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How to Survive a Crisis: Lessons in Resilience and Avoiding Disaster by David Omand – A must-read on the threat of cyberattacks

This is a frightening, meticulously-researched and well-written analysis of past crises and how they will be repeated and copied

How to Survive a Crisis: Lessons in Resilience and Avoiding Disaster
Author: David Omand
ISBN-13: 978-0241561331
Publisher: Viking
Guideline Price: £20

This book contains multiple warnings that cyberattacks such as those suffered by the HSE and by universities in Cork and Galway in the past two years, at a combined remedial cost of more than €100 million to date, will be repeated and copied.

Ransomware attacks are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated. Most of them are launched by hackers that US and UK intelligence agencies say are part of Russian military intelligence, the GRU. The most destructive malware to date attacked Ukrainian government organisations, banks, electricity grids and public transport services in June 2017, locking 10 per cent of the country’s computers, while also wiping out data and disabling computers in the many multinational companies that did business with Ukraine.

The US pharmaceutical company Merck lost 15,000 Windows computers in 90 seconds. Also hit were transport company TNT; food giant Mondelez (parent of Cadbury’s and Nabisco) and Reckitt Benckiser, the producer of Nurofen, Strepsil and other household staples. The world’s biggest shipping company, Maersk, only escaped worldwide wipeout because a local power blackout in Ghana meant that one of its office computers was offline and uninfected, preserving the company’s invaluable and irreplaceable data.

That 2017 attack exposed the vulnerability of government and multinational digital systems. “We have been warned,” writes David Omand, a former director of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters and longtime top ministry of defence official, in this frightening, meticulously-researched and well-written analysis of past crises, both natural and manmade.


“Governments must do better,” he writes. “The future will bring droughts, floods, pandemics, cyberattacks and global supply chain disruptions to test us anew . . . This generation’s challenge is to build up our own preparations fast enough to make the next set of 21st century shocks manageable and prevent things sliding uncontrollably into disaster.”

Omand says that the essence of a crisis “lies in its unbounded and unexpected nature”, adding: “The resilience and culture of an organisation will usually determine whether an emergency becomes a disaster”.

Although unlikely to appeal to the general reader, his book is a “must-read” not just for risk managers but also for senior executives in large, small- or medium-sized companies or organisations and throughout the civil and public service.