It happened: data leaked from your organization. You might have compromised your clients, your employees, or your business. The leaked information could be used against you or your clients. How serious a blow this is depends upon how sensitive and critical the information is. But even a minor data breach is always a matter of huge importance. Your business’ reputation and brand might be on the line. The trust your partners and clients have in you could be affected. You have to act fast to mitigate the damage before it negatively impacts your bottom line. This involves stopping the data leak, taking responsibility for what happened, and then making sure you do everything you can to prevent it from happening in the future.
Stop the Attack
First, you have to put an end to the actual information attack or data breach. If you are the victim of a hacker, you might need to involve the authorities to apprehend them. If an employee is leaking information, you’ll have to reprimand or potentially remove them. Scan your systems to see if someone has opened a phishing email or clicked on a link they shouldn’t have. Check communications that have gone out to see if critical data was exposed and investigate to learn who might have compromised your company and why. No matter how the attack or breach happened, you need to end the threat. Then it’s time to repair the damage.
Get Out in Front of It
Once the attack is over, you have to assess what data was stolen and what the consequences of it being leaked are. Client information or data concerning business deals or legal matters may have gotten out. It could be bad not only for your future business but that of your clients and partner companies as well. Your good name could be at risk, and many companies and individuals might think twice before doing business with you again.
However, what’s done is done. Trying to hide it will only compound the error and make things worse. So, you have to get out in front of the crisis and take responsibility for it. Make the data breach public, but explain how you plan on resolving any issues from it and work to prevent any other incidents from occurring. Formally apologize to your clients and business partners. Be upfront and do what you can to salvage your business relationships. You might have to offer deals, discounts or reassurances to help assuage the damage. It will take time to rebuild the trust clients (and maybe your employees) had in you, but it starts by being productive, offering strong products and services, upholding deals, going out of your way for people, and showing that the attack was an anomaly.
Repairing the Damage
The best way to regain trust is to show that you’ve learned your lesson and that you will strive to make improvements. This begins with your employees. Your people are your company. Their talent drives its success, but they need to understand the risks that come along with the benefits of modern technology. They have to understand that data is crucial to the organization and that its protection and safe usage is integral to the business.
Thus, information security has to be embedded deeply into your corporate culture. All your employees need training and education on data threats and how to recognize and deal with them. They should understand what a phishing email is and how to identify one. They should follow your company’s password policies and know not to transmit certain company information out into the world via their phones, personal emails, and personal mobile devices. They have to understand the consequences to the business and their positions if they are responsible for a data leak. Of course, data attacks are always changing, so an employee’s education on how to watch out for them should never end. You need to stay ahead of the game to win it after all.
Access to data should be re-evaluated and given only to those who need it. All security protocols should be looked at and strengthened wherever possible. You can fortify your data and bolster your security with these suggestions:
- Configure all your firewalls to restrict inbound and outbound access to your network. Inbound access should only be for services and open ports needed for business, while outbound access should be restricted to trusted sites and IP addresses.
- Ensure your employees follow all password complexity requirements. They should be changing their passwords at regular intervals (90 days is typical), and each user should have a unique account so their activities on the system can be tracked. See that encryption is used to make stored passwords unreadable and change passwords when employees leave the company.
- Put into place guidelines to address vulnerabilities and base your system configuration upon industry standard best practices.
- Ensure that third-party remote access to data can only be enabled by authorized users when it’s needed and that it turns off by default.
- Continually update your systems, applications, and plug-ins.
- Perform regular scans to check your systems, applications, hardware, and infrastructure for vulnerabilities. Also, log and monitor any potential threats.
- Remove all malware and use some type of anti-virus software on all your systems.
Stay as up to date as possible on your knowledge of data threats and how to defend against them. Data attacks are growing more and more sophisticated, and you can’t afford to fall behind. If necessary, bring in experts to go over your information security policies with you and help determine how to spot and deal with any vulnerabilities. You can’t allow another data attack to bring you down. Restoring your reputation depends on building better information security, so do what you must to ensure that your organization’s data remains safe. Complacency and carelessness are your two biggest enemies, and your whole company has to embrace a culture that actively fights against them to protect your information, business, and livelihoods.