Well-integrated plans and processes are essential to enabling the business and technical response to a cyber security crisis. A successful response, however, also heavily depends on a variety of human elements. Under pressure and with time running out, a frequently small leadership group must make difficult decisions and give guidance to those depending on them.

Cyber crises differ from previous sorts of crises in that they are more complex for three reasons:

  • It’s a good idea to get a second opinion if you have any doubts about the validity of the information.
  • A cyber crisis’s lifetime is always changing. This implies that the choices first responders make will have a direct impact on how the rest of the scenario will play out.

Everyone engaged may experience physical, emotional, and cognitive effects as a result of the pressure that comes with handling a cyber crisis. The high levels of stress that crises can cause have a direct impact on our capacity to react appropriately and think clearly. The impact of these responses can negatively influence people involved in reacting to a cyber crisis, which is why it’s critical to reduce their impact for a successful crisis response, as we’ve explained below.

The physical reaction

When faced with a cyber crisis, our brains go into “fight or flight” mode. Strong physiological reactions, such as an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, muscular twitching, an adrenaline rush, and even a numbing of the senses, may result from this. All of these trigger our innate human inclinations to try to avoid or leave a situation as soon as we can. This might drive people to go for the “quickest answers” rather than contemplating the overall, long-term effects of each choice.

Members of the crisis management team, for instance, may decide to stop some apps in the case that a company’s systems have been compromised. This choice might have been made in reaction to the physiological need to take “concrete” action to solve the issue. But, a choice like this could undervalue how it would affect other corporate operations.

Similar to this, the pressure to “get things done” may hinder crisis managers from taking the time to consider how their choices will have less evident effects. Even if less crucial company operations are not the focus of the reaction, if crisis choices on them are not handled, they may later worsen and pose more difficult challenges.

The reaction of the heart

Every person reacts differently to pressures in their life. While some people may experience fear or anxiety, others may exhibit anger or even a sense of denial about how serious the situation is. These divergent responses may make it more difficult for responders to reason properly and come to an agreement on the priorities that will guide the response strategy during a cyber security incident.

Cybersecurity emergencies frequently force the company to pick between several competing agendas. For instance, the crisis team may need to priorities allocating resources to fix either issue first if a cyber attack has harmed both the organization’s capacity to pay its employees and its systems for serving customers. “Decision inertia” can be brought on by the high stakes of having to pick between two or more unattractive possibilities. In an effort to discover a better solution, responders can think about a problem for too long or even do nothing, which would worsen the situation.

The way responder teams communicate with one another and with other stakeholders is also influenced by the emotional reaction to a disaster. Under stress, people’s capacity for making informed decisions and for evaluating perspectives tends to decline significantly. If there is a need for clear, direct communication, the likelihood of impulsive responses rises.

The mental reaction

Stress, anxiety, and intense pressures might impair our capacity to absorb a crisis situation and obstruct the ability to make rational decisions. This amplifies the brain’s propensity to act in accordance with unconscious beliefs when combined with other elements that are normal while responding to a crisis, which affects a person’s comprehensive comprehension of the circumstance.
Cyber crises offer the perfect environment for this phenomenon because of their unpredictability. Those who are more risk-averse by nature may find it difficult to decide and may take too long looking for more information. This may accidentally allow the cyber problem to escalate as a result of inactivity. On the other hand, if you’re not careful, you could end up with a lot of trouble. Others can succumb to “catastrophic thinking,” feeling there is nothing that can be done to stop the situation.

Effective cyber crisis response requires consideration of human factors.

There is no easy recipe for avoiding the stress that a cyber crisis causes. Yet, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact of physiological, emotional, and cognitive responses, much as crisis management plans allow organisations to rely on pre-agreed response methods.

Reflect on your own reactions when working under pressure to better understand your own response tendencies and leadership style: Crisis managers might benefit from this practise. Acquiring experience, either independently or as part of assisted training and coaching sessions, so you can identify and anticipate your own potential vulnerabilities will provide beneficial preparation and reduce surprise reactions.
Recognize the vital importance of wellbeing: crisis management is frequently erroneously thought of as a discipline characterised by a default state of perpetual disorder. But, the resilience that crisis responders develop outside of the crisis room has a significant impact on how well they perform during a crisis. Although everyone’s concept of wellbeing is unique, developing proactive resilience (a healthy body and mind) is a crucial trait shared by the best crisis responders.

Prepare ahead for the availability of resources because the most prevalent reason for responders’ exhaustion during the first few days of a cyber crisis is the interaction of several workstreams and a limited number of resources. By creating and maintaining an effective crisis management strategy that takes into account backup resources, you may lower this risk. This could be in the form of a rota or readily available third party support. You can maximise the efficiency of your reaction by taking into account the potential resource restriction as part of your cyber crisis preparedness.

There will always be some tension involved in handling a cyber disaster. Yet, every organization’s crisis preparation should take into account the human reactions that rescuers can encounter. No matter how sophisticated a cyberattack may be, a successful response ultimately rests with your people and their capacity for strategic and logical thought.