Data breaches are a risk that every business must take seriously. They can result in the loss of sensitive user data, drive churn, and put your brand at risk of fines etc. However, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
By having a data breach response plan in place, you can reduce the extent of any potential damage caused by a breach.
What is a data breach?
A data breach occurs when someone either unlawfully or accidentally accesses, alters, or deletes your sensitive information.
Data breaches can happen for a number of reasons, such as a cybercriminal breaking into your system, an employee mistakenly deleting data from your system, or a user downloading malware onto your system. In fact, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) reported that 55% of data breaches last year were due to malicious activity, while 41% were due to human error.
It’s clear that, in most cases, breaches occur due to a lack of security within your systems.
Impact of a data breach
A data breach can result in the loss of sensitive user data, damage your brand reputation, and drive significant loss of customer trust and loyalty. The extent of these impacts will vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of breach and how quickly you respond.
The average cost of a data breach in Australia is increasing by an estimated 9.8% year on year, and is currently sitting at an average of $3.35 million per breach.
While it’s impossible to completely prevent data breaches, you can reduce the potential impacts by having a DBRP in place.
What is a data breach response plan?
A data breach response plan (DBRP) is a set of procedures for dealing with a data breach. It provides a step-by-step guide for how to identify and respond to the breach, including a DBRP team that is responsible for each procedure.
A good DBRP will include clear details on:
- Containing any damage caused by the breach
- Mitigating the risk of further breaches
- How to review the incident and learn from it to prevent future breaches.
DBRPs are particularly important for businesses that handle sensitive user data, such as healthcare providers or financial institutions. Your plan gives you a clear reaction process when a breach occurs, making it easier to respond quickly and effectively.
Why is a data breach response plan important?
By having a plan in place, you can respond to a breach more effectively and reduce the risk of significant impacts on your business. It can also help you to determine the root cause of a breach, which can be useful for learning how to prevent future cyber-attacks, as well as help you to comply with data breach notification laws.
OAIC has a strict notifiable data breach (NBD) scheme regarding notification of affected customers and individuals in the event of a data breach; you should always check if the Privacy Act covers your business’ data breach incident.
The sooner you can notify your users that their data has been breached, the better, as this can help to reduce the amount of damage caused.
Establishing a data breach response team
A data breach response team is a group of people within your business who are responsible for handling any data breach incidents. Depending on the size of your business, this team may be small, but it should include key people such as:
- Compliance officer
- Legal counsel
- IT/security personnel
- Forensic technicians
- Public relations officer
Ensure that everyone on the team knows what their role is in the event of a breach and are prepared to step up and help. Conducting regular data breach test scenarios will help everyone settle into their roles.
Creating your data breach response plan
Step 1: Identify the breach
The first step in responding to a data breach is to identify what has happened. This can be tricky, as it’s not always easy to know if you’ve suffered a breach.
A data breach could be caused by a wide variety of things, including:
- Malicious code
- System error
- Human error
The type of breach will dictate the steps in your data breach response plan that you need to follow. This will allow you to take action quickly, minimise the impact, and, in some cases, avoid fines.
Step 2: Contain the breach
Once you’ve identified that a data breach has occurred, the next step is to contain it. This means taking steps to stop the breach from spreading by securing the area and disconnecting affected machines from the network.
Secure any evidence which may be related to the breach, including:
- Date and time the breach was discovered
- When the response plan was initiated
- Who discovered the breach
- Everything known about the breach, e.g. if it was a data leak or cyber-attack
- Every step taken during the response
All this evidence will help the following investigation determine exactly how the breach occurred, who was responsible, and if you can prevent this type of breach from occurring in the future.
Step 3: Evaluate the risks
You will need to determine the data affected by the breach. This will help you figure out if you need to notify any customers, stakeholders, or partners about the incident.
If sensitive information was affected during the incident, inform the affected parties as soon as possible. Attempting to keep the breach under wraps could backfire severely upon your business’ reputation and lead to significant legal ramifications.
At this point, you will also need to determine if the data breach falls under the NDB scheme. If so, ensure you follow the scheme to the letter to avoid fines.
You can also use this opportunity to look at how you store sensitive user data. This can help you to identify any areas of your data security that need improving, which can help you to reduce the risk of a similar breach happening again in the future.
Step 4: Prevent future breaches
Finally, once you’ve responded to the breach, you need to review it and take steps to prevent future breaches. This can help to reduce significant damage to your business operations, customer loyalty, and reputation.
If you have identified the type of breach that took place, you should conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the breach and ways you can prevent a similar breach from occurring in the future. This can include:
- Implementing stronger cyber security software
- Training your employees in cyber security best practices
- Identifying weaknesses in your network or endpoints and acting accordingly
- Partnering with a managed IT provider for 24/7 monitoring and management of your systems
- Patching and/or updating your existing cyber security software
- Updating your existing security policies; e.g., enforcing multi-factor authentication
Get started on your data breach response plan now
The possibility of a data breach affecting your business is extremely likely, and you need to be prepared for the worst so you can react quickly and efficiently to minimise the damage.
The cyber security consultants at Itopia can help you create a DBRP tailored to your business’ specific needs, and manage your business infrastructure for maximised security to reduce the risk of an attack.