Taisto is an open digital security preparedness exercise for organizations who want to safely test and develop their own operating models through simulated disruption situations. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency of Finland organized the exercise for the sixth time in November 2023, and Secapp participated for the first time this year.
The exercise simulates different topical threats, crises, or exceptional situations that any organization may encounter in its daily operations.
Practice, observe and develop
Practicing is an important part of preparedness, which helps in identifying strengths and weaknesses in one’s own activities.
At Secapp, we always emphasize the importance of practice to our customers. Through Taisto, we had the opportunity to test our own operating models related to topical cyber and digital security threats.
Taisto is a so-called tabletop exercise, which is a light way to practice disruption management and assess the functionality of the organization’s processes. Tabletop exercises are based on simulated situations and written materials or questions.
Secapp itself is also a handy tool for implementing various exercises. It can be used at any time, for example, for tabletop exercises among the management team, or for large-scale emergency drills involving the whole organization. The practice scenario can be simulated with Secapp’s scheduled messages, and features such as automatic message templates, alerts, checklists, group chats, and video meetings can be utilized.
The course of the exercise
A group of four people participated in the exercise, along with one observer who made observations of the team’s performance during the exercise. Documenting the exercise and reviewing it afterward are important aspects of practicing, which helps in identifying what is going well and where there is room for improvement.
Under a small time pressure, our experts of different areas collaborated to discuss how to operate in different situations, how to communicate and with whom, how to respond to the media, and the effectiveness of our own processes in disruption scenarios. The Taisto exercise was a well-structured and educational experience – in a crisis, every second truly matters.
The Information Security Officer of Secapp, Antti Hämäläinen, is satisfied with the outcomes of the exercise, where our own product, Secapp, was also utilized.
– We implemented the whole exercise using Secapp’s own group chat and video call connection, as well as the platform provided by the organizer of the exercise.
The disruption situations were diverse, and with some imagination, could be pictured for our own organization, ranging from headlines caused by a former employee to malware ransom attacks on workstations, and data theft carried out through a subcontractor, Hämäläinen recalls.
– Even though November was quite a busy time, especially for our IT team, we managed to gather a group of participants consisting of different teams for a half-day exercise. The participants had a positive attitude and they were active throughout the exercise.
In the exercise tasks, participants were given tens of questions in which, in addition to reacting to example situations, they were challenged to analyze and improve their organization’s readiness and preparedness for similar situations. Right after the exercise, we held a feedback discussion with the team. We found the exercise beneficial and interesting in many ways, summarizes Hämäläinen.
What did we learn from the exercise?
Effective, reliable, and clear communication plays a crucial role when something unexpected happens. The better the communication is planned for various crises, disruptions, or exceptional situations, the more smoothly actions can be taken.
Whether it’s responding to the media, social media posts, etc., internal and external communication and the processes related to them should be planned in advance. Secapp’s ready-made message templates and checklists enhance operations significantly. We also noticed their usefulness in our own exercise.
We recommend everyone to keep message templates and recipient groups up to date, whether it’s on Secapp or somewhere else. This significantly speeds up operations when a quick reaction is needed, especially in real disruption situations where stress and urgency are heightened, making it more challenging to provide clear instructions.
Similarly, when people have clear areas of responsibility and skills documented, for example, in Secapp, an expert team required by the situation can be assembled quickly. Real-time situational awareness can be securely shared on Secapp through messages, group discussions and video conferencing, key individuals can be kept up-to-date, and, if necessary, others can be alerted quickly.
There is always room for improvement when it comes to operating methods, which is why continuous practicing, testing, and process development is needed in every organization. The readiness of an organization to act is as strong as its weakest link.
For the next Taisto exercise, we aim to gather an even bigger team and, once again, get all the possible benefits out of it.