How to Deal with a Data Breach and How to Prevent It
The development of the whole online world has changed the way businesses work. A particularly important point is the development of cloud technologies, which have become greatly accepted in the business world. Companies rely on these technologies to store vast amounts of data about their business.
On the other hand, many companies utilize websites to do their work, sell goods or services, making them vulnerable at all times. This is because there is an abundance of data on the website's server-side, such as payment information, customer information, and other similar types of data.
Unfortunately, no matter how well you are protected, the fact is that, if someone thinks your databases are valuable, a data breach is practically unstoppable. Simply take a look at giants such as Yahoo and Sony, which were both victims of a data breach at some point.
Therefore, the question is not if your database is going to be breached, but when is it going to occur, and how to prepare for it?
In this article, we are going to talk about all the things you should do, in case your business goes through a data breach.
Table of contents
Lock down access
Once the data breach has occurred, many start panicking and forget that taking action immediately is necessary. In the online security world, every second counts. Therefore, the first thing that needs to be done is a lock-down.
If we are talking about a website, forget about the profits, block any access and take it down. This will not allow customers to make their purchases, but it will also not allow hackers to grasp any more vital information about your business and possibly cause you even more financial losses.
If the data breach occurred internally, within the company, it is essential to block the access of the server to the online world. Like with a website, this will immediately block any hacker's access to the whole server, keeping other types of your data untouched.
The problem with this approach is that part of your services become unavailable, and business owners are concerned about the profits.
However, keeping the whole system safe from another data breach is of utmost importance, therefore, locking access to the server is the essential first move that needs to be taken.
Once the first step is taken, there are many others to follow and that is something we are going to talk about later in this text.
Find out what was compromised
Once the system is on lockdown, it is time to take into consideration what they were primarily after. Now, if you are running any type of a platform where people purchase and sell things or an eCommerce store, there is a lot of data valuable for hackers.
On the other hand, if you are an insurance business such as Anthem, which has experienced a massive data breach in the past, your database is also quite valuable for hackers since it holds huge amounts of personal data.
Therefore, evaluate all of the information that you have in the system. When you do, understand why would the hackers want to acquire information such as this. Let's take a look at the three crucial types of data hackers usually steal.
Login credentials are the only thing protecting your customers from anyone using their account to spend money, communicate with other people, or keep their data online.
Hackers are interested in this information due to the fact that emails are usually linked with other types of platforms, and as people mostly use the same passwords everywhere else, they can use the information to completely access all of the person's accounts.
However, it is important to note that credentials are also useful for online marketing agencies. This is one of the reasons why credentials are on sale later on, as illegal mailing lists can be created and people will receive spam from different types of companies.
Personal data is specifically valuable because once someone has all of it, that person can easily impersonate someone else, which is a serious problem. Even with all the modern laws incorporated to protect people, once someone steals your identity, things can get quite complicated.
Hackers want to gain access to credit card details, and this is most likely the reason why your database has been breached. This is easy money for them, as they can use the information to make purchases or withdraw money by impersonating a person.
Keeping financial data safe is crucial for all platforms, and security breaches often involve the theft of users' credit card information. The previously mentioned Sony hack involved financial information theft with more than 20 million people.
If you are using any form of in-house storage that is connected to the online world, your business data can be valuable to many people.
Hackers usually use this data for blackmail, however, in the case of Panama Papers, the whole public got to see plenty of confidential information, putting the company in a very tough spot.
Knowing these facts is important in the initial research phase, as it lets you identify what the hackers could have possibly wanted to find on your servers.
What to do if the details of the breach are not known?
There are many cases where the in-house IT department cannot figure out which data was breached. This is a tough spot, as it is necessary to get as much information about the data leak as possible.
The best step is to definitely outsource the whole problem to a company that specializes in IT forensics. They are going to be capable when it comes to determining what has occurred, and which data was compromised in the breach process.
This is precisely what Sony did. Once they realized how big the data leak was, they decided to use professionals to deal with the matter. They will not only identify which data was compromised, but they will also ensure that the same breach does not occur in the future.
What to do after the breach?
One the breach occurs and you have isolated the whole platform, these are the steps you should definitely take.
1. Notify your customers
Every company is worried about its public brand image. In order to preserve it as a good one, it is best to immediately reach out to your customers and notify them about the problem that has occurred.
