Here’s how to successfully recover if it ever happens to you.

According to data from the National Cybersecurity Institute, as reported by the Securities and Exchange Commission, approximately 60 percent of organizations go out of business within six months of a data breach. It can be a devastating end to all the hard work and effort that goes into getting a business off the ground and making it successful.

So what can you do to prevent your business from becoming one of those that ends up shuttered because of cyber theft? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about what a breach is, what steps you can take to prevent one and what you must do if it happens to you.

What is a breach?

A breach occurs when an unauthorized outsider penetrates or circumvents cybersecurity protective measures to gain access to your business records, software or systems. The breach could be done by real people, such as cyber hackers, or by something virtual like a virus or other form of malware.

Breaches can be the result of accidents or intentional acts.

There are three primary reasons why breaches take place. The attacker wants to:

  1. Gain access to business information, which is known as a data breach.
  2. Use company computing resources for their own purposes, which is referred to as cryptojacking.
  3. Crash the systems and network of a business to harm it or prevent it from operating.

An attack can come completely from outside an organization or it can be an inside job.

Are there different types of breaches?

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, a security breach and a data breach are technically two different things:

  • A security breach means cybersecurity safety protocols have been bypassed or broken into, but private or confidential data may not have been jeopardized or stolen.
  • A data breach occurs when secure information is accessed by an unauthorized user, stolen and used for malevolent purposes.

Experts typically recognize seven different types of data breaches:

  1. Hacks. Cyber crooks use tactics like phishing scams, brute force attacks, ransomware, viruses and malware to access or destroy data.
  2. Insider threat. In this case, an employee, vendor or business partner who has inside knowledge of security controls uses it to access or compromise data. This is typically done for financial gain or by unhappy people who want to harm or get back at a business.
  3. Damaged devices. Things like computers, tablets, smartphones and flash drives are damaged making the data and information on them unusable.
  4. Theft. Computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices containing sensitive company data are stolen, making it possible for hackers to access the information on them. Another form of theft is when confidential data is stolen when passed through a non-secure wifi connection.
  5. Human error. One of the most common reasons cyber criminals are able to break into businesses is because people make mistakes. This includes doing things like using weak passwords, mailing personal information to the wrong people or handling data in unsafe ways.
  6. Internet exposure. Private information can be made accessible over the internet in a number of ways including accidentally posting it on publicly accessible websites or through cloud based computing.
  7. Unauthorized data access. This type of breach happens when people get access to data they have no business handling in the first place. It occurs when companies have weak access controls, no set rules for who can use what or poorly monitored administrative privileges. Without solid data access policies, an organization is more likely to experience a data breach.

How can I prepare for a security breach?

The best way to prepare is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Check out our information on how to avoid common mistakes that can cause one or how to prevent one during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, when it comes to recovering from a breach, it’s critical to prepare ahead of time, even if you have tight security protocols in place to prevent them. If you don’t plan in advance, you may not be able to identify a breach, much less contain it, control it or eliminate it.

Here are some things you can do to prepare ahead for a security incident.

  1. Inventory your company’s technology assets. How can you protect your network if you don’t have a clear picture of its breadth and depth and what’s on it? Conduct a complete audit of all your IT assets. It’s the only way you’ll know what resources you will need to address if you’re ever hacked.
  2. Install intrusion detection and protection systems. The best way to limit damage from a breach is to quickly figure out that one is happening. It also makes it easier to recover and prevent another from occurring.
    • Intrusion detection systems (IDSs) help you identify when security breaches take place so you are able to respond to them sooner rather than later.
    • Intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) go further by automatically triggering automated response measures that help contain attacks right away.
    • Security information and event management (SIEM) systems gather information about hacking attempts to help determine what caused them. It’s useful to know this to prevent future hacks.
  3. Select your response team. Who will you need to take part in an emergency response effort if a hack happens? Identify a core group of people and make them a part of your emergency response team. It will help you avoid having to scramble to figure this out during a crisis, allowing you to respond more quickly and mitigate damage.
  4. Create a response plan. This is a document that outlines what each person in your organization must do in the event of a security breach. This allows people to act fast because they know what they have to do when one takes place. Distribute your plan to everyone in your organization who will play a role in a recovery operation. Train them on every aspect of it. Review it regularly to make sure it’s current. Provide refresher training so employees don’t forget what they need to do when a breach occurs.
  5. Regularly backup your data. Consistently create remote data backups of your organization’s digital information. This makes it possible to quickly restore files when a network is breached. This helps prevent total data loss from breaches that damage or encrypt locally-stored files, which can be fatal to businesses. Categorize and store the data in sensible ways that make recovery fast and easy.
  6. Conduct penetration tests. Penetration tests are stress tests for your online security. In a penetration test (often referred to as a pen test) cybersecurity experts try to break into your cyber systems, software and network. This helps identify possible issues and allows you to fix them before a real attack happens. These tests shouldn’t be once and done. They must be carried out frequently—especially after you make changes to your software, systems or hardware. GeeksHD is ready to conduct these tests for you.

What do I do if I experience a security breach?

When your business is attacked, it’s critical that you launch your response plan immediately.

  • Stop the attack. Figuring out that there was a breach is the first step toward recovering from one. The faster you discover a breach, the better off your business will be. It will help limit damage to your cyber network. Contain the breach by isolating the systems that are compromised or cancelling the access privileges of the user account they’re leveraging for the break in. Once the threat is contained, eliminate it. How you do it depends on the type of attack. For most breaches, it’s smart to reach out to an expert like GeeksHD to make sure it’s handled correctly.
  • Figure out how the attack occurred. Determining how the hack happened is the only way you can prevent the same thing from taking place again. Use your activity logs to search for clues. In addition to this, you must do a complete scan of all your systems to make sure there are no other vulnerabilities and that the attackers didn’t leave behind any malware.
  • Notify affected parties. During your investigation process, you should be able to figure out which systems were broken into and what data was put at risk. As soon as possible, you must notify any parties that may have been impacted by the security breach. Notification laws vary by state, so it’s a good idea to contact a security expert like GeeksHD to get direction or your lawyer to find out how to handle things correctly. Handling post-hack communications in the right way is the only way you’ll be able to recover the reputation of your business. Make sure you contact the authorities as part of this process so they can help with the investigation and to comply with security breach notification laws.
  • Restore network assets. The way you go about doing this depends on how you prepared for a breach. In some cases, it may be possible to simply wipe clean or replace the data storage drives of the affected assets and download any data that was lost in the hack from a backup. In other cases, you may be able to activate entire cloud-based replicas of your network environment.
  • Prepare for the next attack. If it happened once, it could happen again. This is why identifying the cause of your attack is so critical. It allows you to eliminate vulnerabilities and prevent against future hacks. While you’re at it, it could be a smart move for you to have fresh sets of expert eyes take a look at your set up. The professionals at GeeksHD are aware of all the latest threats and can help you prevent another hack. Don’t you owe it to the future of the business you’ve worked so hard to build to take this important step to protect it?