Suffered a Company Data Breach? 7 Initial Steps to Take

Data Breach
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Most small business owners are under the mistaken impression that data breaches and cyber attacks are directed only at large corporate giants such as Google, Target, Citibank, and Anthem to name a few.

However, Small Business Trendz reports that 43% of cybercrime targets small businesses. Further, 60% of businesses are likely to close down within 6 months of becoming victims of hacking incidents.

Given these statistics, a wise option is to take all the necessary steps to protect your company from the possibility of such information leaks. If, despite your best efforts, you find that a data breach has occurred, you must take effective steps that can mitigate the damage and prevent it from causing real losses. James Brown, CTO at StillSecure warns,

“Clearly, hackers want to infiltrate any organization that is expected to be a highly secure environment. It is imperative that controls are established that go beyond the governmental requirements, and a remediation plan needs to be in place for when—not if—a breach happens.”

Step 1. Inform Your Digital Security Team

Inform your security team about the data breach and initiate the investigation right away. These teams have expert forensic personnel that can identify the source of the the leak and take the steps to minimize the damage.

For instance, they’ll isolate the server that has been hacked and isolate all the the hardware so each system can be checked thoroughly. They’ll also scan all the recorded data to determine the extent of compromised information.

Step 2. Have Your Forensic Team Examine all Devices

Many companies have the practice of assigning refurbished laptops, cellphones, tablets, and other gadgets to employees to encourage productivity and raise satisfaction levels. You’ve probably equipped these devices with the necessary security firewalls and other applications to prevent against the possibility of data breaches.

However, there is always a chance that an employee opened an email from an unknown sender and inadvertently downloaded a virus or fell victim to phishing. Recall all the assigned devices so that the forensic team can scan them for the weak links.

Step 3. Plug All the Weak Links

On the recommendations of your digital security team, change all passwords and check all your security applications such as file-integrity scanning, managed VPN, WAF, vulnerability scanning, and IDPS, among others.

If needed, change your service provider and install the most advanced of firewalls and security systems to prevent any incidence of further data breaches.

An enterprise-grade VPN like NordLayer can help you secure your network and can be seamlessly integrated into your existing infrastructure. A business VPN will also enable you remote worker securely access company work environment from their remote locations even on public Wi-Fi.

Step 4. Inform the Authorities and Regulatory Bodies

Inform the Department of Homeland Security (or equivalent authority in your country) about the security breach in your company. Provide all the details they may ask for because the stolen information might show up for sale in underground channels that the authorities are monitoring.

If your company holds and manages medical or financial details, your data breach might compromise HIPAA, PCI DSS, GLBA, and HITECH regulations. To protect your customers, you must inform the regulatory bodies so they can take the necessary protective measures.

Step 5. Talk to Your Employees

Discuss the data breach situation with your employees and encourage them to come forward with any information they may have that can help with damage control. Maintain a friendly atmosphere in the workplace without blaming any particular person for the leak.

You might also want to check your list of recently fired or retired employees who may have intentionally or unintentionally given out passwords and any other sensitive information that ultimately resulted in the breach. Get your digital security team to install new preventive protocols and instruct your staff on how to follow it. These new measures will help avoid any future leaks in data.

Step 6. Inform All Affected Entities

Hackers typically look for sensitive information such as customers’ personal details, partnering company data, and financial statistics from credit card companies. They may use the information or sell it for a premium in the black market.

To maintain the trust that your clients place in your company, you must inform them about the data breach at the earliest possible. Let them know that you’re working on safeguarding their interests and the measures you’re taking to prevent such instances in the future.

Chief of cloud delivery management at HP, Terence Ngai says,

“Even if you do not know the root cause or extent of damage, you should be proactive in telling your stakeholders and customers what happened, what you have done so far, what you will do next, and when you will update them again.”

Step 7. Contact Your Legal Representatives

Contact your legal team and check with them about the possibility of lawsuits and fines that you may incur because of the data breach. Once you’re aware of the legal ramifications, you’ll be better prepared to deal with them with the required funding.

Data breaches are a very real threat in today’s world where all small and large companies have moved their operations to the digital sphere. You need to constantly update your defenses against cyberattacks even as hackers adopt new and highly innovative methods to get into your digital systems and steal data.

In the event that a breach does occur, it is important that you stay calm and implement the necessary step to minimize the damage and prevent further attacks. Getting a good VPN can be helpful.

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Paschal Okafor is NaijaTechGuide Team Lead. The article Suffered a Company Data Breach? 7 Initial Steps to Take was written by Paschal Okafor. The article was last modified: September 15th, 2022
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