What Organizations Should Do After a Data Breach

08.12.2022 Read
a Cybersecurity team is responding to a data breach

We are generating more data than ever before due to companies' increasing reliance on data to drive their decisions. However, thanks to the possibilities of the digital age, we no longer need cabinets full of documents or huge archive rooms to store data.

While it is now easier to store data, the importance of information security is much more significant. That's why users and authorities constantly ask organizations to take more robust data security measures.

While organizations are strengthening their security postures in this direction, attackers are simultaneously improving their strategies.

In this article, we will talk about what companies should do when attackers win this arms race and commit data breaches.

What Is a Data Breach?

When a security incident results in the unauthorized viewing, sharing, or storage of data for which your organization is responsible, it is considered a data breach.

The source of data breaches can be external attackers who exploit a vulnerability in the company's security posture, insider criminals taking advantage of their privileges, or internal actors who are innocent but careless enough to lose their devices.

In data breaches, attackers' target is often to steal users' sensitive personal information or vital corporate data for financial gain by selling or ransoming. However, they may sometimes aim to cause purely financial and reputational damage.

Why Are Data Breaches Important?

The fundamental essence that enables organizations to create long-term and sustainable business relationships with their individual and corporate customers is trust.

In almost all commercial relations, parties share sensitive data with each other, along with many other elements. Naturally, they expect this data to be protected.

When companies suffer one or more data breaches, their customers' trust in them quickly erodes. As a result, their business opportunities become scarce.

But that's not the only danger lurking around the corner. Many regional, national, and international regulations require specific measures to protect data, and organizations face massive legal penalties if they fail to comply.

An Example to Learn From

In 2016, a hacker known as "Peace" began trying to sell information of 200 million Yahoo accounts he hacked in 2014.

After a long period of disapproval, Yahoo acknowledged that a breach occurred that compromised the data, including usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, and user passwords of 500 million people.

The number of people affected and the fact that it happened to a giant industry leader like Yahoo make this one of the most significant personal data breaches worldwide.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission fined Yahoo $35 million for failing to disclose the data breach.

Yahoo was about to be sold to the multinational telecommunications conglomerate Verizon for $4.83 billion, but the price was later reduced to $4.48 billion as the extent of the breach was revealed.

Yahoo also had to announce plans to invest $306 million in security to reassure its customers with a "lessons learned" message.

This example demonstrates the importance of effectively preventing data breaches and following the most strategic post-breach roadmap.

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Data breaches are one of the many end results of cybersecurity incidents. Therefore, many of the common attack vectors are also used in attacks intended to commit a data breach.

Some of the most critical attack methods, which have been the main factors in previous data breaches, are as follows:

Malware Attacks

Using malware is one of the most popular data breach methods. Hackers often hide malware in files, programs, email attachments, social media posts, external storage drives, or IoT devices.

With the download by any authorized personnel of the organization, malware can easily infect and spread to corporate systems and devices. These attacks can be stopped before they happen with effective malware detection methods.

Phishing Attacks

The primary purpose of this type of attack is to manipulate victims' emotions, such as fear and excitement. They direct them to websites and applications that require them to share sensitive or confidential information, such as credit card or email credentials, or to obtain this information directly through channels, such as SMS and email.

Often, attackers pretend to be trusted people or organizations to manipulate victims into voluntarily sharing their confidential information. Phishing attacks can be prevented by methods such as business process analysis.

Brute Force Attacks

Advances in technology have increased the processing power of computers. While this offers us great opportunities, it also enables the development of faster and more effective password-cracking tools.

During brute force attacks, hackers often use automated trial-and-error methods to infiltrate their targeted user accounts and gain access to sensitive data. This method makes it possible to crack passwords containing various security elements by systematically trying complex combinations.

Advanced security solutions can be used to detect brute force attacks, enabling effective analysis of login attempt logs and user movements.

Insider Attacks

Insider threats are malicious activities arising from the abuse of privileges of user accounts that have access to sensitive areas of an organization.

Too many actors thought to be an innocent part of the team can play an important role in insider cyberattacks, such as team members who have access privileges beyond the boundaries of their roles and responsibilities or former employees whose access rights are not restricted when leaving the company.

Although data breach incident detection becomes particularly difficult when insider threats are the main actor, according to the Harvard Business Review, 60% of cyberattacks are perpetrated by insider threats. This demonstrates that identifying insider threats is just as important as eliminating external threats.

Steps to Be Taken After a Data Breach

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It is possible to minimize the devastating effects of data breaches. However, for this, you need to create a strategic roadmap to follow after a data breach incident occurs. Here are some essential steps you can take:

1- Make Sure You're Out of Danger

This step is directly related to what stage your security team is at in your incident response plan. Before you take the path you need to follow after a data breach, you should make sure your steps are not being watched by attackers or causing further data breaches.

2- Discover the Impact Area and Take Precautions

It is essential to analyze what kind of data and how much of it is in the hands of attackers due to a security breach.

Oftentimes, simple information stolen by attackers, such as birthdays, security question answers, and addresses, are key to accessing more critical information. It is, therefore, important that all breach-related data be fully identified.

With breach response and monitoring activities, you can determine which institutions you need to cooperate with and clearly explain what measures to take to your employees, stakeholders, or customers.

If your cyber security incident response team has identified the method used in the attack, until your cybersecurity infrastructure is strengthened with the necessary patches, your security team must temporarily cut off access to affected systems and limit stolen data’s usage.

3- Communicate Transparently

The main reason that many organizations suffer from data breaches is not their inability to prevent them but their failure to quickly and transparently notify groups that are potentially affected by the breach.

Let customers, stakeholders, and employees know exactly what happened, so they can take action to protect themselves. Only in this way can you reduce the amount of trust you lose and minimize legal sanctions.

4- Strengthen Your Security Infrastructure

Temporary measures only facilitate your post-incident investigation and analysis activities. What you really need is to strengthen your security posture to ensure that the data breach is not repeated.

If you have an effective incident response plan, your team will prepare necessary post-incident reports and identify the source of the breach and weaknesses that led to the attack, as well as the areas you can strengthen within your security infrastructure.

Start working on enhancing your security posture before future incidents happen, and gain the trust of your customers by making frequent statements about the measures you take.

5- Test the Effectiveness of Security Improvements

Even if you are confident that you have effectively strengthened your security, you should conduct incident monitoring and run controlled penetration tests to see if the data can be breached again. Considering the huge losses caused by data breaches, it's a big risk to return your IT team to their standard routine before performing these tests.

6- Reshape Your Security Protocols

Your team has much to learn from every attack and data breach. Even your most strategic security procedures, which you think you have planned perfectly, lose their effectiveness over time and can cause vulnerabilities.

Therefore, you should update your procedures for incident management processes and data breach response plans frequently, not just after data breaches.

Protect Your Data by Strengthening Your Security End-to-End

Data breaches are one of the biggest nightmares for organizations that run digital operations. However, they are not inevitable.

Supported by innovative security technologies, next-gen security automation platforms like Logsign SIEM analyze a large number of incidents at once, record anomalies that are close to impossible to detect with manual methods, and maintain your cyber incident response processes.

In this way, they not only successfully prevent the most critical data breach attack vectors but also enable your security team to work more effectively by taking the burden of repetitive tasks from you.

If you want to support the financial sustainability of your organization and reinforce the bond of trust you have established with your customers by strengthening your security posture to prevent data breaches, you can get a live demo and see Logsign SIEM in action.

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