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Essential Steps to Prepare for and Recover from A Data Breach



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Data breaches are a constant threat to all organizations. While large corporations often attract the most attention, cybercriminals also target SMBs because they perceive them as easier targets with potentially valuable data. SMBs today rely heavily on technology for managing customer data, financial information, and other sensitive information. However, many lack the resources and expertise to implement robust cybersecurity measures, making them vulnerable to data breaches.


Cybercriminals often target customer names, Social Security numbers, financial information, and healthcare records. These data breaches lead to financial losses, legal repercussions, and reputational damage, among other devastating consequences for SMBs. 


Attackers use several mechanisms to access private data, including malware infections, phishing, and ransomware attacks. However, internal teams may also accidentally expose sensitive data by using inadequate security protocols or other forms of human error. Preparing for a data breach and taking prompt action in the aftermath decreases the chances of a breach leading to a business disaster.


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8 Steps to Prepare for a Data Breach


Data breaches are bound to happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when attempts will be made on your network. Decreasing the likelihood of breaches means staying several steps ahead of the hacker. 


Understand Your Data and Relevant Risks


Take inventory of present data, their sensitivity level, storage locations, accounts with access, and potential threats. Highlight the risks the data poses to the organization and the risks that the data handling processes pose to the data subject. This information is crucial for breach mitigation and future prevention. For instance, understanding which accounts have access to which classifications of data would make it easier to selectively close those accounts while containing and eradicating a breach.


Training 


Employees in an organization are often the weakest link in cybersecurity and are susceptible to phishing attacks and other forms of attacks that may expose the company to data breaches. Therefore, the importance of security training can not be overstated, it’s the first line of defense. Training not only reduces the likelihood of a breach but also ensures employees are equipped to handle breaches. The training should always keep pace with trends in the cybersecurity space and evolving threats.


Technical Solutions


Deploying technical solutions in proportion to identified risks can restrict access to sensitive data, ultimately decreasing the possibility of breaches. Access control lists, firewalls, and antivirus software are popular controls that mitigate unauthorized access and malware attacks. To learn more about what technical solutions Cymbrella offers please visit our managed security services page.


Comprehensive Policies


In addition to training, comprehensive policies outline rules and controls for protecting data in an organization. However, they only work when employees, contractors, and other parties with access to the data read and understand them. Ensure the policies are clear, easy to understand, and easily accessible by all parties.


Data Access Logs


Data access logs record activity on a database, identifying who accesses which data and when. They also record who has been rejected or denied access. Performing audits on the logs can pinpoint unauthorized access and other abnormalities. Logs also assist with investigations of breaches since they record the attacker’s details, the data they accessed, and how long they had access. 


However, most hackers delete logs to cover their tracks. Ensure your system has tools to back up the logs frequently to ensure their integrity and availability. Additionally, outline a comprehensive plan for security personnel to check them regularly for unauthorized access or abnormal behavior. 


Have an Incident Response Plan


An incident response plan identifies key IT, legal, and communications personnel who will handle the recovery and represent the company in the event of a breach. Time is of the essence after a security breach, so pre-designated roles and clear communication channels are crucial. Update roles and responsibilities regularly as they change and include a contact list for people in those roles that others should reach out to when they recognize or suspect an incident. 


The plan should also highlight what would be considered a security incident, breaches, and who should be notified and when. These may seem obvious, but failing to outline them clearly beforehand may delay recovery actions. 


Perform a Tabletop Exercise 


After developing the incident response plan, the next step is to practice it, starting with a mock breach. Tabletop exercises are common data breach practice exercises facilitated by an external vendor. After thorough mock-ups, companies should advance to real-life simulated breaches where key players will need to act fast and precisely to mitigate the attacks. 


Consider Cyber Insurance


Data breaches are expensive for organizations since they often lead to huge financial losses and legal repercussions. Appropriate insurance plans can help the company recover quickly. Evaluate the exposure and risks your data faces and then determine the kind of coverage you need from an insurance partner. It’s also important to ascertain that third-party vendors and other people who use your data have insurance. 



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Data Breach Recovery Steps


When the breaches occur, containment, elimination, and recovery are key to restoring normal operations. After recovery, consider additional risks related to the breach and mitigate them, and write a report outlining lessons learned. 


Assemble Your Incident Response Team


Once a data breach is discovered on the network, assemble the incident response team and implement the incident response plan. 


Perform a Preliminary Assessment


Next, key players in the incident response team should perform a preliminary assessment to ascertain the presence of a breach, the kind of breach, affected systems and compromised accounts, and entry points used by the attacker. 


The initial assessment also determines whether the threat actor is still present on the network, whether the attack is being compounded, and whether the breach affects business continuity in totality or just part of the business. It’s not uncommon for the attack to be reported while it’s in progress, and determining these factors helps with fast and precise breach containment and eradication.  


Additionally, identify any malware left by the attacker. It’s not uncommon for cybercriminals to leave backdoors to make it easier for them to gain future access. Also, identify the type of attack that led to the breach. This intel is critical for containment, remediation, and future prevention. 


Contain the Breach


Stopping the breach as soon as possible ensures the damage doesn’t affect other assets, services, and capabilities. Isolate the breach source, disconnect affected systems, and revoke access for potentially compromised accounts. Once the rest of the network is protected, work to eliminate the threat. 


Threat elimination could include various actions such as altering usernames and passwords, fixing the vulnerabilities exploited in the breach, and rebuilding systems. At this stage, it’s critical to think fast. However, prioritize precision over haste to minimize the chances of collateral damage, which can worsen the situation.


Notify Stakeholders and Make Records


Not all breaches need to be reported. Determine whether the breach is reportable based on the incident response plan, then notify if necessary. Legal and regulatory requirements dictate whom to notify, including third-party organizations, the authorities, and affected customers. For this step, transparency and compliance are key—regular updates, even when brief, demonstrate transparency and rebuild trust. 


Craft clear, concise messages tailored to each audience, including the date and time of the breach occurrence, and focusing on impact, mitigation efforts, and what the affected parties can do to protect themselves from further damage. 


However, remember to notify with caution. A substantial percentage of data breaches involve an inside member, and revealing too much information too soon may cripple the containment measures or enable the attackers to cover their tracks. 


While not all data breaches need to be reported, they should all be recorded. Key players should record the type of attack, mitigation measures, and lessons learned, which will help secure the system against similar attacks in the future. 


Perform Security Audits and Reinforcements


According to statistics, most companies that face cyberattacks are highly likely to experience reattacks shortly after. It’s crucial to perform a security assessment on the rest of the system to identify vulnerabilities and patch present holes. This might involve patching software, hardening systems, or implementing additional security controls. This approach ensures the company doesn’t only focus on implementing a Band-Aid on the existing problem but establishes a long-term solution to prevent re-attacks.



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Take Action Against Data Breaches


Data breaches are an ever-present threat for businesses of all sizes, and as the popular saying goes, it’s not a matter of if but when your data will be breached. Take proactive steps to safeguard your organization by seeking top-notch managed IT services to help secure your network and help your business recover in the event of a breach. 


Cymbrella provides exceptional IT Support in Connecticut. Our team of seasoned cybersecurity professionals offers invaluable guidance to fortify your system against potential breaches. Moreover, we stand ready to provide support to help you business recover from a data breach, offering comprehensive services from forensics and legal support to crisis communications and reputation management. To learn more about what technical solutions Cymbrella offers please visit our managed security services page.


Reach out today for cyber security services in Connecticut!







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