On 12 February 2013, U.S. President Obama issued an executive order that identified cyberthreats to critical infrastructure as one of the most serious national security concerns. The order outlined specific measures the government sector must take to align the country’s critical infrastructure with modern practices to maintain cybersecurity and the continuity of government. Since that time, a barrage of cybersecurity events have threatened both governments and the private sector around the world.
More than ever before, public relations practitioners must be well educated in the cause and effect of cyberthreats, and the significant risk cybersecurity events present. As these threats grow in frequency and complexity, practitioners need to elevate cybersecurity communication strategies in their crisis response toolkit to protect the brands they represent and encourage transparent communication with their publics.
For the public relations practitioner, the challenges of these types of events are significant. Practitioners face the challenges of communicating complex technical topics. Many lack the technical understanding of increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity terminology, which can create confusion when communicating with the public. Just take a look at some of the significant missteps in communication practice in some of these high-profile attacks: the Target data breach in November 2013 (perhaps one of the most highly publicized cyberattacks to date), Anthem health insurance in February 2015, the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management attack in June 2015, which significantly compromised national security, and the United Airlines breach in July 2015.
Clearly, no sector is immune to the risk, and the economic fallout is devastating. In October 2015, the Ponemon Institute released its study on the cost of cybercrime in the U.S. The Institute’s research concluded “that the mean annualized cost for 58 benchmarked organizations is $15 million per year,...
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