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Business Guide – Responding To a Data Breach

June 1, 2023

Securing data is becoming an essential part of the way that all organisations work, with more ways than ever of storing information and protecting it. However, data breaches are bound to occur from time to time, either due to issues with protocol, third-party attacks, or systems breaking down. Learn more about what data breaches are, what to do in response to a data breach and the damage that these issues can cause.


What is a Data Breach?


When you hear about a data breach, you likely think about hackers breaking into company servers and stealing all of the data. Whilst this is one potential instance, a data breach can be much less severe than that.

Data breaches refer to incidents in which secure information such as personal data or corporate statistics leaks to unauthorised personnel. Not all breaches come as a result of cyberattacks. Some arise from other issues including people being emailed the wrong file or being provided with the wrong access rights by their employer.


Steps to Take After a Data Breach


Companies need to take several steps after a data breach to limit the damage and ensure that all parties are aware of what has happened, when it happened, why it was able to happen and how the incident occurred. The main steps that an organisation needs to take after a breach include:


1. Start The Timer

If the data breach comes in the form of lost personal data, you have a total of 72 hours to report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). There is a certain threshold that needs to be met to be worthy of a report, but keeping track of time and noting everything down anyway is ideal for your own documentation purposes. The time starts when you discover the breach rather than when the breach occurs.


2. Pool Information

Collate as much information about the incident as quickly as possible. For example, use a shared document that everyone in a team can update as they learn more. This includes what happened, the cause of the incident and a timeline of events as far as you can decipher it. Include the actions that the team takes in this document.


3. Contain The Breach

Do whatever you can to take control of the breach. Depending on the incident this could take several forms, such as simply asking someone to delete a database they were sent by mistake, or for larger cybersecurity incidents making a server exclusively locally accessible until a complete security audit has been completed.


4. Assess Ongoing Risks

Take time to understand the risk of harm that exists to customers. For example, a charity that hosts a domestic abuse survivor database is more likely to have a risk of harmful data leaks than one that loses simple anonymised sales information. A simple mix-up with data going to the wrong employee is unlikely to present any real risk.


5. Protect The Affected

Where you locate a risk, take active steps to protect the people affected. If the problem is a phishing incident that involves resetting passwords, or if personal data for vulnerable individuals has leaked, let them know and advise them on the next steps. Do this as soon as the risks are identified to stop any further incidents from taking place.


6. File a Report

If the breach is reportable, let the ICO know immediately. You can initially report by phone through the IOC’s helpline at 0303 123 1113 or through their online reporting tool. Let the office know within 72 hours of the incident occurring so there is the opportunity to protect all parties and respond appropriately.


What are the consequences of data breaches?


There are a lot of consequences that organisations face as a result of data breaches, both formal and informal. Each affects organisations in slightly different ways, with some of the most prominent consequences of data breaches including:


Reputational Harm

Organisations that are the subject of major data breaches are at risk of significant reputational harm as a result of their negligence. This is especially true for companies that rely on data, with the Equifax breach in 2017 and the Yahoo breach in 2013 that affecting 3 billion accounts. Users are less likely to commit to working with these organisations as they feel like their information is less secure than when working with alternatives.


Financial Penalties

There can be serious financial penalties as a result of breaching legislation such as the Data Protection Act. Under UK data protection legislation an organisation can be fined up to £17.5 million, with EU-wide GDPR laws recommending €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover, depending on which is more appropriate. The severity of these penalties is designed to make better data protection structures more appealing than simply paying off a fine.


Future Business

Having a data breach in your past runs the risk of losing potential business partners in the future. People are less likely to work with you when they feel like their information is insecure, which is especially the case with companies sharing sensitive commercial data. At the very least, organisations will want to see how you have become more secure since the issue.


Personal Harm

Depending on the nature of the data that is lost, there is a real risk of personal harm. If an organisation such as an immigration office were to lose its data and have it fall into the wrong hands, for example, rehomed refugees could be at serious risk of political violence. Personal harm can occur to those both inside and outside the organisation.


Avoiding Data Breaches


Thankfully, there are plenty of steps that organisations can put in place to prevent data breaches. Taking care of procedures for sending confidential information is one of the first steps, with a strong culture of data security limiting the potential for internal accidents.

Support this with better security systems, such as encouraging people to change passwords regularly, using multi-factor authentication and locking compromised accounts immediately. All of these factors contribute significantly to reducing the risk of data breaches taking place and protecting people’s information for years to come.

One of the best ways to prevent data breaches is to outsource your cybersecurity to a Managed Service Provider (MSP). They are experts and have experience in protecting businesses from cyber threats.


Why Choose Eventura as your Cybersecurity Partner?


With over 20 years experience in cybersecurity, we know our stuff. Our team of cybersecurity experts can complete a full audit of your business and identify any areas of weakness, which could leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks.

We were even mentioned in the Governments National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Annual Review 2020 when we were chosen to test their “Exercise in a Box” designed to help small businesses prepare and respond to cyberthreats. You can read the article here.

There is a common misconception that cyberattacks don’t happen to SMEs but this couldn’t be further from the truth. With our expert knowledge, we can help you protect your business’s future from the ever increasing threat of cybercriminals.

If you would like to speak to one of our cybersecurity experts or request a cybersecurity audit, you can request a free call back here.

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