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Unfortunately, cyber-attacks and data breaches are an inevitable part of doing business in today’s data-driven world. With the right protections and preventative measures, you can both mitigate the likelihood of it happening and the damage that stems from a potential attack.
The first thing to understand is that most put emphasis on preventing attacks, which is necessary, but it’s not the only protective measures you should take. You should also have tools and processes in place to stop an ongoing attack, protect stolen or lifted data, block access to unauthorized parties and a veritable kill switch — something that takes your system offline during a major event.
You’ll also need to assess various elements of the attack, including what was taken, whether you’re still compromised and similar details.
Here are some things you should do to handle a data breach or cyber-attack within your walls.
1. Identify the Vulnerability and Take Back Control
The first thing you need to determine is whether or not the attack is ongoing. If it has stopped, then you need to find the vulnerability — the security hole the hackers used to gain access — and patch it. If they still have control or are currently accessing your network and data then you need to seize control and prevent them from further tampering. The latter will require robust security and authentication tools which, hopefully, you already have in place. If you do not have a system to prevent access, you’ll need to take your entire network offline to completely remove your data from the equation — at least the rest of your data.
Because this process can take quite some time, it’s important to understand that you should carry this out in addition to the other steps listed. Many of these things should happen simultaneously if possible.
Blockchain technology may someday help in this regard by keeping data safe and confining digital relations only to authorized parties you trust. Until then, it’s important to have tools in place to retain full control over your network and users.
2. Assess the Damage
What did the attackers take? Did they compromise additional systems or data? How many of your customers and employees, if any, will get affected by the breach?
It stands to reason before you can launch any kind of recovery campaign you must understand what exactly happened. How did your attackers gain access? Was it an inside job or was it some vulnerability or system fluke?
Furthermore, are there any steps you can take to mitigate the damage further? For example, if attackers have left behind malware designed to extract even more sensitive data, this would require you to eliminate the malicious code and stem the flow of an extended breach.
3. Share the Event
This is where many organizations or businesses really drop the ball, don’t be one of them. After assessing the damage and identifying what was stolen and who is affected, you must take action to reveal this information to the general public. Believe it or not, this should get done as soon as humanly possible. Many choose to withhold this information or attempt to cover it up entirely which will almost certainly come back to haunt you later.
Equifax, the major credit reporting bureau, took six weeks to disclose that they had experienced a breach. This is absolutely egregious, especially considering the information that got compromised. Social security numbers, home addresses, credit histories and birth dates were all absconded affecting an estimated 143 million Americans.
Make sure to explain what you’re doing to mitigate further damage, as well as what steps you’ve taken to prevent another breach or attack in the future. This is another concern that many businesses overlook, and they simply do not take action after the fact to bolster their networks.
4. Offer Protection Assistance
In the case of the Equifax breach, the company offered free credit freezes to anyone affected. As a B2B business yourself, and dealing with other organizations, it’s important that you take action to protect anyone involved with you. This will be slightly different, of course, because you’re not serving consumers but other companies yet the basic concept is still the same.
Will they need help settling legal fees and dealing with the fallout? Are there tools and virtual systems that you can help them implement to further protect their own networks? It’s important to understand that a major breach can have sweeping implications not just within your own ranks and with your own systems, but those of your partners and involved customers, as well.
5. Educate and Train
Many cyber attacks and breaches happen as a result of internal problems, whether it’s employee negligence, improper protocols or just outright malicious intent.
Phishing, for instance, is an incredibly common form of modern attack that involves mimicking a legitimate portal or app with the ultimate plan to steal sensitive data such as passwords and login details. Employees and partners who are none the wiser may come across these portals, enter their credentials thinking they’re logging in to the company network or site, but instead they’re revealing data to hackers on the other side.
The only way to combat this is by kickstarting the proper education and training programs to ensure everyone you deal with understands the role they play in maintaining security. Are they using strong passwords? Do they share login or personal credentials with others? Are they leaving their terminals or accounts logged-in after walking away from their desk?
In the end, it’s crucial to note that attacks and breaches happen at alarming rates and you most likely will experience one at some point during your organization’s existence. The trick is not spending all your energy on preventing breaches but stopping things from progressing after the fact. Have you enabled advanced encryption for all data to ensure it cannot get used even if absconded? Do you have the proper security measures, firewall and monitoring tools in place to identify and block unauthorized users? Have you educated your employees, partners and even customers to ensure they understand their role in security?
Security in today’s landscape is about vigilance and constant preparedness. You should never stop investing time and resources into the security and protection of your network, systems and data — and that includes customer data, as well.
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