How to Prepare for a Network Breach
Imagine that your computer network is a large building with password-protected locks on all the entrances. It’s easy to tell if someone tampers with the locks or forces down a door. But, it wouldn't be so easy to identify which files the intruders had snooped through and whether they found anything of value. Data and information, unlike physical objects, don't disappear when they're stolen.
While intuitively one would think a short remediation time equals better security, on the contrary, integrating the traditional IT mindset into security increases a corporation’s risk of being victimized by complex hacking operations. However, following these tips can help you reduce the damage and cost of a data breach.
Be prepared to isolate any compromised systems. If you suspect that malicious software has spread through your network, you’ll want to isolate the breach. If you can't, the safest bet is to take your entire network down. The cost of suspended business could be significantly less than all the costs associated with a data breach, which, according to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and published by Symantec, can average $136 for each piece of personally identifiable information stolen.
Know your legal counsel and the law. Some businesses don’t know whether or not to contact law enforcement. The sooner you report the breach, the less likely you'll be found negligent for insurance purposes or face litigation, and the legal contacts you work with can help guide you going forward.
Consider where you need help. If your firm has limited internal resources, consider seeking a vendor who can do a security audit of your network. If any compromised files or databases include personal or payment information—even if it was encrypted—you’ll be happy you were prepared by having pros already up to speed who know your business and your network. And given that the most prevalent fraud attacks come in the form of checks, you might benefit from considering a corporate migration from check to electronic/ACH payments, which will improve both security and your company's bottom line.
Build your communications. Preparing PR materials and a plan for notifying customers or clients might seem excessive, but the sooner you get out the word, the fewer victims there will be. Most states have laws requiring the notification of data breaches, typically requiring notification within 60 days. Consider setting up an inactive webpage for affected customers that contains information about their risks and suggested protections. For example, many consumers are unaware that they can set up a block with major credit agencies that will prevent fraudsters from opening a line of credit in their name, which is a recommended precaution for consumers affected by a breach.
Train employees accordingly. A 2011 Symantec study showed that 39 percent of data breaches were due to employee negligence, by far the highest cause. The more your employees know about cybersecurity and the more it’s on their mind, the less likely you are to face future breaches.
While it's impossible to account for every vulnerability in your system, you can have strong incident protocols in place that will help you minimize damage, and maybe avoid costs from litigation altogether. Routine planning and preparation will allow for quick, decisive action—the best response to a data breach.