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What to Do After a Data Breach

For many of us, one of the worst professional scenarios we can fall victim to is the dreaded data breach. However, as companies expand their digital footprint, so does their risk of experiencing this nightmare. Breaches have far-reaching consequences, including hefty financial losses and a massive hit to your reputation. For organizations that have become one of the statistics, it’s imperative to act quickly and take steps to recover from the effects of a data breach and prevent another from happening. This article explores what has to be done to pull off a data breach recovery and the subsequent steps to avoid against future attacks. 

How Data Breaches Impact Businesses ⚠️

According to Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, 83% of breaches are caused by external actors. The most popular attack methods include social engineering attacks, software misconfigurations, and exploiting human error. Size doesn’t seem to be a deterrent, with companies like T-Mobile, and Meta falling victim to data breaches over the past two years. 

Many companies use online systems like cloud computing to remain competitive. Many have turned to work-from-home (WFA) and hybrid workplaces to give employees more flexible options. While that empowers workers and businesses, those policies put customers, workers, and vendors at a higher cyberattack risk. 

A swift reaction to a data breach affects a company’s overall liability, ability to continue operating, and overall reputation. While it’s never fun for a company to see its brand spotlighted for the wrong reasons, data breaches are the type of wake-up call that emphasizes the importance of a strong security posture. It’s a time to focus on the importance of a robust security posture, data privacy security, and making cybersecurity threats a company-wide concern. 

Common Data Breach Causes

Breaches are becoming more common thanks to evolving attacks executed by malicious hackers. Organizations are also put at risk by employees falling for social engineering attacks, where bad actors fraudulently try to obtain their credentials. The combination of the two leaves the average company only a few steps away from experiencing a critical incident. 

Frequent causes of data breaches include:

Steps to Take After a Data Breach 🪜

The biggest worry after a data breach is the potential for hackers to leak stolen records. It’s one thing for the business to be harmed, but if a customer’s personally identifiable information (PII) is compromised or exposed, it will inevitably lead to further damage like identity theft or financial fraud. Those kinds of escalations compound the problem significantly. The following are the steps an organization should take immediately after a data breach. 

1. Remove Affected Information

Remove any affected data and document the effects of the attack. The IT team should perform a data breach investigation, collecting evidence of what happened. They should also identify every compromised system and server. That information can help inform cyber forensic analysis, making it easier to determine how a hacker gained unauthorized access. 

Disconnect systems, devices, and networks from the affected access point. Moving quickly limits the scope of an attack from a bad actor. Confer and consult with individuals who understand the effects of turning off potentially compromised systems. 

2. Restrict Access

Once a data breach has been identified, remove or restrict access to the affected information, which should only be reviewed by those who are part of the recovery effort or have a pressing business need. That way, cyber thieves can’t hijack employee credentials and make their way back in. Limiting access also allows for response teams to update security measures like firewalls and anti-malware software. 

3. Reset Company Passwords

Depending on how a hacker got in and the extent of the data breach, consider resetting passwords throughout the organization. If a hacker compromised other accounts, that can prevent them from taking advantage of that access. It’s also a good idea to set a standard policy requiring employees to reset their passwords at various intervals. Employing protocols like multi-factor authentication (MFA) also boosts password security. 

Formulating a Data Breach Response Plan 📝

A data breach response plan is critical to mitigating the damage from a data breach. It’s also an excellent way to get some peace of mind and prepare for future attempts. 

1. Set Up a Response Team

Pull together representatives from areas like IT, legal, communications, and management. Having everyone on the same page is essential to formulating a rapid response to a data breach. After everyone is together, establish a clear chain of command and designate responsibilities for every team member. 

Next, come up with a communication strategy to inform all affected parties. The team should provide status updates to all required legal entities by the timeline set in regulatory guidelines. A company’s communication strategy should also cover informing relevant stakeholders. 

Inform customers and employees about the issue and what is being done to fix it. Both groups should hear from the company itself rather than learn about the incident from a headline.

2. Set a Recovery Timeline

Establish a timeline for data breach recovery. That helps streamline the process and prioritize remediation efforts based on their risk level. The plan should cover identifying what caused a breach, how to contain the damage, and restoring data and affected systems. 

3. Locate and Fix Vulnerabilities

Employing real-time threat detection and response tools is an excellent way to find and fix the source of a data breach. They help with diagnosing the issue and reinforcing security. Businesses should also review their overall attack surface. That includes going over the security environments of third-party vendors. 

Network security penetration tests, or pen testing, help reveal holes in a business’s server infrastructure. They simulate real attacks on a company’s data, providing a chance for cybersecurity teams to identify weaknesses in applications and servers while assessing the strength of an organization’s security posture. 

Make Kiuwan Part of Your Defense Against Data Breaches 🚀

Does dealing with and recovering from a data breach sound like a horrific ordeal? That’s because it is. Not only is it a complete disruption, but it’s a total violation and a perfect example of where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Kiuwan’s end-to-end application security platform helps businesses identify vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches. The platform aligns with security standards like OWASP, CWE, and NIST. It supports over 30 major programming languages and frameworks. Click the link below to get your free demo!

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