4 Techniques to Incorporate into Your Data Breach Response Plan
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Data breach, a phrase every CTO or executive dreads. They can damage a company’s reputation, can lead to punitive action from regulatory authorities, and can cost a business an average cost of $4.45 million. With cybercrime and attacks on the rise, you will see reports of a corresponding rise in data breaches around the world.
Of course, prevention is better than cure, but with cybercriminals finding new ways to attack your business, mitigation can be just as important. While you’ll always hope it never happens to your organization, you need a good data breach response plan for the worst-case scenario. So, what are the techniques you should be prioritizing to mitigate a data breach?
4 techniques you need for a data breach response
Having a robust plan in case of a data breach is crucial for every business. All organizations handle a certain amount of confidential data, and some, such as financial institutions, virtual law firms, or healthcare providers, have additional oversight and are governed by laws and regulations as to how they handle and store that data.
1. Identify risks, vulnerabilities, and effects
While this may not strictly be a response to a data breach, it is an essential part of your plan. Knowing where an attack would be most likely to succeed means you can both improve security in that area and better prepare data breach response steps in case of an attack. Think of your organization as a number of apartments in a block and think about how easy (or difficult) it would be for a ‘burglar’ to get into each and steal your valuables.
You should also understand that every domain could be vulnerable, whether a .sa domain or otherwise. You should include the possible effects of a data breach so that your response plan can account for that and can look to minimize any negative effects.
Human error. As much as 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error or action. That can cover everything from actions by malicious employees (or ex-employees) to poor use (and exposure) of passwords and log-in credentials and poor email security. If any of these reasons are the cause of a data breach, review and refresh employee training on password use and other security measures they can take.
Data loss. Data loss can be damaging or even potentially catastrophic. Part of your data breach response plan should focus on recovery. Have your data, especially essential data, backed up to secure servers, ideally in the cloud. Every hour lost due to data loss is costing you money, so have a firm focus on a secure backup of data and speedy recovery.
Service disruption. There are several ways that cybercriminals could disrupt your services, the best known being either denial of service (DoS) or ransomware. Having plans on how to deal with both is an important part of any plan. Of course, you want to ideally prevent such attacks, so look at where and how they are most likely to happen.
Theft evaluation. What could stolen data be used for? Identity theft? Fraud? Stolen funds? Knowing what crimes a data breach could lead to can help you better prepare both prevention and mitigation techniques and may make you implement fraud protection services.
Public relations. This may seem like low priority, but a major data breach can be severely damaging to a company’s reputation. Plan how you would deal with any data breach when it comes to media and public responses.
If a data breach does happen, who is going to deal with it? Having a well-established team can mean that recovery can be quicker and that any ‘holes’ in your security are dealt with quicker. No matter how confident you are in your cybersecurity measures, you should have a team that includes the following:
Team leader. Someone who will lead the data breach response efforts (and someone who can deputize for them).
Management. The team leader needs point(s) of contact within your management team who can make major decisions if and when needed.
Technical team. You need experts who can both identify the cause of any data breach and also fix any technical issues caused by the breach.
Legal team. You need expert advice on any legal repercussions that can result from a data breach, especially when you are governed by data laws and/or regulations.
PR and HR. You also need team members who deal with press statements regarding the breach or contact employees who have been affected by the breach. They could also deal with affected business partners or communicate information to investors.
Risk management. Someone needs to take responsibility for looking at why the data breach happens and what can be done to ensure a similar breach doesn’t happen in the future.
3. Review tools and policies
You should be constantly reviewing your tools and policies to both prevent and mitigate a data breach. Ensure that all tools and technology such as anti-virus software or the best DNS security solutions, are updated to the most recent version that protects against the most recent threats. You should also be looking at human aspects and implementing regular password changes, segmented access to your most sensitive data, and MFA (multi-factor authentication).
Also, consider having regular penetration testing. This can help you identify risks and vulnerabilities in applications and websites before they are used. You should also implement continuous security monitoring services so that attacks are identified sooner rather than later and so that your data breach response team can deal with them quickly.
4. Good communications
Efficient communications are essential in the event of a data breach. While you may think you should be focusing on the technical aspects of a breach, communicating what has happened to all relevant stakeholders should be an integral part of your data breach response plan. You should have the following on any list:
Business partners and clients.
Obviously, you hope that your business never suffers a data breach. You have probably implemented the highest level of cybersecurity measures to prevent it happening. However, cybercriminals are getting cleverer and use increasingly sophisticated techniques and you also have to consider the human factor. Having a solid data breach response plan can mitigate effects if the worst happens.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.