Responding to a data breach the right way

Responding to a data breach the right way

Data breaches can have severe repercussions on your business. They could disrupt your operations, damage your reputation, and cost you a lot of money. If you want to minimize the negative effects of a data breach on your business, then you should know how to properly respond to such an event.

What is a data breach?

A data breach occurs when an unauthorized party accesses company data that only members of your organization are privy to. These include trade secrets and other intellectual properties, financial statements, vendor and customer payment information, and your employees' personal details, like their Social Security numbers.

Some data breaches occur as a result of cybercriminals exploiting network vulnerabilities, such as unpatched applications, or infecting your IT systems with ransomware and other types of malicious software. Others happen because of the actions of people within your organization. For instance, a disgruntled partner might deliberately leak company data, or one of your staff may mistakenly click on a malware-laden internet ad.

Whatever the reason may be, a successful cyberattack can be a devastating blow to any business. In 2021, a single breach could cost businesses an average of $4.24 million, a 10% rise from figures in 2019. Besides lost revenue, productivity, and business opportunities, these costs also included legal and regulatory activities resulting from the data breach.

How should you respond to a data breach?

Should your business fall victim to a data breach, you can do the following steps to minimize the damage:

Confirm what happened

The first thing you need to do is to confirm that you are indeed facing a data breach and not another type of security incident. Have your IT team or managed IT services provider (MSP) monitor for indicators of a breach, such as:

  • Unknown or unusual logins
  • User accounts that are suddenly modified or locked
  • Missing sensitive data and other such assets
  • Changes in internet speed
  • Abnormal activities by admin accounts
  • Presence of ransomware, viruses, and other types of malware

Contain the incident

Once you've identified the problem, you must take immediate steps to contain the breach and prevent it from causing further damage. This usually entails identifying and isolating the systems that have been breached, as well as taking them offline. You should also inform your staff of what happened and then restrict all access privileges and reset passwords, especially those of high-level accounts.

Should you find corrupted or infected data, isolate and analyze these instead of deleting them immediately. Review the events and actions that led to the incident, including suspicious traffic and file exchanges. Doing these will help you understand the threat better and prevent it from compromising your network again in the future.

Notify your customers

Immediately after confirming the incident, notify your clients of the breach, even those who are not directly affected by it. Advise them on what they need to do to protect themselves, including changing their passwords and ignoring communications from parties imitating your company. Do not downplay the incident to ensure that your clients understand its urgency and possible impacts.

Remove the threat

The next step is to remove the cyberthreat from your systems. This usually means conducting a thorough analysis of your network to identify all malicious software, as well as any security vulnerabilities that allowed the attackers to gain entry in the first place.

Different steps apply to different threats. For instance, you can use anti-malware software to remove viruses or you can disable employee credentials or accounts that were used to penetrate your network.

Recover from the incident

After you've dealt with the threat, it's time to resume your operations. If the incident resulted in data loss, you should load your latest data backups. It's during this step that a disaster recovery and business continuity plan will prove very useful.

Review the incident

Once everything is back to normal, take the time to review the incident with your team. Conduct a post-mortem analysis of what happened and how you responded to it. This will help you identify any areas where you can improve your cybersecurity posture. It will also help you develop or update your incident response plan so that you'll be better prepared should another data breach occur.

No business is ever absolutely safe from a data breach, but working with an MSP like Complete Technology can help minimize the risk of it occurring, as well as its impacts. Our cybersecurity specialists can monitor your network 24/7 and identify vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure. We can also help you develop a data breach response plan aimed at ensuring minimal impact on your business and a quick recovery time. Start building your defenses against data breaches by contacting our IT experts today.


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