Data Breach Response: 4 ways the most resilient businesses respond to hacks

Published in Business Continuity

Data breaches can trigger fines, deflate stock prices, irreparably damage reputations, lose customers and attract more cyber-attacks.

But they don’t have to.

By responding quickly and decisively at the first sign of a data breach, you can limit its impact, preserve trust in your business and keep customers safe.

The consequences of a botched data breach response

For many small and medium-sized businesses, a hack can end their existence: 66 percent of them go out of business after a data breach.

Large companies are more likely to survive, but suffer severe damage. Shortly after Equifax announced a data breach that had compromised the personal information of 143 million Americans (recently updated to 148 million), it quickly shed more than $4 billion in market value as its stock sunk 20 percent. It hasn’t recovered.

The two massive data breaches Yahoo reported in 2016 gave Verizon a $350 million discount when it finally purchased the company in 2017.  When it was revealed that Uber had kept quiet for more than a year about a data breach that affected 57 million people, the public outcry added to the growing reputational damage the company experienced in 2017, trimming its value by about 30 percent.

Throughout 2017 companies large and small suffered data breaches, often with a larger overall impact than necessary. If you want to mitigate the impact of data breaches at your company, and hopefully prevent them, follow these four principles.

  1. Act quickly

A data breach requires an immediate response from every part of your organization. Your IT and business teams will need to locate and close any vulnerabilities in your IT systems or business processes and set in motion your disaster recovery plan if they uncover a data corruption. Your business units may need to invoke their business continuity plans, and you may need to assemble your executive crisis management team.

You can improve the speed and effectiveness of your response with regular testing that will ensure everyone is ready to go and knows what to do as soon as a breach is recognized.

Another advantage is having the results of a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) at your fingertips. It details all the personal data you collect, process and store, categorized by level of sensitivity, so you’re not scrambling around after a breach.

With a clear sense of who should be taking charge and what exactly should be done, you can better contain the damage caused by the data breach.

  1. Be open and honest

A data breach is never ideal, but if your business suffers one, it’s important you inform anyone who is affected as quickly as possible. This will allow them to implement their own self-protecting measures.

We live in a highly connected world with hyper-extended supply chains. Create a crisis communication plan that sets out in advance who needs to be contacted should a breach occur. That way, you’ll never forget important stakeholders in the heat of the moment.

Failing to inform people in a timely manner can cost you in fines, reputation loss and disgruntled customers.

  1. Figure out what went wrong

After a breach, IT administrators should comb through network traffic archives to look for any abnormal activity. How did the breach occur? Was it a vulnerability that should have been patched? Innocent human error? A process gone wrong?

It’s equally important to review your DPIA to ensure it’s up to date.

If the breach is a criminal matter, make sure you pass on any and all relevant evidence to the police so that those responsible can be brought to justice.

  1. Pre-empt future attacks

Prevention is always better than cure. It’s good business practice to continuously monitor risk, including information risk and ensure the controls are adequate.

Conduct physical and logical penetration testing and check your organization’s susceptibility to social engineering. Ensure you have effective business continuity and back-up solutions in place. Check in on any vendors or partners that have access to your network to review their security practices and level of access. Seek out executive coaching to ensure that your C-suite has the skills, competencies and strategies to lead your organization through the complex, uncertain and unstable environment that is the aftermath of a data breach.

Facing the inevitable

Data breaches are growing more common, not less. How you respond in the aftermath of a data breach says volumes about your organization and how much you value customers.

If you delay disclosures; suffer repeated, preventable breaches; and leave vulnerabilities unfixed, you’ll shed customers and market value.

Quickly take action, however, and be proactive in your notifications of a breach and fixing vulnerabilities, and you’ll contain and weather a data breach better than most businesses.


Do you Know Which of These Cyber-Attacks isn't Real?

Published in Security

When CentaurWipe infected hundreds of companies in December 2016, IT departments were left flat-footed. Named for its dual attack of locking down devices while systematically erasing files, CentaurWipe was finally contained after an emergency patch was deployed.

Sound familiar?

Knowing what malware does, what it targets, and how to stop it can help you keep your systems safe.

It shouldn’t. It never happened.

But in a recent survey of 510 IT decision-makers, more than 85 percent thought CentaurWipe was a real cyberattack when we asked them to pick the fake among a list of real attacks. More respondents picked WannaCry as the fake cyber-attack than CentaurWipe.

What’s going on here? Are there just so many cyber-attacks that it’s hard to remember all the names?

Or is there a lack of awareness that could be putting organizations in jeopardy?

Which cyber-attack isn’t real?

We posed this simple question to CSOs, CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, IT VPs, Heads, Directors, and Managers, Information Systems Security Engineers, Cyber Security Directors and Managers:

Which of the following is not a named or known cyberattack?

  • WannaCry
  • Petya
  • NotPetya
  • Goldeneye
  • Heartbleed
  • CentaurWipe

Any surprises for you in that list? There were for the respondents.

Only 15 percent of respondents correctly chose CentaurWipe as the phony attack. Just two out of the six real cyberattacks received more votes than that.

A surprising 15 percent picked WannaCry as the fake. That seems impossible to fathom, since WannaCry affected over 150 countries, 300,000 machines, and was covered extensively in the media.

A quarter of respondents – 25 percent – chose POODLE. That’s short for Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption. Granted, POODLE may seem like it happened forever ago (it first appeared in 2014) but this “man-in-the-middle” attack fooled a good portion of respondents.

Close behind CentaurWipe, 14 percent chose NotPetya, while 13 percent chose Goldeneye.

The two most recognized cyber-attacks on the list were Petya, chosen by just 10 percent of respondents as the fake, and Heartbleed, which 8 percent thought wasn’t real. It should be heartening that these two didn’t get past many surveyed participants.

What does this say about security awareness?

The shocking thing about these results is that CentaurWipe wasn’t the overwhelming choice. What can we attribute this to?

For one, some strains of malware have multiple names. Depending on who you ask, Petya, NotPetya and Goldeneye might all refer to the same June 2017 ransomware attack. In these cases, it can get confusing for those trying to stay on top of the ever-growing list of cyber threats – they might know the attack by one name but not another.

The term “cyber-attack” is also up to interpretation. For example, POODLE isn’t actually an attack, but a vulnerability that could be exploited.

There’s also the sheer quantity of attacks – thousands of new ones appear every year, and organizations tending to their security are left untouched by the vast majority.

Or maybe, and this is more concerning, it’s just a true lack of awareness.

Knowing what malware does, what it targets, and how to stop it can help you keep your systems safe. How do you know you’re immune to a threat you aren’t aware of?

Armed with knowledge, you can stay safe and prepare for whatever hackers conjure up next. But also make sure you’re covering the security basics.

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