Burson-Marsteller has teamed up with Ridge Global – founded by first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge – to educate corporate leaders on how to avoid, prepare for, and respond to cyber threats.
The alliance with Ridge Global, which includes experts such as Howard A. Schmidt, former cybersecurity advisor to President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, will offer corporations "end-to-end expertise" across industry sectors and geographies, said Michael Law, U.S. CEO of Burson-Marsteller.
"Cyber security planning and preparedness is absolutely crucial to 21st century business – a hack or penetration can affect virtually any business," he added. "The time to start planning is now."
Ridge Global President Chris Furlow said the partnership's objective is to provide C-suite level executives with a comprehensive understanding of cyber security risks by going through desktop and full-scale training exercises. Cyber issues should no longer be thought of as just a challenges to be delegated to IT security teams, he said.
Part one of the process is to assess vulnerabilities and uncover security gaps, so the group will use tactics such as interviewing executives to ask questions about what they think their risks are and how they use information in the company. The alliance will also figure out how information flows throughout the organization and then provide technological solutions, said Sarah Tyre, managing director and chair of Burson's cyber security specialty group.
The second element is focused on teaching executives and their employees how to identify a threat and how to act when one occurs. Ms. Tyre said the alliance will put senior management teams "through the paces of a fictitious scenario," such as a system takeover, data breach, or disruption of operations, which will help further enhance plans and protocols.
Mr. Law said the exercises are critical for senior leaders because all company stakeholders can be affected by cyber threats. Businesses need to anticipate their communications needs around these scenarios and how to implement them, he said.
Burson, which is well-known for helping companies communicate after crises happen, such as Blue Bell's recent listeria recall and Germanwings' Airbus A320 flight crash in March, will focus on both cyber threat prevention and response in order to address "both sides of the coin," said Ms. Tyre.
The training sessions will teach executives how to coordinate messaging and engage law enforcement, media, employees, shareholders, and other constituents, said Mr. Furlow. "If business leaders don't engage cyber security action and oversight, they put their entire business at risk," he said.
Mr. Furlow added that since every cyber-attack cannot realistically be stopped, businesses need to learn how to be cyber resilient and prepared.
Burson and Ridge Global are currently working collaboratively with clients in the energy and healthcare sectors, but they declined to disclose company names.