Data Protection

What should a company do after a data breach?

Wednesday April 19, 2023
6 min read

Data loss prevention strategies help companies identify and prevent potential breaches. In the event of a data loss, a company should take the following three steps to prevent further loss.

What Should A Company Do After a Data Breach

In this article we’ll cover these points:

  • What is a data breach?
  • The Impact of a data breach
  • Strengthening IT security to prevent data breaches
  • Software solutions capable of protecting the enterprise from security breaches

The operation of digital workplaces involves the use of the Internet to share and manage business resources, which can be accessed online from supported devices. However, this always-on, always-connected workplace model can compromise the security of the enterprise and increase its vulnerability to cyber risks. The global shift towards teleworking in 2020 revealed lacks of cybersecurity culture in some organizations.

Cybercriminals are looking for loose ends that allow them to enter the company's network and steal confidential information by bypassing security mechanisms. This process is known as data leakage and results in data breach.

Everyone responsible for IT security management in a company should know how to handle a data breach: from the immediate response and recovery steps to be taken to the stakeholders to be involved in order to find a solution more quickly. You should also know how to manage the company's dark data to avoid risks and exploit its potential.

Let’s explain the steps a company should take right after a data breach incident so that further losses and damages related to such a data breach can be avoided. Before we begin, companies should understand what a data breach is and how data breaches affect companies around the world.

What is a data breach?

A data breach or data loss is a security incident in which hackers steal or gain access to sensitive data by bypassing security mechanisms. This data may contain sensitive company information, such as credit reports or bank account credentials, or customer information, such as email addresses or social security numbers.

Hackers attempt to attack data breaches using various types of cybersecurity methods, such as identity theft, introducing viruses into the system or manipulating the IT infrastructure to prevent users from accessing IT resources.

The impact of a data breach

Last year, a well-known sports brand suffered a data breach incident that affected more than 6000 people, including employees and customers. The attack was carried out with ransomware, a technique that consists of withholding information and asking for money in exchange. Similarly, a mobility company suffered in 2022 one of the most serious attacks in its history, in which pages and internal company information were compromised.

These examples highlight the impact that data breaches can have on companies of all sizes. In order to limit this impact, the company must take appropriate security measures to protect both internal and user data in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

What to do if a data breach has occurred in your company

Switch off all systems involved

The first thing to do is to shut down all systems that have been affected by the breach to prevent others from being compromised. Once this is done, passwords for logging into all corporate accounts and servers containing sensitive information must be changed and managed.

This is when the company needs to put a team of experts to work to identify the root cause of the data breach, the source and whether the hacker still has access to the system. Risk and cybersecurity specialists, legal, computer forensics, operations experts, human resources, communications and executive staff may be brought into the team, depending on the size of the company.

While taking these security measures, extreme care must be taken not to destroy any evidence of the incident, as it will help the computer forensics team during the investigation and remediation.

Fix the vulnerability

Once the affected systems, resources and networks have been isolated, the weaknesses in the company's security mechanisms that provided an entry point for hackers must be identified. The first thing to do is to investigate how employees and customers share business information, since most data breach incidents are due to human error.

Once the cause of the data breach has been identified, a series of network tests must be carried out to detect the subnets with the lowest level of security. These tests sweep the ports of the enterprise network for IP addresses of unauthorized devices. The network segmentation is validated as working correctly as long as no unauthorized IP addresses are found. In this case, network management software can be useful to companies.

If one of the subnets is compromised, it is necessary to isolate it to prevent the entire corporate network from being infected. Computer forensic experts should be asked to gather all available information on the unauthorized IP addresses or those addresses from which the attack was most likely launched and prepare a report on the data breach in order to implement the recovery plan.

The report should include details of the weaknesses in the network that allowed unauthorized access and the method used by the hacker in his attack. The report will provide an analysis of how adequate or inadequate the security mechanisms and passwords are to protect the data, as well as identify methods to strengthen them and prevent a recurrence.

Notify the entities involved in the data breach

The last step is to notify related parties affected by the data breach of the incident. First, you need to talk to law enforcement to find out if any national or regional laws were violated during the data breach. If so, recommendations can be requested for corrective action that may avoid legal complaints.

Next, the company should make an official announcement on its communication channels stating that a data breach has occurred, the level of data loss, and the individuals (customers and employees) affected by the breach. Maintaining transparency is key when communicating the corrective actions that have been taken to stop the data breach. All of this can help the company regain the trust of the parties that have been affected, and thus manage reputation.

Consideration may also be given to working with a public relations team or tool to get the message out in the most effective way. It is also important to anticipate questions that stakeholders may ask about the incident. The most common are:

  • Are there measures we can take on our side to reduce losses?
  • Has personal user information, such as social network access, passwords or banking information been leaked?
  • What data protection measures have been taken to mitigate the data breach?

If the operation of the business involves the collection of customers' personal data, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers or health information, and that leaked data has been compromised, institutions such as the bank or local cybercrime team should be informed immediately. This will allow them to monitor accounts that have been compromised to receive alerts if fraud occurs or to follow up on customer complaints.

Strengthening IT security to counter the possibility of data breaches

Data breaches can be devastating to a company. The average U.S. business loses about $8.2 million due to data breaches, according to a Gartner report.

Having a cybersecurity incident response plan can contribute to effective recovery. The plan can monitor systems, detect security incidents and implement prevention or recovery methods that can reduce the losses associated with these incidents. There is also cybersecurity software that can strengthen the company's security measures and prevent attacks in the future.

You can consider reaching out to companies specializing in data breach prevention. Afterall, better safe than sorry.

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