How Do You Recover from a Data Breach? (And How to Prevent a Security Breach in the Future)

A guide to help small businesses know how to bounce back and move forward when security is breached and data is compromised.

Puzzle piece labeled DATA BREACH fitting into a puzzle of a master lock
June 28, 2022
McKenna Themm
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Reading time about 8 min

As a business owner, you juggle a lot. You’re responsible for keeping your business afloat, delivering quality products or services, paying employees, improving customer satisfaction, keeping up with changes in the industry, and so much more. On top of that, you’ve got to stay on top of risks or threats — such as cyber attacks and data breaches.

If you’ve never really given much thought to your company’s online security, there’s a chance your data has already been compromised. Cyber attacks continue to grow in complexity as hackers become more and more sophisticated.

Even if you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum, and have poured a lot of resources into cybersecurity, it’s hard to really know if your business data is fully protected. In fact, according to a 2022 KPMG survey, “62% of companies in the Americas experienced a data breach or cyber incident in 2021.”

62%

of companies in the Americas experienced a data breach or cyber incident in 2021.

Here’s a look at types of data breaches and tips on how to respond responsibly.

 

What Is a Data Breach

Small business owner starging at a computer with hand over mouth to show shock

Before we discuss the different types of data breaches, let’s define what a data breach is.

According to Cornell Law School, “a data breach means the loss or theft of, or other unauthorized access to, other than an unauthorized access incidental to the scope of employment, data containing sensitive personal information, in electronic or printed form, that results in the potential compromise of the confidentiality or integrity of the data.”

Now, this is a lot to digest, so in the most straightforward sense, a data breach occurs when an individual infiltrates a system that they haven’t been given permission to access. While most individuals responsible for data breaches are hackers, a virus or malware can also gain unauthorized access to a system and damage it. In some instances a data breach can simply be the result of human error.

If this sounds distressing, don’t worry. You can follow several steps to prepare for and hopefully prevent cyber attacks. Even if you can’t fully rule out the chance of a breach, you can prepare ahead of time to mitigate any future damage.

 

What Happens If You Have a Data Breach?

Most security breaches are intentional. Black Hat hackers — opposed to White Hat hackers who actually help resolve security breaches — typically attack for one of two reasons. They either want specific data within a system or they want to crash the network. The root motivation is usually some sort of financial, political, social, or personal gain.

If you’re currently dealing with a data breach, it doesn’t have to be the end of your business as you know it. Your business can recover as long as you know what you’re dealing with. Once you have identified that there has been a breach, you’ll need to create a strategic plan and be ready to execute it in a timely manner.

What Is an Example of a Data Breach?

A hacker infiltrating a company's system and compromising its data

Here are just a few of the most common types of cybercrimes that result in data breaches:

 

1. Phishing

Phishing, which remains the most common cybercrime, is a form of email hacking. Hackers will send an email that appears to have been sent from a reputable source to get employees, customers, or other individuals to reveal something about themselves — like their passwords, social security numbers, banking details, credit card numbers, or other important information — when they click on a link in that email.

 

2. Stolen Credentials

When an individual manages to steal a login or password, possibly as a result of a phishing scam, they can hack into computers, email accounts, bank accounts, websites, and access confidential company files. From there, they can access and steal important information or data.

 

3. Physical Theft

Individuals can steal the physical property of a company, such as a laptop or a computer, that contains confidential information or data. Theft also occurs when a hacker steals a company’s physical product, like a digital device, intending to copy it or sell information about it.

 

4. Malware

Malware, also known as “malicious software,” which according to Malwarebytes, is “any malicious program or code that is harmful to systems,” infiltrates a computer system like a virus. There are multiple types of malware attacks, but the common thread is that an uninvited and harmful software, often disguised as something familiar and benign, infiltrates a computer system to exploit its vulnerabilities.

 

5. Ransomware

Ransomware is one type of malware attack that occurs when a hacker infiltrates a computer system and refuses to give it back unless you pay a fee. If a company cannot come up with the ransom funds, the hacker will usually compromise the data in some way, delete information, or release it to the public.

 

6. Insider Threat

An insider threat is when an employee, vendor, contractor, or other “insider” or authorized person reveals information about the company, provides access to an “outsider,” or compromises the company’s data in any way.

