Prevention, they say, is better than cure. Most companies have put in place stringent data security measures to prevent any kind of breach. However, following recent security breaches of tech-savvy giants like Twitter, Target, and Gmail, it’s clear that no company is 100% immune to a breach.
Therefore, businesses must draw an action plan for handling a data breach should the security and prevention measures fail. Here’s a comprehensive data breach response guide every company should implement when the situation calls for it:
Securing the Source
The first call of action is moving quickly and securing the system that might have potentially caused the breach. Here, the goal is to prevent further data loss, and it involves the following steps:
- Gathering a team of experts in forensics, human resource, information technology, investor relations, communication, law, and information security. Most importantly, you want tohire a lawyer with data privacy and security expertise. The other vital expert on top of the list would be an independent data forensics investigator.
- Restrict movement to any physical areas linked to the breach.
- Stop further data loss by switching off all the affected machines and equipment until the forensic officers arrive.
- Erase any unsecured company information from the web.
- Get on a one-on-one with the people who first uncovered the breach.
- Preserve every piece of forensic evidence for further investigation.
Fixing vulnerabilities involves:
- Reevaluating service providers’ privileges to determine if there’s a need to make any changes.
- Check with the forensic investigators to determine if your network segmentation plan effectively neutralizes the breach and make the necessary changes if need be.
- Work with the forensics investigators to determine if encryption measures were active during the breach, review logs to see the number of accesses, and scan backup data. You also want to look over who has current access, determine the extent of information tampering, and obtain any suspects’ contact information.
- Formulate an effective communication plan to reach out to every affected stakeholder, including employees, financiers, investors, customers, etc.
Notify the Right Parties
After neutralizing the situation and preventing a further data breach, the next course of action should be informing relevant parties like the law enforcement agencies, affected customers, and businesses.
Notifying the Law Enforcement
Before picking that phone, you want to check the federal and statutory laws applicable to your particular situation. You can then report the matter to the nearest police station. If the police have no specialty in investigating data breaches, reach out to the local FBI or Secret Service offices. However, if the violation involved mail theft, you should report to the U.S Postal Inspection Service.
Alerting the Affected Businesses
If the data breach involves altering information or service belonging to another business, you should notify them promptly. For instance, if the forensic investigation’s account access information reveals that the data loss extends to a credit card or bank account codes, you should inform the parent companies and let them monitor the accounts.
If the data breach affects several people, you should notify them quickly that their personal information is in danger. This can enable them to take the necessary steps to curb the extent of information misuse. The following factors should influence your decision on who to notify:
- The statutory laws
- The probability of misuse
- The nature of the breach
- The kind of information stolen
- The potential extent of the damage should the information be misused
The question remains: what information must you, and must you not relay to the individuals in your breach notice? Below are some of the general ways of describing what happened during the data breach:
- How did the breach happen?
- What information was tampered with?
- How have the thieves used the information (if you know)?
- What measures have you implemented to prevent further data loss?
- What protective actions are you taking for the benefit of the individuals?
- How can the individuals reach relevant contacts in your company?
Don’t forget: liaising with law enforcement officers before notifying the affected individuals about the data breach is exceptionally crucial. It enables you to send only the appropriate information, i.e., those that won’t interfere with the investigation.
Also, let the customers know how they’ll contact you in the future. Being transparent and open with the customers will help uphold your company’s reputation and prevent victims from linking the data breach to a scam.
Hackers and data thieves are always around the corner and ready to attack when the opportunity presents itself. Therefore, it is paramount for businesses of all sizes and influence to protect their data and their customers’ in the safest way possible. And in the event of a data breach, you should be swift in implementing the steps discussed above to prevent further losses.
Have your company data ever been breached before? How did you respond to mitigate the situation? Engage us in the comments below.