Key steps to successfully manage a data breach

data breach illustration

Data breaches are unfortunately a common occurrence in the digital age. Even businesses with strict data security and IT policies can become victims.

It is imperative to be prepared when a data breach inevitably occurs in your company. Knowing how to minimize the damage will protect your business in the wake of the event.

With this in mind, creating a data breach response plan and keeping your staff aware of possible threats is vital to your organization’s defense.

What is a data breach?

A data breach – also known as a data leak – is the intentional or accidental release of secure information to an untrusted environment. Intentional breaches generally come from malicious actors looking to steal sensitive data, such as employee passwords or private customer information.

A data breach can be incredibly damaging to a company; in 2019, First American Financial Corp. leaked 885 million customers’ sensitive records including bank account records and social security numbers. They were forced to pay nearly $500,000 in fines as a result.

Common types of data breaches include:

10 steps for preventing a data breach

The first strides in preparing for a data breach are in preventing breaches altogether. While it is impossible to render your business invulnerable to malicious attacks, you can implement a number of strategies, policies, and precautions to strengthen your overall security.

What to do if you suffer a data breach

If you suspect your business has suffered a data breach, you need to immediately take control of the situation and minimize the damage. A data breach can irreparably harm your reputation and result in the loss of valuable customers.

1. Confirm the data breach

In confirming the breach, you can discover if the information leaked was sensitive or potentially damaging to any of your customers. You can also collect the following information:

  • Who detected the breach, and how.
  • What level of risk it poses to your business and/or customers.
  • The type of data affected.

2. Contain the data breach

Once the breach has been detected, get to work shutting down your networks before your business suffers any more damage. This can be handled by your IT team or managed service provider.

3. Assess the scope and impact

This involves identifying extent of the damage: what personal data was breached, the data subjects (employees or customers, for example) whose personal data was possibly stolen or leaked. A risk assessment can be carried out by your forensic investigators or a cybersecurity expert.

It’s also a good idea to make a list of security measures that were in place to prevent such a thing from happening. This way, you know where your network vulnerabilities lie.

4. Notify any affected parties or individuals

Either the company CEO or legal team must contact any affected data subjects of the breach and potential harm. The appropriate supervisory authorities will also need to be notified; under some circumstances, fines are issued if data breaches are not reported or announced.

If your loss has been significant, you may also be required to make a public announcement. This can be done via social media, or a press release to any local news groups.

5. Review the breach and response

Once the data breach has been contained, you can begin putting your report together. The security measures that were already in place will need to be reviewed and strengthened. Any network vulnerabilities will require patches.

If the breach occurred due to human error – such as an employee accidentally leaking information through social media or falling for a phishing scam – implementing cybersecurity awareness training for all your staff would also help strengthen your security measures, and decrease the chances of these mistakes from happening again.

Expert security and data breach prevention advice

Protecting your business against malicious threats is vital, but having a strategy to fall back on in the event of a data breach is just as important.

Contact the cybersecurity experts at BCS365 for a free cybersecurity assessment. Their security engineers can help strengthen your network security and create an incident response plan, in case of future data breaches.