually), employers may provide their staff free identity theft protection or credit activity monitoring services.

Cyber attacks are a growing concern for employers across the globe but especially for those in the United States. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of reported U.S. data breaches rose 68% between 2020 and 2021, increasing to 1,862 incidents. Of these breaches, 83% involved sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers.

These breaches targeted various organizations and industries, including manufacturing, utility services, and finance. Essentially, any business that retains potentially valuable information could be a target; cybercriminals are frequently looking for the personal information of everyday citizens to sell or use to gain access to other systems.

Often, cybercriminals breach organizations via their employees; all it takes is one employee clicking into a phishing email (i.e., a fraudulent message intended to trick recipients into compromising essential data).

This is where HR comes in. HR teams are often tasked with communicating policy updates and workplace expectations.

 

Understand the Risks; Have a Contingency Plan

While it’s true that cyber criminals frequently target individuals’ personal information, that’s not their only goal. Sometimes, malicious actors will take that personal information and use it to access other secure points—potentially affecting other systems beyond the breached organization itself. For instance, a cybercriminal may steal an employee’s login and password, then use those details to access customer databases or even critical infrastructure.

A recent example of this came in 2021 when cybercriminals took down Kronos, the ubiquitous timekeeping software. With the cloud-based system down globally, employees couldn’t clock in or out—time punches were simply inaccessible. This proved very disruptive for payroll and time tracking. Yet, the more significant takeaway is that even if an employer does everything right, they can still be impacted if a vendor experiences a cybersecurity breach.

That’s why HR teams need to think about the vendors and systems they rely upon. These may include timekeeping software, case management software, or learning management systems. Consider what would happen if one of those tools stopped working or became inaccessible. How would those impact operations?

Considering these potential scenarios can help HR teams better strategize their responses. For instance, if timekeeping software were to break down, employees would be required to use an HR-provided paper form to track their time.

Additionally, with the vulnerability of cloud-based systems, HR teams can think about regularly backing up and archiving critical information, including customer details, time-tracking data, or transaction receipts. Essentially, if a vendor system breaks down, HR still needs to ensure day-to-day operations can run smoothly.

 

Develop Cyber Training and Contingency Plans

Preparation is critical for protecting an organization from cyber attacks. This primarily entails ensuring monitoring and security measures to prevent breaches and detect when they occur. While this preparation is a responsibility for IT, HR teams can partner with them to help contribute to cybersecurity: employee training and contingency planning.

Every employee in an organization should be trained on proper cybersecurity protocols and best practices. This includes knowing how to spot a phishing scam, maintaining strong passwords, using unique passwords for different logins, and reporting suspicious database activity. While HR teams likely aren’t comprised of IT experts, they can still help disseminate these and other cybersecurity best practices to employees. Even basic precautions can make a huge difference in protecting against critical data breaches.

However, not every breach is preventable, nor are all breaches the same. It’s one thing for a cybercriminal to get a list of first names; it’s another thing for them to steal both names and Social Security numbers. Moreover, employers can still have their data compromised even if they take all the proper steps. After all, a breach may occur at a third-party vendor, a situation over which employers have no control. This means it’s also vital for HR teams to strategize about cyber attack contingency plans.

Essentially, these plans can help employers make sense of a data breach once it occurs and kick off the recovery process. Generally, a cyber attack contingency (or response) plan should cover the following aspects:

  • What data has been impacted?
  • How sensitive was the data (i.e., does the breached data include addresses, Social Security numbers, or banking information)?
  • What is the employer’s obligation to report the data breach (i.e., sometimes customers, employees, the government, or all the above need to be notified)?
  • Based on the type of data breach, how quickly must the incident be reported to appropriate parties?

Depending on an employer’s state and industry, the answers to these questions will vary. That’s why it’s essential to address these issues in a cyber attack contingency plan before a breach occurs. Employers should speak with legal counsel for help understanding their coverage risks.

 

Assess a Breach and Be Responsive to Employees

HR teams must stay calm if and when a data breach occurs, as employees will be looking to them for messaging and next steps. HR will need to respond to employee concerns about the compromised data; other teams will likely address external messaging while HR focuses internally.

A data breach that affects an organization will also affect its employees, even if the compromised data seems unrelated to staff. That’s because employee credentials are often stolen to access more extensive databases. While employee credentials may not be the intended target of a breach, they can still get swept up during the cyber attack and other personal data pieces.In other words, regardless of the type of data breach or its scope, employees may have concerns about their information when it occurs. Therefore, HR teams should be ready to field employee questions about a breach and have meaningful response measures. For instance, if employee data is compromised (potentially or actually), employers may provide their staff free identity theft protection or credit activity monitoring services.

The Last Word

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p style=”text-align: left;”>Cyberattacks aren’t going away any time soon. In fact, they’re likely to increase. This means now is the time for employers and HR teams to prepare for eventual cyberattacks by training employees and solidifying contingency plans.

For additional guidance and solutions, contact an InsureGood Advisor today.

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