Preparing the Emergency Response Community for Cyber Incidents

On August 19th, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) hosted a cybersecurity workshop for emergency response partners in and around the Maryland-National Capital Region. Designed to help emergency response organizations prepare for and respond to a cyber incident, the workshop explored the current cyber threat landscape and implications of a cyber incident on state and local governments.

A team of local cybersecurity practitioners led participants through a series of plenary instruction and breakout discussions. These subject-matter experts, including Markus Rasucheker J.D., Director of Cybersecurity for the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS), Ben Yelin J.D., CHHS Director of Public Policy & External Affairs, and Netta Squires J.D., Emergency Management Specialist II Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS), applied their knowledge of the Maryland-National Capital Region and its agencies directly into the workshop curriculum.

Participants learned about the key motivators for launching a cyber-attack on local governments. They examined several recent cyber-attacks on county and State government organizations and the cascading effects they have on those directly and indirectly impacted. The facilitators guided stakeholders through the following seven-step planning process to prepare their emergency response organizations for a cyber incident:

  • Establish a project leadership team
  • Resource identification
  • Beginning the planning process
  • Drafting a plan
  • Thinking through high-level policy considerations
  • Thinking through legal/policy considerations
  • Thinking through operational considerations

Stakeholders concluded the workshop by completing a scenario-based capstone exercise drawing on lessons learned and reinforcing cyber preparedness and response concepts. All participants walked away from the workshop with a cybersecurity preparedness planning guide and the knowledge and tools needed to enhance their organization’s cybersecurity preparedness planning efforts.

Workshop participants provided positive feedback and highlighted the need for additional cyber preparedness and response training opportunities for emergency response partners in the Maryland-National Capital Region.