How to Create an Effective Data Breach Response Plan
Cybersecurity is an essential part of modern business, especially in today’s heavily connected society. Cybercrime continues to increase exponentially as the value of data and personal information grows. To complicate matters even further, the proliferation of remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has introduced new vulnerabilities and threats to previously well-secured networks.
No matter how well organizations protect themselves, there are bound to be backdoors and flaws within the security and services they utilize. In fact, large companies like Colonial Pipeline Co. were recent victims of a Ransomware attack that shut down transportation of fuel, nullified their main source of revenue, and even forced them to pay a ransom of $5 million.
While investing in cybersecurity is paramount in protecting the assets of an organization, it is equally important to have a plan in place in order to respond to the possibility of a breach. These plans not only prepare companies for the possibility of a data breach, they also ensure that the damage is controlled and minimized. They are commonly referred to as data breach response plans, and in this article, we will cover the key steps that need to be included.
Prior to establishing a data breach response plan (DBRP), it is important to assign and dedicate an individual or group of individuals to oversee and put the plan into action in case of an incident. Establishing this upfront significantly decreases the decision-making process when the event happens. This allows reactive measures to be taken immediately rather than waiting for decisions or “assignments” which can be detrimental to the containment of the breach. Next, we will discuss the must have steps to include in an effective DBRP.
1. Confirm the Breach
When a data breach is discovered, organizations should take immediate steps to validate and confirm the event. This includes gathering information about the incident, reviewing logs, and seeing what might have been exposed or put at risk. Reviewing the information will help define the affected areas which will allow for better decision making when it comes to mitigating the damage and isolating the issue.
This step will also ensure that an incident did occur and it wasn’t simply a false alarm. Going through this step first will not only allow a DBRP group to make informed decisions on how to handle the issue, but it can save organizations a lot of time and money in the case that it was not a real emergency.
2. Patch the Hole
Once the event has been recorded and confirmed, it is time to take steps to fix the vulnerability that allowed it to happen in the first place. Whether this is releasing a security patch, isolating an infected device, or reviewing safety practices with an employee, the steps taken should be well documented and recorded.
Recording the process and steps taken to mitigate damage and repair vulnerabilities is extremely important, especially if customer or employee personal information was exposed in the breach. Liability plays a very big part in many data breaches and maintaining a record of action can help immensely if legal issues arise.
3. Mitigate Any Further Damage
While networks are a vital part of any business, they are also a weak point that can further exacerbate security issues. When an infected machine is connected to a network of other devices, it potentially exposes all of the networked devices to the same security issue. That is why it’s incredibly important to isolate and control the point of entry and remove it from the network of other devices.
Most viruses, ransomware, or other malware look to spread to as many devices as possible, so timing is of the essence. Isolating all the potentially affected data, devices, and networks is vital to limiting the spread and controlling the damage and exposure.
Taking further actions such as requiring new passwords, changing encryption keys, and instituting additional security measures can help slow or stop further damage. Even if there is a defined area of exposure, it can be very beneficial to apply these actions across the entire organization in case additional exposure occurs.
4. Notify Any Parties Involved
When dealing with a data breach, it is required by law to inform any party that may have been exposed to the data breach. This can lead to liability claims and legal actions which is why it is incredibly important to document all of the steps and processes taken to protect and prevent any further damage.
Because data protection has become an increasingly important legal issue, the notification should be discussed with legal counsel as well as the executives of an organization. This will ensure that all laws are followed and that those involved understand that the issue is being taken seriously.
5. Review the Incident
With the rush of events and knee-jerk reactions involved, a data breach can be exhausting. But it is important to reevaluate how the event occurred and create steps to further avoid similar things happening in the future. The incident and response should be reviewed and the positives and negatives should be noted.
This is the perfect time to critique how the data breach response plan worked, and implement additional changes to refine and perfect it in case of additional incidents. This feedback is incredibly important as it can help prevent future damage and help the organization understand how to prevent future issues.
Putting it All Together
Using the steps outlined above, organizations can create and implement an effective data breach response plan. A quick and efficient response is vital in protecting and safeguarding against further damage and isolating the incident to as small of an area as possible. Setting up a plan prior to any incident will allow organizations to act preemptively and ensure that the incident is handled swiftly and efficiently.
For businesses that may want additional insight and help in developing a DBRP, or those that may want to take advantage of a professional IT security task force, Outsource IT can help. With almost two decades of experience mitigating IT security issues, we understand how to handle data breaches and what needs to be done to protect the resources of the modern-day business. Contact your Outsource IT account manager to learn more.