You Were the Victim of a Data Breach. Now What?

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A data breach is something every individual and organization needs to avoid. Unfortunately, it has become all too common  in today’s online world. One major way that personal information becomes compromised is through identity theft. It’s better not to imagine the extent of damage that goes along with that.  

 In this highly-connected world, cybersecurity is continuously increasing in scope and size.  

 For one, consumers want to conduct business with enterprises capable of keeping hackers away. As a result, it becomes necessary to put a response plan against data breaches. The question, therefore, is how do you prevent or respond to a data breach?  

What is a Data Breach?

A data breach occurs when an organization suffers a security incident that affects the confidentiality, availability, or integrity of its data. Consequently, the rights and freedoms of individuals become compromised. 

Data breaches strike every industry, sector, and individual. For individuals, the cost is often personal financial damage to investment funds, salaries, or savings. On the other hand, corporations often spend hundreds of thousands or millions in dollars to repair systems, improve defense, and more.  

How Do Data Breaches Happen?

 Compromised credentials are the most common method  cyber attackers use to enter a database. The approach accounts for 20% of data breaches.  

Most affected credentials include passwords and usernames obtained through a different security incident. Various attack methods come into play in these data breaches including brute-force attacks, megacart attacks, phishing and more. Also, a breach could result from an insider, negligence, and business email compromise (BEC).  

For an inside threat, the attackers first conduct surveillance, then map out a network for the most valuable resources, before targeting a potential pathway to infiltrate the systems.  

 Financial motivations are the reason for most inside attacks. Some employees jump at it when they get tempting offers to make extra money. The outcome is your information changing hands.  

Types of Data Breaches

A data breach is also great at ruining a brand and not just your revenue. For  individual to remain safe, a knowledge of the common types of breaches is a must. You also need to know how it affects you. So, here is a list. 

  • Malware or Virus: The goal of this threat is to wipe  information from a computer. For companies that heavily rely on data, this is always a heavy blow.  
  • Password Guessing: Stolen passwords all to often result in extreme damage. Passwords are typically hacked due to their simplicity and being easily guessable. Prime examples of this include Passwords derived  from people’s names, pet names, or birthdays. 
  • Ransomware: As the name suggests, this occurs when you  pay a ransom to regain access to your phone or computer.  
  • Phishing: Phishing involves the mirroring of a website with a fake duplicate that can highly resemble the original. When you unknowingly log into the site, the attackers steal your password to conduct  their criminal activities.  

How to Detect a Data Breach

As data breaches become inevitable, detection is becoming an increasingly important initiative. At this rate, cybersecurity has become an essential investment for individuals and organizations. We all need to understand who is vulnerable to data breaches and how to detect and respond to them.  

Data breach detection is not always easy. It often involves an intelligent Data Security Platform, especially in the case of large companies.  Their tools help to  provide speed and precision when mitigating damages. 

Nevertheless, there are always warning signs that indicate when your system has experienced a data breach. Here are red flags you need to the investigate: 

  • Sudden user account lockouts or password changes.  
  • Strange user activity such as logging in at irregular times from unknown locations. 
  • Unusual pop-ups, redirections, or changes to browser configuration. 
  • Unusual activity on network ports 
  • Strange messages from you by email or social media 
  • Strange configuration changes without an approval 

Effects of Data Breaches

Irrespective of the size, a data breach can destroy a business. For example, 60% of small businesses often shut down within six months after an attack.  These occurrences can stem from multiple factors including:  

  • Poisoned Corporate Brand: Data breaches have a way of tainting a business reputation –the effects of which can linger long after the incident. 
  • Loss of Sales: Reputational damage can lead to a loss of customers and  sharp drops in revenue due to drops in customer trust. 
  • Loss of Intellectual Property: Intellectual property constitutes over 80 percent of a company’s value today.  Losing intellectual property can threaten the future of the company and also leaves it vulnerable. In some instances, some competing businesses will even take advantage of stolen information for their own gain. 

How to Develop a Data Breach Response Plan

Have an Incident Response Checklist 

Having an incident response checklist for data breaches can provide guidance for what to do during breach scenarios. It contains an outlined task to carry out so that everyone knows what exactly to do. However, the checklist should be flexible to allow adjustments for evolving threats. 

Be Informed about Laws and Regulations 

Regular government policy changes are often a headache for SME businesses. Because of the rise in cybercrime, governments and agencies constantly change regulations on data protection. Be sure to keep tabs on these changes and adapt to new laws. 

Review New Cyber Threats 

Never take the news of a data breach for granted. It’s important to consistently review new security risks as these provide highly valuable insights.  

Identify Data Security Platforms 

In case of a security breach, contacting a forensic service provider is safe. They are highly skilled at investigating the cause and impact of an attack. It is best to have the contact for one beforehand rather than waiting for a crisis to find one.  

Steps to Take After a Data Breach

1.  Identify the Source and Extent of Damage

The first thing to do about any cyber attack is to identify the source. You also need to identify the type and the extent of the damage. It is a time-consuming process when operating without a prevention system. 

2. Having an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

An IPS automatically logs the security event to you and tracks down the source and identify of  the affected files when in use. You can also gain insight into the particular actions taken by the threat actor. 

3.  Inform your Forensic Service Provider

You need to have a structure in place for addressing security emergencies. If you have a team, have them to swing into action immediately. Remember your checklist and let them follow the procedure for resolving the issue. If it is an inside threat, revoke the account’s privileges and change the password. Should you not have an in-house team, inform your security service provider to tackle the problem.  

4.  Test your Security Fix

Once the issue gets resolved, implant a short-term security fix to prevent future occurrences. Don’t forget to also test any security fix to avoid attackers using the same method. Be sure to conduct the test on all computers and servers. 

5.  Inform Authorities and Affected Customers

Customers need to be informed about a breach of their personal data so they take personal measures to protect their identities such as canceling credit cards and setting up two-factor authentication if available. Informing customers requires three critical factors — time, information, and thoroughness. Be sure to communicate honestly and openly where necessary and provide steps of guides for them to protect themselves. In addition, contact authorities about the breach. The government and security agencies provide post-breach regulatory standards for every industry. 

6.  Prepare a Clean Up and Damage Control

The loss of customer confidence is another devastating effect of data breaches. They tend to be more cautious with any organization after a breach. When you fix all breach-related issues, quickly pivot and work on restoring public trust.  

Final Thoughts on Data Breaches

There is no single method for responding to a data breach . Data breaches often require a case-by-case approach along with a thorough risk assessment to determine the best course of action. The extent of damage and nature of the breach will determine the precise steps needed. The response team may work with additional staff or external experts such as IT specialists/data forensics experts. While data breaches can undoubtedly be a nerve-wracking event, the first rule is always prevention, and having  a sound response plan  can help  put the mind at ease. 

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