It’s not easy to prepare for the natural disasters that might happen and devastate your business. Still, just as civil defense teams prepare for hurricanes, floods, heat waves and other adverse natural events, businesses need to develop a solid plan to confront the same.

Indeed, businesses are most vulnerable to cyber attacks during natural disasters, because we’re preoccupied with the immediate crisis at hand. There may be electricity or communication outages; or perhaps employees need to shelter at home or have evacuated to other areas. Damage or delays within critical infrastructure can threaten supply chains and security measures.

These situations can harm business operations and undermine security protocols. So it’s essential to design cybersecurity plans with natural disasters in mind, so you can mitigate cyber risks and assure operational continuity.

The History of Natural Disasters and Cybersecurity

In 2018, Houston hosted a drill for critical infrastructure companies on two simultaneous incidents: a natural disaster and a cyberattack. The drill’s objective was to identify the challenges of keeping critical infrastructure operational in the face of cyber threats while dealing with the constraints of a hurricane. It was based on the circumstances of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The three-day drill revealed that, even with an effective disaster recovery plan against natural disasters, organizations’ exposure to cyber attacks was unknown. This exercise was one of the first to highlight the effect of cyber threats during these critical scenarios.

That same year, during the response to Hurricane Florence, a sharp increase in phishing scams was documented. Cyber criminals took advantage of the public’s unrest and posed as fundraisers to steal money, extract credit card numbers, and swipe other personal information.

In 2021, various groups ran nearly a dozen drills along these lines, testing the level of preparedness for cyber crime during common natural disasters. For example, one drill in Indiana involved more than 500 people over three days, simulating the response to an earthquake while cyber criminals disrupted the water supply.

These drills demonstrate the heightened awareness of cyber threats during natural disasters; that’s good. They also, however, demonstrate that much work remains to be done, to protect individuals, businesses, and critical infrastructure.

Before the Storm: Prepare Your Business for Cyber Risks Caused By Natural Disasters

Even though natural disasters are unpredictable, certain regions see specific types of natural disasters more than others; that can be the basis for developing a business continuity plan tailored to your organization’s needs.

First, consider the human factor. When a natural disaster strikes, a common reaction is panic. Consequently, your company must perform periodic drills that allow your employees to understand and practice the steps to follow during and after a natural disaster.

Standard response procedures, coupled with training, allow you to assess cyber risks likely to happen during these situations. For example, phishing emails take advantage of the uncertainty to extract credentials, and become an attack vector during or after a disaster.

A comprehensive business continuity plan helps you identify weak spots in your supply chain. Even if you have the proper measures in place to protect your organization, power outages may occur, or your suppliers may fall victim to a ransomware attack.

Cyber drills conducted in recent years have shown that the most effective tools to defend organizations during these events are security automation and advanced endpoint security. These solutions are essential to reduce cyber risks during natural disasters, but they must be properly implemented as part of your risk management plan.

Companies should have cybersecurity teams tasked with assessing cyber risks and developing preventive tools against common threats to minimize the risk of business operations downtime.

The Aftermath: Cyber Risks Following Natural Disasters

Even after the natural disaster has passed, your company is not free from cyber threats. So the first step after a natural disaster strikes is damage assessment – and just as you assess the damage to your physical infrastructure, you must evaluate the digital consequences, too.

Your cybersecurity team should check your IT environments for malware and the Internet for stolen credentials. Refresh employees on the common indicators of social engineering and phishing scams. Your reputation can also be affected by cybercriminals impersonating your organization, so it’s also a good idea to monitor social media platforms.

Prepare for Cyber Risks with Help from ZenGRC

ZenGRC is a governance, risk management, and compliance platform that offers a range of options to meet your needs. It can aid in the automation and simplification of paperwork and procedures associated with risk assessment, mitigation, and documentation of cybersecurity incident response operations. It is an ideal tool for projects such as assessing your risks from natural disasters and then implementing remediation to bring those risks in check.

Policies and procedures are revision-controlled and easy to find in the document repository. Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas.

ZenGRC helps your business streamline compliance management throughout the whole lifespan of all applicable cybersecurity risk management frameworks, such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and others. Compliance officers are freed from cumbersome spreadsheets and able to focus on the big picture.

Schedule a free demo now to explore how ZenGRC can improve your cybersecurity efforts.