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Emergency Planning and the Risk of Cyberattacks

By Roger Guerrero

Cyberattack response planning needs to be central to any organization’s resiliency strategy. Since ancient times, attackers of all kinds have employed a simple and devastating tactic to inflict harm – cut off or otherwise compromise essential physical resources, forcing their targets to capitulate and raise the white flag of surrender. Nothing has changed in the modern world.  

Cyber attackers use the same approach, targeting essential physical resources and systems. For instance, nuclear power plants in the United States have been attacked by hackers, including some associated with hostile foreign actors. While thus far attackers have been unable to gain access to the systems that operate the facility or power grid, these attacks underscore the importance of having a strong cyberattack prevention and response strategy. They also highlight the potential scenario of hackers gaining access to nuclear facilities’ online systems to cause a toxic waste spill or other disaster.  

Other consequences of a successful cyberattack may be monetary, such as a hefty ransomware payment, or come via a systemic failure, like a crippled power network. Even though these cyber attackers can be as technologically savvy as they are ruthless, there are ways to limit the effects of their attacks—but you need strategically sound emergency planning. Juvare’s solutions empower enterprises with the tools they need to quickly mitigate the effects of cyberattacks.

 Why Emergency Planning Is Critical When Accounting for Cyberattacks 

Although some may think cyberattacks are the responsibility of technology teams, a cyber event should be approached and planned for just like any other incident, such as a hurricane, flood, or tornado. You need to get services back up and running as soon as possible. This is why emergency planning is so critical. The key is to have an effective, tested, efficient communication and incident response system in place long before an attacker strikes. This enables you to share visibility into what’s happening in different departments, as well as the physical and digital elements of your landscape. 

If a power utility gets attacked, there needs to be seamless communication between the IT team and the transmission and distribution departments. For example, transmission understands the impact and can work with distribution. They can collaborate internally as to how they’re going to work together given the same information. In this way, all parties have the same data, and can then determine how they can work together to mitigate any potential damage. Otherwise, information may become siloed, leaving functional areas on their own, struggling to figure out what’s going on. 

Using an emergency planning resource, such as Juvare’s WebEOC, every department is empowered with a communications system that facilitates the comprehensive exchange of information in real-time. WebEOC enables visibility and interdepartmental coordination, and uses an emergency management (EM) framework, treating a cyber event as if it’s like any other event—a disruption of service.

Leveraging the Power of a Single Source of Truth 

Having a common source of data during an emergency response gives you a single point of truth. With this in place, everyone can gather consistent, reliable information about what’s happening. The result? Better decision-making and situational awareness. 

For instance, suppose a utility’s IT system gets hit with an attack, and the situation soon escalates to the point where it’s considered a high-impact event. Realizing the breach may impact other systems, the IT department can use WebEOC to send up a red flag. As a result, other departments can refer to this single source of truth and see what’s happening. They can also gauge how it may impact their operations and determine the best steps to take. Consequently, they maintain continuity during the cyber event, while greatly reducing—or even eliminating—downtime. 

Prepare for Cyberattacks with WebEOC 

With Juvare’s WebEOC, you get a comprehensive emergency and operations management solution that keeps everyone on the same page in the event of a cyberattack. Not only does WebEOC provide you with a single source of truth, but it also enables the creation of customized digital tools to best suit the needs of your organization. With WebEOC, your enterprise can gain the upper hand during a cyberattack, reducing or eliminating its impact on operations. Discover more by connecting with Juvare today. 


Roger Guerrero is Director, Business Development at Juvare. He works specifically with the emergency planning and operational needs of utilities, combining technical tools and customer success strategies to empower organizations with stronger security. 

Written by

Juvare Staff

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