Responding to a Data Breach in 5 Simple Steps

It’s a question that’s being asked alarmingly often among organizations these days: how do we respond to this data breach?

Cyber crime has skyrocketed in recent years, with businesses processes increasingly being conducted online, which has opened the door for vulnerabilities and bad actors. Many organizations are not prepared for these attacks, resulting in chaos and escalating costs as they try to figure out what to do.

According to an IBM report, the problem is particularly bad in the US, where organizations spend as much as $9.44 million responding to security incidents – more than double the global average.

However, you can greatly reduce those costs if you have prepared for disaster by implementing an incident response plan. These documents contain a step-by-step approach on how to respond to a security incident, from the identification of a breach through to remediation efforts and recovery.

Incident response plans typically contain five key points, which we summarise in this blog.

1. Identification

Speed is essential when it comes to data breaches. The earlier you identify a breach, the sooner action can be taken to remove the malicious actor from the systems and begin the recovery process.

There are a variety of ways in which an incident can be identified. This includes automated threat-detection tools that alert IT teams to the presence of malicious activity or human observation.

Alternatively, someone in your organisation – whether a member of IT or an employee who spots something suspicious – could detect an intrusion and forward their complaint to the relevant person.

2. Initial investigation

Once an incident has been identified, you should conduct a preliminary investigation. The objective here is to determine the extent of the damage, including the systems and services that have been affected. You must also document any sensitive information that may have been compromised.

It’s best to exercise caution here. It might not be clear what information a malicious actor accessed, but you should highlight anything that they could have reasonably compromised. It’s better to assume the worst and ensure everything is secured rather than omitting details which could prolong the damage.

3. Immediate actions

Now that you have an idea of what went wrong, you must take immediate actions to isolate the affected areas. The specific actions you take will depend on the nature of the breach.

For example, if an employee’s email account or device has been compromised, the IT team should do a forced lockout. If, by contrast, the organisation has suffered a ransomware attack, the IT team should work to protect any systems that haven’t yet been encrypted.

4. Analysis

Once you’ve gathered all the relevant information, it’s time to analyze it. This helps you understand the scope of the breach, how it happened, and what was compromised.

You’ll need to determine, for example, whether the breach was caused by an insider or an external hacker. You might also discover other key facts, such as the malicious actor’s level of access and how long the information was compromised.

5. Remediation

At this point, you’ll have a clear understanding of how the data breach occurred and will be confident that the vulnerability has been closed. It’s therefore time to look at longer-term, ongoing plans for recovery.

The specific actions you take will depend on what went wrong, but they should follow the same pattern. You must document responsibilities, prioritize tasks, and assign responsibilities.

It’s also a good idea to provide an estimate for how long each task should take. This enables you to follow-up on the project at a reasonable time and close the incident.

Support from IT Governance USA

Although this step-by-step process might sound straightforward, it requires a solid understanding of cyber security best practices and principles.

We understand that many organizations lack the resources to manage these issues confidently, which is why our Cyber Incident Response Investigation service provides you with the necessary support.

Our team of experts is equipped to manage the entire investigation process from start to finish.

We can help you determine how the threat actor gained access and the steps you must take to contain, eradicate, and recover from the attack.

This CREST-accredited service is highly scalable and can be used for any type of incident, whether it’s a single compromised USB stick or an organization-wide outage.

You can rely on us to guide you through the process and help you get back to business as usual as quickly and efficiently as possible.