The threat of a data breach is omnipresent whether you own a major corporation or a small start-up. This security violation can be a minor hiccup that can be fixed within a few hours or an irreparable incident that can cost you your business. Regardless of the extent of the damage, it’s important to have a data breach prevention and response plan to keep your data protected and secure the long-term continuity of your enterprise.
Here are some strategies you can follow before, during, and after a breach to safeguard your data.
Preparing for a data breach
New strategies that aim to steal and expose sensitive information appear all the time. Some of these techniques are even compiled in guidebooks, like the so-called fraud bible, to make it easier for hackers to carry out their attacks. This makes it important to always be prepared in protecting your data and network against data breaches and other threats. Here are things you can do to safeguard your system from possible cybersecurity attacks.
1. Keep your network secure
The first step in preparing against a data breach is to secure your company network. Install security software to every device connected to your system, especially those that are used for communication and are often utilized remotely. Use a password-protected router with strong encryption to prevent hackers from gaining control over your security system and accessing information in your shared network.
If you need to use a public network, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to add a layer of protection against cyber threats. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and masks your online identity while using a public network, making it difficult for attackers to monitor your internet activities and steal your data.
2. Update your software and operating system
Attackers can easily identify security vulnerabilities in outdated software and operating systems. This is because old versions don’t have the latest security features to prevent new forms of cyberattacks. With that said, ensure that your computer software – security network, programs, and operating system – are all updated to their latest versions. Doing so also improves compatibility, enhances program features, and ensures that your devices will run smoothly.
3. Identify data breach techniques
A data breach is the result of cyberattacks, meaning there are different methods hackers can undertake to complete it. Some of these malicious practices are:
- Phishing: A type of social engineering attack wherein the attacker sends a fraudulent message to the victim and tricks them into exposing confidential information or deploying malicious software
- Brute Force Attacks: A trial-and-error method in which hackers work through all possible combinations of the victim’s login credentials until they get into the system
- Malware: Any software designed to gain unauthorized access to information or systems and leak sensitive data
Identifying different types of cyberattacks allows you to form and undertake the right actions when these threats occur.
4. Establish a secured data storage
Backing up your files regularly and storing them in a secured location is crucial in avoiding data breaches and theft. This storage should be encrypted with strong passwords and surrounded by robust network security systems like firewalls, anti-malware programs, security gateways, and intrusion detection systems. Additionally, you should keep your data secured while in transmission since it is exposed to attacks and could fall into the wrong hands. You can also use encryption to protect information while it is in motion.
Responding to a data breach
Having a security system in place doesn’t always guarantee full protection against malicious attacks. Some hackers are simply skillful enough to bypass your defense mechanisms, or it could be because sensitive data was unintentionally exposed to the public. No matter the reason, the incident has occurred and you now have to deal with the breach before it gets worse. Here are the steps you should take during a data breach.
1. Know what happened
Investigate the incident as soon as you are made aware of it. Check your logs, talk to the people who discovered the breach, and make sure to document everything as you go. Gather all the facts about the breach while uncovering them to understand what happened and why. The information you will discover could also help you determine the number of people involved, identify the affected data, create a timeline of the incident, and check the actions that have been taken so far.
2. Contain the breach
As you investigate, strive to secure your operations and fix vulnerabilities to contain the breach as fast as you can. Doing so will prevent multiple data breaches and stop additional information loss. You should also aim to recover lost data immediately. Secure connections that are possibly linked to the breach by putting them on lockdown, changing your login credentials, and restricting access as you fix the problem. You should also check with other parties that could get a hold of the affected information and determine if you need to update their access privileges.
3. Assess the risk
Once you’ve contained the breach, start assessing the possible harm of the incident to the affected parties. Determine the kind of data involved in the breach, to what extent it was compromised, and entities that might have access to that lost or stolen information. Additionally, you should determine who might be impacted, the number of affected parties, and how the occurrence will influence them. The possibility of this incident happening again is also something to consider during risk assessment.
4. Report the incident
Businesses are required to report data breach incidents within 72 hours to comply with the various rules and regulations of the industry, especially if the situation involves the exposure of personal or confidential information. The parties you need to notify include law enforcement, partner businesses, and affected clients and employees. Provide them with all the necessary information you obtained about the breach such as what happened, when the incident occurred, results of your risk assessment, and actions taken to contain the breach.
Recovering from a data breach
After responding to a cyber attack and taking appropriate steps to report it, there are a few more things you need to do to recover from the incident.
1. Confirm the breach, identify its source, and determine the scope
You should have a dedicated security team to confirm if a data breach occurred, cross-referencing it with the results from your Intrusion Detection or Prevention System (IDS/IPS). These systems automatically log security incidents when they happen. Once confirmed, check back on your logs to trace the origin of the breach, what kind of information was accessed and possibly stolen, and what the hackers did to carry out the attack. Preserve this evidence for reporting and as future reference.
2. Secure your network
Start securing all accounts, devices, and networks that the breach compromised – including potential targets. Update your login credentials and set up two-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA/MFA) wherever possible. Do not reuse old passwords or those that contain identifiable information such as names, nicknames, birthdays, and other personal details.
It is advised to set a password with at least 12 characters that contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Additionally, you should replace all servers, machines, and programs that the attack compromised. Consider this as an extra precaution in preventing the incident from happening again.
3. Enhance your security system
The occurrence of a data breach signifies that there are vulnerabilities in your security system. Consult your risk assessment report to determine which part of your network protection needs improvement and additional steps you can take to keep your business data secure. Test both new and old security measures to ensure their effectiveness against cyber attacks. This step can uncover vulnerabilities that have been overlooked, allowing you to patch them up and strengthen your cybersecurity.
Business transactions and operations become much easier when companies go digital, but this convenience doesn’t go without any threat of a cyber attack that ultimately leads to a data breach. That’s why it’s important to have preventive strategies in place to protect your system against such risks. In case a breach does occur, having an action plan and recovery guide allows you to act quickly and minimize potential damage.