This will also put them in a position to take action such as password change, card cancellation, and other types of precautions to minimize the damage done.
This will make your company look much more responsible, and it will help people affected by the data leak.
2. Find the cause
No matter whether it is your IT department, or some other professionals, finding the issue that allowed the leak to occur is crucial. It will let you patch the security hole and move on.
3. Handle employees
Let people who cannot do their work due to the lock-down go home for a couple of days, while the whole issue is resolved. Stop thinking about financial losses, but focus on solving the problem.
4. Identify the possible culprit
A majority of online security systems are incredibly good at detecting potential dangers. However, if the malware was planted on the inside, there is no way in which your security software could have helped.
Therefore, follow in which direction the investigation is going, and if you see any possibility that it was an inside job, make sure that you find the person responsible for it.
5. Improve security
Once the investigation is complete and it is time to move on, it is essential to work with experts in the field and take additional steps to make the whole platform more secure. Yes, this is going to be another investment on your part, but it will greatly reduce the chances of a data breach occurring again.
Even if an entire system overhaul is needed, it is a better option than struggling with data breach consequences every couple of months.
Deal with customers - In order to avoid any legal costs, it is best to immediately offer damage repair to the customers affected by the data leak. Not only will this make the whole process finish more quickly, but you will also showcase how responsible your business is, something that customers will surely appreciate.
With this course of action, you will precisely know what to do in the case a data breach occurs. Always be ready to act in this sequence, as it will lead to quicker problem resolutions, less financial losses, and a good brand image.
Even though data breaches are practically impossible to stop, there are some steps you can take to prevent them from happening. Let's take a look at them.
How to prevent a data breach?
The following are some steps you can take, in order to successfully reduce the chances of experiencing a data breach.
This is the first step you should take. Implementing any type of new technology without detailed training is a risk. Take all the necessary steps to help your employees understand how the whole system works.
The training should include: how they should browse the web, what should their passwords look like, reasons why never download files of suspicious origin, how to encrypt data, what they should do in a case of a breach, and how to never lose a computer or any different device containing business information.
With an educated workforce, you are going to solve a huge problem and greatly reduce the chances of having your data breached.
Update your software regularly
This one sounds obvious, but there are plenty of businesses where people don't pay attention to regular updates. They exist for a reason, and a majority of them are patches for security holes.
The Panama Papers leak occurred solely because the software was not kept up to date. Therefore, make sure that all of the software on your network of computers is always updated.
Conduct security checks regularly
Okay, so your system is updated and everything is running fine. This is all great, but without regular security checks, you are a sitting duck in the online world.
Hackers are continuously evolving and using new methods of penetrating the most secure systems in the world; and why would you think that something makes you immune to their efforts?
Therefore, in order to remain secure, have professionals check your system and see whether adding additional security is a good option.
Create a strategy
While the network and software are being set up for your business, assume from the start that someone might get in the database and abuse it. This will help you think more strategically.
For example, store different types of data in different locations. In the worst-case scenario, hackers are not going to have access to all of the data. Think about the different strategies you can use and segment the data you are collecting. You will understand the true value of this move when the breach of data occurs.
Control data access
The most important business information should be limited to higher authorities in the company.
If the employee working on a particular project needs the information, you can grant access, but once he or she is done, immediately revoke it. This will allow you to always know who has access to particular sets of information, which will keep the system more secure.
Back everything up, always
Some data breaches only serve to steal information, without deleting it. However, there are cases in which hackers do not only steal the data but also have it removed.
Therefore, always keep all of the data backed up in a completely different place. While this will not lower the chances of a data breach, it will significantly help in the post hack process, letting you move on more easily.
Taking these steps will keep your business data much safer. Also, they will allow you to more easily take the right steps in case it does occur. Therefore, make sure that you take them.
If a data breach does occur in your business, it is essential to remain calm and focused. As seconds matter in this world, immediately take action and prevent more damage being done to your business. Find the mistakes in the system, upgrade your security and move on.
Don't forget to have proper terms and conditions in place for your customers to be aware of how you will handle such issues.
Always be prepared for the above-mentioned courses of action, as this will allow you to quickly assess and solve the situation.
- Updated on September 9, 2020