From the largest ride-sharing service in the world to one of the biggest credit reporting agencies in the country, no organization, no matter how old or well respected, is immune to the dangers of a data breach. Those companies learned about their vulnerabilities too late, but the ways they reacted were ultimately as important as the data breach itself.
Some businesses attempted to hide the fact that they had been hacked. Others reported the breach but did so far too late. Others were more upfront about the vulnerability and its aftermath, trying to win back lost customers and shattered trust.
While you may like to think you are immune from the dangers of hacking and data breaches, chances are that your firm will suffer some sort of cybersecurity violation in the future. The hackers are getting better and more sophisticated, the attempts at social engineering continue to improve and the human element continues to be the weak spot in any cybersecurity protocol.
Given these realities, it is important to go beyond a sound cybersecurity infrastructure and think about how you would react if your security barriers were breached. Hopefully, you will never need to implement this reaction strategy, but having a response plan in place is absolutely critical.
Having a sound response plan in place can aid your company in countless ways. Responding promptly to a data breach can protect you from government intervention, including serious fines and even criminal penalties. Perhaps even more importantly, responding to a data breach in an honest and upright manner can protect the integrity of your firm and help you win back the trust of your customers.
There is no one formula for responding to a data breach, and no two company protocols will be the same. There are, however, some elements that any data breach reaction plan should contain, including the action items outlined below.
Whether the data breach involved a handful of records or your entire database, you need to outline exactly what happened and who may have been affected.
It can take some time to gather this information, but the sooner you report the breach the better. Even if you do not have all the details, communicating with your customers now is the best way to retain their trust and limit the fallout from the data breach.
Some industries, like healthcare, have more extensive requirements for data security and more severe penalties when cybersecurity is breached. It is important to know your legal liability, including what kinds of fines and penalties you might suffer if your firewalls and other defenses were overwhelmed.
The best time to do this kind of legal preparation is before any breach has occurred. If your firm has a legal team, working with that team now will leave you far better prepared in the event of a breach. If your business is not large enough to need a dedicated legal team, talk to the legal counsel you do have about preparing for and responding to a potential data breach. Either way, preparing now will free up your valuable time later, so you can spend your limited resources responding to the current breach and shoring up your data infrastructure.
The existence of a breach means that something went wrong with your data protection, but it is important to take your time and focus on actions that provide you with the biggest safety boost. It is easy to rush the response to a data breach, especially when vendors and customers are clamoring for action. Even so, a calm and step-by-step approach is the best response.
The response to the data breach should include pinpointing the method of intrusion – finding out whether the breach originated with a corrupt email link, a disgruntled employee or the granting of too much access. Until you know what went wrong, it will be impossible to set things right.
No one wants to suffer a data breach, but history suggests that a majority of businesses will experience some sort of cyber security incident in the coming year. Some of those firms will be household names you know and love, while others will be small firms barely out of their startup phase. How those firms react to their data breaches will make all the difference, and now is the time to put a response plan in place.