A data breach is an organization’s worst nightmare. The financial consequences are hard-hitting and difficult to recover from, damage to a company’s reputation is potentially devastating, and legal action may result from clients whose sensitive data was compromised by the breach. When a cyberattack leads to a data breach, figuring out what to do next is overwhelming. Prepare by doing everything possible to prevent a breach. And plan for what to do if/when your company is hit — both during the attack and in its aftermath.
Protecting your business
The best way to recover from a cyberattack is to never experience one. It’s not realistic to rely on prevention, but there are steps you can take to make your business more secure.
Essential steps include:
- Update security software. Patches to protect holes and weak points in your software will make it harder for cybercriminals to breach, so keep your browser, security software, and operating system fully updated.
- User access management. Control who can access information and where they can access it from for extra security.
- Data encryption. Use network data encryption to protect the information traveling over your network.
- Strong passwords and multifactor authentication. Passwords should be unique and contain numbers and symbols as well as letters. Consider requiring regular password changes. Multifactor authentication adds an extra layer of security to ensure only those with legitimate access can log in.
- Automated cybersecurity processes. Many cybersecurity processes can, and should, be automated.
- Address the human factor. Employees should be fully informed of the risks of clicking suspicious links or sharing passwords. Educating them on safe digital practices goes a long way in preventing data breaches. Regular employee training and drills gauge employee readiness for phishing and social engineering attempts.
When a data breach happens
It’s hard to think clearly when the nightmare lands on your doorstep, and it’s easy to panic when confronting a worst-case scenario. Remaining calm is the first challenge. From there, it is crucial to contain the breach. Isolate compromised servers to ensure the situation doesn’t get worse. This prevents the virus from spreading to others and stops malicious hackers from gaining additional access.
Isolating a server involves disconnecting the Internet and shutting down remote access while you address the breach. Make sure all your security systems are up to date, including your firewall and other protection systems. Change every password. Once these steps are taken, it will be easier to secure your data and preserve evidence of the attack.
If a cyberattack and/or data breach occur, and your server(s) are compromised to allow a malicious actor access to data they shouldn’t have, shutting down the breach is priority one. But there are additional steps you must take when the attack is over.
After a cyberattack or data breach, you should:
- Assess and understand the attack/breach. Inspect and identify vulnerability and extent of attack and/or damage.
- Identify systems and individuals affected. Which systems were compromised in this attack? Whose information was stolen, and what — if any — information was taken?
- Notify stakeholders. Insurance carriers, customers, company leadership, and employees need to know what data was compromised and if they’ve been exposed to additional risk.
- Communicate and accept responsibility where necessary. Those affected, and even those who aren’t, may lose faith in your business. Be upfront about what occurred and use plain language.
- Provide details and assistance. Ensure those involved have resources to keep updated on the situation and mitigate any additional risk or exposure.
- Educate employees on the who, what, when, where, and how of the attack/breach. This will help ensure any potential mistakes which may have contributed to the attack — such as clicking on a link in a phishing email — are less likely to occur in future.
- Report the attack and provide relevant data. An investigation will find all the details about what exactly happened and where the stolen information went. It will also provide authorities with information necessary to issue relevant warnings.
- Strengthen cybersecurity processes. Finding and filling the security gaps is crucial to preventing a repeat attack. If necessary, consult outside IT experts for additional guidance.
Data breaches are terrifying, and the consequences can damage your business and its reputation. Having a plan in place for handling an attack or breach — and their potential fallout — alleviates some of the damage and stress — and increases the likelihood of your company’s successful recovery.