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Addressing a data breach in your business is akin to navigating a powerful storm. It’s a stressful situation that requires swift and decisive action – a well-developed plan of attack for data breach response. 

We’ve all at least seen the news detailing data breaches involving massive corporations due to the common cyber threats out there today. Heck, just 6 hours before we sat down to write this managed IT services blog, tech giant Fujitsu reported a hack and large-scale data breach.

Here are some more examples:

Those were all within the last 3 days. But what of the data breaches that don’t make headlines – the ones affecting small businesses (like yours) all over the world? You might not lose billions of dollars like a major corporation, but you could certainly lose millions. Unfortunately, the financial realities are just one consequence to consider in a strong data breach response plan.

Let’s break down the steps.  

Data Breach Response for Small Businesses & Organizations

Whether it’s hackers infiltrating your servers, an insider threat compromising customer information, or inadvertent exposure of sensitive data, you need a clear plan to weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side.

Act Swiftly to Secure Your Operations

The first common-sense step in a data breach response is to act swiftly to secure your systems and shore up any vulnerabilities. Every moment counts in preventing further damage. 

The adage “prevention is better than cure” rings true. Multiple breaches can compound the damage. In addition to fortifying digital defenses, secure physical areas potentially linked to the breach. This may involve locking down these areas and updating access codes, as necessary. Prepare your physical and digital space to work with cyber forensics experts and law enforcement, if necessary.

Mobilize Your Response Team

This team will play a crucial role in orchestrating your data breach response strategy. The actions required may require tailored approaches based on the nature of the leak and your organization’s structure.

  • Assemble a Multidisciplinary Team – Time is of the essence, so put the right pieces in place to handle the response efficiently. Depending on your company’s size and complexity, this team may comprise leaders from various fields/departments including cyber forensics, legal, information security, managed IT services, operations, HR, communications, investor relations, and administration.
  • Engage a Dedicated Data Forensics Team – Investigate the breach thoroughly. Consider enlisting independent forensic investigators to find its source and extent. They’ll capture forensic data of affected systems, analyze evidence and outline steps for remediation.
  • Seek Legal Advice – Navigate the legal implications of the breach. First consult with your in-house legal team or attorney on retainer. Consider hiring external counsel with specialized expertise in privacy and data security laws. Such experts can provide invaluable advice on international, federal and state regulations, ensuring data management compliance and mitigating legal risks.

At Acme Business, our team of seasoned managed IT and cybersecurity professionals is ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice, guiding you through every step of the response process with precision and expertise.

Prevent Further Data Loss

Take all affected software and hardware offline as soon as possible. (Wait for cyber forensic experts to assess the situation and preserve evidence before shutting down any machines.) Monitor digital endpoints, as well as physical entry and exit points, to detect and thwart any unauthorized access attempts.

Where possible, replace compromised machines with clean ones to resume operations securely. Update credentials and passwords for authorized users. Even if hackers no longer possess their tools, failing to change compromised credentials leaves your system vulnerable to exploitation.

Notify Authorities & Entities Affected

Honesty is always the best policy in your business communications strategy. Transparency and clarity are paramount to maintain trust and credibility after a data breach. Ideally, a well-prepared organization has a crisis plan in place – just in case. 

Each cyber attack is different, sometimes requiring communication with affected parties and stakeholders to develop in real time. Upfront communication alleviates concerns and minimizes frustration among stakeholders, saving time and preserving your company’s reputation.

Identify the Source & Scope of the Breach

Cyber forensic investigators conducting a thorough analysis of the breach will determine its source, extent and impact. Conduct thorough interviews with individuals who discovered it, as well as others who might have info. Completing these investigations is crucial in determining when it’s safe to resume regular operations, ensuring an appropriate response to mitigate further risks.

Don’t tamper with any forensic evidence – even inadvertently – during the investigation and remediation process. Preservation of evidence is key to accurately assessing the scope and impact, as well as for potential legal proceedings or regulatory inquiries.

Tell your customer service team where to direct relevant information to assist in the investigation. Document each step of your investigation for a clear record of findings and actions taken.

Data Breach Response: Fix Vulnerabilities & Enhance Cybersecurity Measures

Address vulnerabilities and strengthen your security posture to prevent future breaches. This may involve proactive approaches like cyber threat hunting and staff cybersecurity training

At Acme Business, we offer robust data security measures including encryption, regular audits, data backups and secure access controls, to safeguard your sensitive information against evolving threats. 

Here are some other things to consider:

Assess Relationships with Service Providers 

Even a small business could have a number of third-party service providers – from POS systems and financial planners to digital marketing agencies. (Remember: each individual with access to your systems – internally or externally – is a potential access point for cybercriminals to exploit.) Your providers likely aren’t involved in the breach directly, but their own oversights or inexperience may expose vulnerabilities. 

Determine the extent of their access to personal information and evaluate the necessity of adjusting access privileges. Additionally, ensure that your service providers are actively implementing measures to prevent future breaches. Verify any claims of vulnerability corrections.

Review Your Internal Cybersecurity Strategies

If necessary, make adjustments to enhance your business network’s cybersecurity posture. Evaluate the effectiveness of your network segmentation in containing the breach. Work with cyber forensic experts to assess whether the segmentation plan protected other parts of your network. 

Determine if encryption measures were in place at the time of the breach and analyze preserved data backups. Review access logs to identify individuals who accessed the compromised data and evaluate the necessity of their access. Act promptly on recommendations provided in the forensic reports to fix vulnerabilities.

Develop a Strong Communications Plan

As stated earlier, address all stakeholders affected by the breach, including employees, customers, investors and business partners. Avoid providing misleading information or withholding key details that could assist individuals in protecting themselves and their information. Additionally, don’t publicly share information that may heighten risks for consumers.

Anticipate the questions that individuals may have regarding the breach and provide clear, accessible answers on your website and, if necessary, social media. Acme Business can refer you to an expert communications team to develop a PR plan that protects your brand reputation and preserves stakeholder confidence.

Offer Technical Support to Everyone Impacted

Provide support resources to those affected, such as credit monitoring services or identity theft protection. Empowering them with tools to safeguard their information can mitigate the impact of the breach and restore trust. At Acme Business, we prioritize the well-being of your customers and offer comprehensive support services to help them navigate the aftermath of a breach.

Avoiding Cyber Attacks is Tough. Be Prepared with a Solid Data Breach Response

Keeping up with cybersecurity is almost always a daunting challenge. With the right data breach response plan and support services in place, your business can emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.

The managed IT and cybersecurity experts at Acme Business are committed to helping you navigate the storm. If you need help, call Acme Business at (716) 372-1325 or visit our website for expert guidance. You can connect with us on LinkedIn, too!