 

7. Human Error

Sometimes a data breach happens by accident when someone, such as an employee, discloses private information or provides access to a company’s data. Accidental breaches can often be difficult to pinpoint, so it is important that everyone in the company follows certain security precautions.

What to Do If You Suspect a Data Breach

Team problem solving

In an ideal world, data breaches would not exist — or if they did, everyone would be able to prevent them by taking certain precautions. However, the reality is that no system or business is immune to data breaches. The best course of action is to have a plan in place should a breach occur.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what to do in the event of a data breach:

 

1. Assemble a response team

Having knowledgeable individuals on your team who can address a data breach is essential. You should assemble a response team made up of experts who understand how to collect and analyze data, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity.

 

2. Identify the source

Time is of the essence when it comes to any sort of security breach. Commit the response team’s efforts to prioritizing source identification as soon as possible. Once the source of the breach is determined, identify if it is active and growing.

 

3. Contain the breach

Once you’ve identified the source of the breach — whether it was through phishing, malware, human error or some other method — you can start to contain it. Determine how access to the system was gained so you can isolate that which has been compromised. Next, cut off access immediately, even if it means temporarily shutting down the system.

 

4. Investigate the damage

With the breach contained, it’s time to more closely assess what type of data has been breached and forecast associated risk. Analyze who the breach impacts. Ask questions like: Does the breach contain personal information about employees? Does it involve financial information about the company? Was the data backed up or encrypted?

 

5. Make a plan

The next step is to establish how you will move forward once you’ve assessed who has been affected by the breach. Figure out what went wrong, how you plan to recover, and what you will do to prevent the same or similar breaches from happening in the future. Evaluate all the contributing factors and discuss how each can be solved.

How to Recover from a Data Breach

Show various devices and people using them to connect

When it comes to recovering from a data breach, one of the biggest questions business owners often ask is, “How do you respond to a data breach?” The answer is that you should be upfront about it with anyone who might be affected. In fact, not only is it the right thing to do, it’s illegal not to! Security breach notification laws vary by state, so be sure to stay up to date on your state’s regulations.

 

Be Transparent, Especially with Those Affected

The most important thing to keep in mind is that communication is an essential aspect of handling a data breach. You’ll need to inform employees about the breach, as well as provide them with instructions about how to proceed. You’ll also need to let customers know about the breach if any of their information has been compromised.

Even though it may seem like telling everyone about the breach could negatively impact your company’s reputation, the opposite is true. Companies, large and small alike, are getting hacked on a daily basis. It’s just a matter of when and where a hacker will strike next. The best way to maintain your company’s reputation is by being honest and ensuring there is an open line of communication that works across the organization. It is also extremely important that you are able to communicate with those potentially affected by the breach in a timely and effective manner.

 

How to Communicate Quickly & Securely

An SMS texting platform could make this mass communication easier and more efficient for you. At EZ Texting we offer a variety of SMS plans for business owners like yourself. We can help you increase your text message security as you communicate with customers daily about products, sales, promotions — or even security breaches. Although we hope you’ll never have to deal with a data breach, it’s important to have a plan in place regarding how you’ll communicate information about the breach to customers in the event that one occurs.

How to Prevent Future Data Breaches

Preventing a future data breach from the start is the best way to minimize damage to your business as a whole or your company’s reputation. However, it’s not always possible to anticipate and avoid every type of hacking attempt. You can do your best by creating and sticking to a strategy, keeping your employees up to date with cybersecurity training, having a response team in place, and learning from past mistakes.

If you’re wondering how long it takes to recover from a data breach, that depends on the severity of the breach. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to fully recover from a data breach.

Even though hackers target small, medium, and large businesses alike when it comes to data breaches, usually “small and midsize businesses are not just targets of cybercrime, they are its principal target,” according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It’s usually harder for a small business to recover from a cybersecurity attack and, “it has been estimated that half of the small businesses that suffer a cyberattack go out of business within six months as a result.”

Discover How EZ Texting Can Help Your Small Business

If you’d like to incorporate SMS texting into your data breach prevention strategy, we’d be happy to help you. Consider exploring our free trial to see if EZ Texting is the right fit for you.

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