A data breach is something you never want to happen because it can cost your business millions of dollars and long-term reputational damage. Unfortunately, data breaches do happen, and when they do, it is important that you act quickly and decisively to minimize the potential damage. Here are some essential steps you should take immediately following a data breach:
Confirm the data breach
The first thing you should do is verify that the data breach is real before you take further action. The indicators of a breach can be different depending on the type of threat. If the breach was caused by cybercriminals and malware, you may detect suspiciously slow network performance, strange logins from unknown users, sudden changes to data, or high volumes of data transfers. Once you notice any of these signs, check the dark web to see if any of your data is being sold or shared.
Alternatively, if an insider caused the breach, you may detect highly privileged accounts being used in unauthorized ways or data being shared with unauthorized external accounts. Don’t forget to log any unusual user behavior or system activity during the time of the breach, so you can help forensic analysts conduct a thorough investigation.
Contain the damage
When you’re certain that a breach has occurred, you need to quickly isolate the affected systems so you can prevent the cyberthreat from causing further harm to your business. This involves disconnecting computers, servers, and other systems from your network as well as disabling remote access to company data. You may also have to suspend user accounts, reset passwords, and review access policies for each employee.
Assess the impact
Assessing the overall damage caused by a data breach is crucial when reporting to relevant authorities and insurance companies as well as carrying out an appropriate response plan. Your analysis should help you understand which vulnerability was exploited, what type of data was affected, how many users were affected, and how much money was lost due to the incident. For a more thorough assessment, you should consult a data forensics or cybersecurity specialist to get an accurate understanding of the breach’s scope and severity.
Restore your systems
How you restore your systems may vary based on the cause of the breach. For instance, if ransomware was the root cause of the breach, you’ll have to use decryption software to regain access to your data or restore clean copies of your data from backups. You’ll then need to wipe any trace of the malware using anti-malware software and install the latest security patches to prevent the same attack from happening again. If the attack was highly sophisticated, you may even have to completely reformat your drives and reinstall your operating systems.
Notify the relevant parties
Promptly alerting authorities and stakeholders is the key to avoiding serious reputational damage in the wake of a data breach. Depending on the industry and jurisdiction in which your business operates, you might be required to report the breach to data protection authorities, credit bureaus, and customers. Compliance regulations such as HIPAA, in particular, require businesses to notify the relevant authorities within a certain time frame.
When reporting to customers about the breach, be transparent about what happened, the data that was compromised, and the steps you’ve taken to address the issue. Provide them with clear and concise instructions on how to protect themselves from further harm, such as changing their passwords or monitoring their credit reports. You can communicate with customers directly via email or a press release, depending on the size and scope of the breach.
Strengthen your security measures
Once everything has settled, you’ll need to take a closer look at your security measures and implement additional safeguards to prevent another breach. A breach caused by a sophisticated cyberattack may indicate that you need advanced security solutions, such as next-generation firewalls, round-the-clock network monitoring, enterprise-grade encryption, and geo-redundant cloud backups.
However, if the breach was due to human error and online scams, more stringent security training is sorely needed. Train your employees on best practices such as strong password management, phishing awareness, and safe internet browsing. Doing your due diligence will go a long way in strengthening your security posture for the future.
Data breaches are overwhelming no matter the size of your business, but you don’t have to face them alone. In-Touch Computer Services has a team of experts who can help you restore your systems and regain control of your data. Contact us now for any cybersecurity support you may need.