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Data Breach Mitigation: 6 Steps You Can Take

Data breaches happen to companies across all industries, even within highly secure organizations. In fact, 45 percent of companies experienced a data breach in 2021, a figure that’s bound to increase this year.  

While you can’t always prevent a data breach, there are steps that you can take to mitigate the damage. It’s also possible to fortify your defenses so your organization is ready if and when the next attack occurs. 

What Is Data Breach Mitigation?

As the name suggests, data breach mitigation is the process of responding to cybersecurity events to limit their scope and severity. With a proper data breach mitigation plan in place, you can minimize the damage of an incoming attack and also prevent attacks from cascading across your network in the first place. 

How Do You Mitigate a Data Breach?

Once an attack occurs, organizations need to act quickly to limit the damage. Oftentimes, businesses get into trouble because they lack a proper response and outreach plan. And as a result, they lack the coordination to move into action and respond to the situation.  

Having a solid response plan can go a long way toward reducing damage. With this in mind, here are some initial steps that you should take. 

Step 1: Deploy a Task Force

The first thing you should do is deploy a cybersecurity response team. Every company should have a team of expert cybersecurity professionals on hand. Ideally, your team should include legal, forensics, investor relations, IT, and HR leaders. 

Keep in mind that your cybersecurity task force can be on-site or third-party-managed service providers. Many businesses choose to outsource their cybersecurity response due to staffing and budget limitations.  

Whatever you decide, the team should be responsive, highly trained, and able to respond at any hour of the day or night, including on weekends and holidays. Data breaches can happen when you least expect them, and you need to have a squad in place to respond in a timely manner whenever they occur. 

Data breaches can happen when you least expect them, and you need to have a squad in place to respond in a timely manner whenever they occur.

Step 2:Secure Your Physical Area

Make sure to secure your physical area during a cyberattack. Key steps include taking equipment offline, restricting access to physical computing equipment, and freezing or updating access codes for sensitive areas. 

This is important because intruders are often internal employees who have access to private systems and information. 

Step 3: Eliminate Vulnerabilities

Once you secure your physical area, your team should focus on discovering and eliminating vulnerabilities or entry points across its digital applications.  

To accomplish this, your forensics team should analyze its security information and event management (SIEM) logs and try to understand the root cause. This may provide clues about the source of the attack. For example, you may be able to identify the time and duration of the attack by studying the data. 

Of course, it can take several hours or days to discover and close vulnerabilities. During this time, bad actors may continue to inflict harm on your network. For this reason, it’s critical to work quickly and efficiently during this stage. 

Step 4: Check Third-Party Sources

As your team goes through the process of discovering and eliminating vulnerabilities, it should also focus on contacting third-party sources and repositories to remove public information.  

For example, you may want to contact a search engine like Google or Bing to make sure they avoid archiving personal data. Oftentimes, websites will work with companies to remove sensitive data and prevent users from sharing stolen information like passwords and emails.  

Step 5: Communicate the Incident with Your Company

In general, it’s best to avoid officially alerting your company about a data breach until you have a clear understanding of the problem at hand and the actions your team is taking to resolve it. This is necessary for providing basic information and communicating that your organization is on top of it.  

Once you're in a position to do so, let your team know that an investigation is taking place. Remember that you may also be contacting the person who is responsible for the incident, either knowingly or unknowingly. For this reason, you should closely monitor your system for further activity after you send a company-wide alert. An attacker may realize that time is running out and cease activity. Or they may attempt to start lifting or deleting files following your announcement.  

Step 6: Report the Incident

Some regulatory frameworks require companies to report a security breach that impacts personal data after an attack. To illustrate, Article 33 of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) forces companies to notify the Data Protection Authority (DPA) within 72 hours. 

Once you make a data breach public, the news may spread quickly through media outlets and social channels. So it’s critical to include your executive, PR, legal, customer service, and marketing teams so they can properly communicate messaging and form a response plan.  

It’s also a good idea to make sure your company has the bandwidth to deal with incoming information requests. Customers may start calling, texting, or emailing, demanding to know whether their information is secure, and your company must accommodate their requests. 

How to Protect Your Company from Future Breaches

Data breaches are expensive and can take a long time to resolve. They also contribute to brand and reputational harm and customer churn.  

For these reasons, it’s much better to have a proactive approach to cybersecurity management and take steps to prevent breaches from taking place before they occur.  

Below are some best practices that you can use to keep your company safe.  

Educate Your Employees

Cybercriminals often prey on unsuspecting end users. They use phishing attempts and social engineering to try and gain access to private systems and data.  

For this reason, it’s necessary to educate employees about cybersecurity threats. Simply alerting employees about threats like phishing could be enough to deter incoming attacks and prevent attackers from capitalizing on opportunities.  

Continuously Monitor for Intruders

Companies often discover data breaches long after cybercriminals enter their networks. This lets bad actors silently pilfer information and work behind the scenes without detection.  

The only way to thwart this kind of activity is to continuously monitor for cybersecurity events using real-time monitoring and alerts. Your company should be able to immediately detect suspicious activity. You should also be able to automatically remediate the issue by revoking credentials and alerting security teams.  

Modernize Your Authorization Strategy

It’s also necessary to analyze your company’s existing authorization strategy for opportunities to improve the login experience. At the very least, your company should consider requiring strong passwords and multi-factor authentication (MFA). Many companies are also ditching outdated and inefficient authorization systems in favor of password-less alternatives that avoid asking users for knowledge-based credentials. 

Taking the time to review and update your authorization strategy could protect against brute-force attacks and make it harder for intruders to access sensitive assets and resources. 

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How Bearer Can Prevent Data Breaches

At Bearer, we help DevOps teams plan for data breach mitigation before they ship new software releases. Our purpose-built platform maps data flows and integrates security controls throughout the development life cycle. As a result, teams can enjoy complete visibility into their applications.  

With our platform, DevOps teams can prioritize cybersecurity across all stages of the development process and produce safer software with fewer bugs and vulnerabilities. It’s particularly useful for DevOps teams that want to shift left and integrate testing throughout the development process, further strengthening their security posture.  

To learn more about how Bearer can help your team ship more secure software, request a demo today

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.

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