Every year, data breaches become more and more commonplace as cybercrime continues to evolve and cybercriminals adapt to new technologies. A data breach is an incident in which sensitive, confidential or protected information is accessed, disclosed, stolen or used by unauthorized individuals, often exposing personal, financial, medical, or other sensitive information. Usually, a data breach can result in harm, such as identity theft, financial fraud, or reputational damage.
Data breach statistics show that most data breaches are financially motivated, with ransomware making up almost a quarter of all malware incidents. Personal information is a highly valued type of data to compromise, and many companies continue to lack adequate cybersecurity measures to prevent or even detect a data breach. According to a study by IBM, on average, data breaches took companies 287 days to detect and 80 days to contain.
Data breaches can happen for several reasons. Most commonly, data breaches occur through malware and phishing scams. Still, cyber attackers gain access to confidential information in many other ways, including social engineering, lost or stolen devices, insider threats, physical break-ins or third-party breaches.
The consequences of data breaches can be highly detrimental and include financial losses, legal penalties, negative publicity, employee turnover and loss of customer trust. The global average data breach cost in 2023 is $4.24M USD. Most commonly, data breaches target government, healthcare, retail and technology sectors.
After a data breach, companies must minimize risk to mitigate the potential damage and prevent further unauthorized access to sensitive information.
This blog will outline some steps to consider if you’ve experienced a data breach:
The first step after a data breach is containing the breach and securing your systems. This is the most critical step after discovering a data breach, as the goal is to prevent further unauthorized access to your systems, data, and networks by isolating the compromised areas. Your IT team must immediately isolate and contain the affected systems, disconnect compromised devices from the network, change access credentials, and, if possible, segment the network to prevent the attacker from moving deeper into your systems. Compromised accounts should be disabled, and network traffic should be monitored for signs of ongoing attacks.
Document all actions taken during the containment phase and the timeline of the breach discovery and containment efforts. Be sure to preserve evidence for forensic analysis and potential legal action. This may include logs, system snapshots, and any other relevant data. Documentation and evidence can be valuable for legal and regulatory purposes.
Once you have contained the breach and taken immediate steps to minimize the damage caused, the next step is to investigate and assess the extent of the damage done. Determining what data has been compromised and the potential impact on individuals and your organization can help you identify how the breach occurred and the exploited vulnerabilities. Investigating the network and affected systems is essential to mitigate risk from any malware still residing in them. Depending on the type of breach and the size of your organization, it may be necessary to hire a forensic investigator to help locate the source of the breach.
Depending on your legal and regulatory obligations, it is crucial to promptly notify individuals whose personal information was exposed in the breach. If any third-party organizations may be affected by the breach, they should also be informed via email or phone call with detailed information about the breach. Information should include the exact time and date of the breach, what data was compromised, and what steps are taken to address the situation.
Organizations can also consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with relevant data protection and privacy laws and, if required by law, report the breach to the appropriate regulatory bodies.
Organizations should develop a communication strategy to address the breach with stakeholders, customers and the public. Organizations must take adequate measures to maintain their reputation and integrity by communicating openly with the affected parties.
Once you have completed the above steps, it is essential to understand what occurred to allow the breach to happen. Identify and address the vulnerabilities or weaknesses that allowed the breach to occur. Audit your systems and device access, patch or update software, strengthen access controls, and improve security protocols to prevent similar incidents. If you suspect the breach was caused by human error, implement a mandatory security awareness training program for all employees. If data was lost or encrypted during the breach, work on data recovery efforts and restore affected systems and data from secure backups. After taking all the necessary steps after a breach, you must prepare your organization well for future security threats.
Review your incident response plan after the breach is resolved and make necessary updates to improve future responses. Conduct post-incident analysis to learn from the breach and adjust security strategies accordingly. Since the possibility of another attack is relatively high after a data breach, it is essential to make all necessary improvements as soon as possible. Employing a managed security services provider can help implement robust cybersecurity measures much more quickly and efficiently.
The increasing number of data breaches yearly demonstrates the need for increased cybersecurity. In today’s IT landscape, it is unclear whether a company will face a cybersecurity threat but how soon it will happen. In an ideal world, companies have adequate cybersecurity measures to prevent a breach from happening, but that is not always possible. The steps mentioned above can help organizations deal with the immediate aftermath of a data breach.