CypherCon 2022

Tales of a Rescue Scuba Diver: Advice for coaching executives through incident response

Melanie Ensign


The best incident response planning and preparation can be quickly derailed by an anxious executive seeking catharsis. Important characteristics of an effective incident response — such as discipline, organization, and foresight — all depend on an organization’s ability to avoid panic. Once panic sets in, our attention must focus on protecting response procedures from thrashing and poor judgment. For security teams and scuba divers, it’s not enough to know how to escape immediate danger. We must also learn to maintain workable risk levels by keeping others calm and informed. A panicked diver — or a panicked executive — is a risk to themselves and everyone around them. This session will introduce concepts learned as a rescue scuba diver and applied to security incident response for avoiding and navigating executive panic.

Melanie Ensign

Rescue Scuba Diver

After managing security and privacy communications for some of the world’s most notable brands, including Facebook, Uber, and AT&T, Melanie Ensign founded Discernible to help more organizations adopt effective communications strategies to improve risk-related outcomes. She counsels executives and technical teams how to cut through internal politics, dysfunctional inertia, and meaningless metrics. Additionally, Melanie is the press department lead for DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker con. She is also an accomplished scuba diver and brings many lessons learned preparing for and navigating unexpected, high-risk underwater incidents to her work.