The First 24 Hours: Immediate Actions to Take When a Data Breach Occurs

Even with the best security practices in place, all businesses-regardless of size-are at risk for a data breach. There can be a significant financial impact of a data breach, and the first 24 hours are critical in your recovery. What you do and don’t do in your response plan can affect how quickly you bounce back.

Laptop with box that says "warning" code along image borders

Assess the Situation

One of the first things you’ll want to do is identify the source and extent of the breach so you can address it immediately.  Activate your incident response team to see which files were accessed and what actions were taken by the hacker. If you have an intrusion detection or prevention system in place, you will have a log of the events and can address them quickly. Without a system like this, it can be a time-consuming project for your IT team, but will still need to be done.

First Steps after a Data Security Breach

Take any affected equipment offline immediately, as this can stop additional data loss. However, do not turn any machines off until you are able to have the forensic experts in to analyze the evidence. If a hacker stole credentials, your system will be vulnerable until you change those credentials, so do that as soon as possible. If any information was posted to your website or other websites, remove it immediately. Finally, prepare for the investigation by enlisting a forensic team, security experts, and law enforcement. Interview those who discovered the breach and anyone who knows about it, and document all evidence. You may need to cooperate with regulatory bodies for certain industries.

Communicate to Minimize the Financial Impact of the Data Breach

Once you have the fix in place and you are sure the damage is contained, you have an obligation to reach out to any and all affected customers. Federal authorities may have specific instructions for your state, and it’s important to follow the regulatory standards. Even if you believe the breach was minor, your customers need to know, from you, as quickly as possible so they can begin to protect themselves from potential fraud. Develop a clear and consistent message that tells your customers what happened, what you did when it happened, and how you are moving forward. If their information was compromised, let them know what information could have been taken. Be open and honest and let customers know what you are doing to help. It is often a smart idea to designate a point person who will both contact customers and handle any customer response.

Conduct an Internal Investigation

To avoid another data breach, you need to know what caused it in the first place. Once you know where the problem began, you can take the right steps to prevent it from happening again. The time to look at this is after you’ve dealt with the breach itself. Once you’ve handled the immediate tasks, take a step back and begin an internal investigation to discover the root cause. Did one of your employees fall for a phishing scam? Did a hacker gain access to the system through the network? While some data breaches can be traced back to a root cause or user error, others are due to vulnerabilities you didn’t know you had. There is a program, CSR Readiness, which is a proactive solution that will help you find gaps and weak points in your data security. Once discovered, you can take the recommended remediation steps to improve your privacy practices.

Mitigate Further Damage

Once you have identified the cause of the breach and utilized the CSR self assessment tool to identify the weak points in your data security, take the necessary steps to safeguard your business for future risks. This can include patching vulnerabilities in your system, retraining your staff in cyber security best practices, and limiting access to sensitive documents and information. Not only is there a financial impact to a data breach, but there is a high cost to pay through your business reputation. If you take the steps to mitigate further damage, you can reduce both.

A data breach can be catastrophic, but you can recover. The most important thing you can do is react swiftly and decisively. What you do in the first 24 hours after a breach is crucial to your recovery. By addressing the breach quickly and taking steps to minimize the financial impact of a data breach, you can reduce the fallout and get back to business as usual. To learn more about how you can safeguard your company against cyber threats, contact AccuShred today.