How to Handle a Data Breach
Business Tech

How to Handle a Data Breach

When it comes to a data breach, it’s widely believed that it is no longer a matter of if but when.

Data breaches are an ongoing threat to all businesses (and individuals). Statistics of data breaches show that while cybersecurity may be advancing rapidly, so are hackers. The frequency and degree to which cyberattacks and breaches occur is unparalleled. This article details what a data breach is and how to handle a data breach.

For some background, the most recent, large scale attack was the SolarWinds hack. Hackers infiltrated the software company and installed malware during an update. The software was then distributed to multiple Fortune 500 companies and over 250 US federal agencies. The breach went unnoticed for an estimated 9 months before being uncovered last year.

How Breaches Occur

Data breaches can and do occur through a range of techniques. Among the most prominent methods that cybercriminals are using are ransomware, phishing, and insider threats.

Ransomware is a form of malware. A ransomware attack is when hackers encrypt your computer network and withhold access. They will then demand a ransom for its release. Hackers may also threaten to delete or share data to further push for ransom payment. Once you pay the ransom, access is usually restored. 

A phishing email can take the form of an impersonation of an organization or person. This is done with the goal of getting you to reveal your confidential information. Phishing emails can also contain links that infect your computer with viruses. These can enable hackers to access your confidential information themselves.

Insider threat is when an employee performs an attack on their employer. This is often done by abusing their employee access to confidential company data. Examples include threats to reveal information, leaking confidential information, intentionally infecting networks.

The Need for Cybersecurity

The need for cybersecurity has become both undeniable and pressingly urgent. This is the case for individuals, SMMEs, global-scale-companies, and governments alike. Parties who recognize this are significantly advantaged.

Prevention measures can be expensive, but they are nowhere near as costly as resolving the problem. Statistics of data breaches provide the proof for this. For perspective, half of large enterprises spend $1 million or more on cyber security annually. The average cost of a single data breach was $3.92 million in 2019

There are many important cybersecurity measures to be implemented to protect yourself and your business. Examples include antivirus software, firewalls, and even simply training your employees to be cautious.

Finding Your Solution

It’s widely believed that it is no longer a matter of if but when. There are some options if you do find yourself victim to an attack. There’s a right solution for each type of breach and business. This should enable you to find the best way to react to your situation.

Once you realize you have experienced a ransomware attack, there are steps you can take. 

  1. Firstly, try to conserve evidence of the attack by taking a screenshot of your system. 
  2. Next, shut down your system to prevent further spreading of malware. 
  3. Then try to identify where the threat came from (such as from an email). This should help you in being able to block access of the malware. 
  4. At this point you should then contact authorities.

A business can fall victim to phishing email scams in more ways than one. You or one of your employees could fall for a trap set by scammers. Your business may also be impersonated by scammers, muddying your name. It is important to be quick and communicative either way. If you suspect data is at risk, contact authorities immediately.

In the case of an insider threat, it is important to immediately reduce access to information and the opportunity to gain further leverage. If possible, talk down the perpetrator to reduce motivation for this or further action. If information has already been leaked or the threat isn’t suitably mitigated, contact law enforcement.

What to do After a Data Breach

Simply put, all business types upon discovery of a breach ought to do several things. Here are the steps you need to follow when handling a data breach:

  1. Secure the areas that may have been linked to the breach.
  2. Prevent additional data loss by taking affected equipment offline immediately. Be careful to preserve evidence, and change potentially stolen credentials.
  3. If applicable, remove all leaked information from the internet. 
  4. Contact law enforcement, for example the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

How to Handle a Data Breach – Summary

Statistics of data breaches act as proof that this amorphous threat is ever evolving and growing. All businesses and individuals are responsible for keeping themselves safe, and not doing so is no longer a feasible option.

The first step in handling a data breach is understanding why and how they occur. Considering the chances of a data breach, you need to be proactive and make sure you have everything in place for when an attack occurs.

Hopefully this article answers the question of how to handle a data breach. For more articles like How to Handle a Data Breach, check out the Business Tech section of this site.

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