No organization wants to fall victim to a data breach. But in the ever-evolving landscape of information security and threats, it’s critical to be prepared for the possibility. To prepare for potential data breaches, your organization needs a cyber breach response plan that is developed specifically for the type of data your organization secures.
What Constitutes a Data Breach?
NIST defines a data breach as an incident involving the unauthorized copying, transmission, viewing, theft, or usage of “sensitive, protected, or confidential information.” This could include cardholder account details, personal health information, or confidential internal information.
Ultimately, what counts as sensitive data depends on what kind of information your organization handles, processes, and transmits. To protect it, this article will guide you through the best practices for creating and implementing a comprehensive privacy incident response plan.
What Are the Repercussions of Data Breaches?
There’s no question that data breaches are undesired security incidents. But what kind of issues can a breach cause for your organization? Some of the most pressing consequences include:
- Loss of data – Attackers who gain unauthorized access to data may remove it or corrupt it when they acquire it, which could lead to serious issues if there are no current backups available.
- Compromised privacy – The theft of personal details puts the privacy of the individuals to whom that information belongs at risk. This could affect customers, personnel, and other stakeholders.
- Leaking of sensitive information – If internal secrets or other confidential information is leaked, it could have a long-term impact on your organization and the pursuit of organizational goals.
- Damaged reputation – When a data breach happens, it’s not uncommon for the public to lose trust in the organization that was attacked.
- Compliance issues – There are several security standards mandating the ways different types of sensitive data must be kept secure. When security measures fail, your organization could face penalties for failing to meet those standards, especially if an appropriate data breach incident response plan isn’t in place and executed.
How to Implement an Effective Data Breach Management Plan
Being ready to face a potential data breach requires a well-defined approach that is in place well before an incident ever happens. Take the following steps to develop a thorough data incident response plan within your organization.
Preparing for a potential incident is the first step in building a robust foundation for a data breach management plan. Preparation consists of the following considerations:
- Policies and procedures – Define policies and procedures for securing data and the systems and networks that handle that data.
- Identify sensitive data – Take inventory of any sensitive data your organization stores, transmits, or processes. This will help identify critical points to focus on when ensuring robust security controls are in place.
- Appoint a response team – Form a data breach response team and appoint members appropriate to the needs and size of your organization. Response team members could include digital security, forensics, human resources, operations, legal, and other personnel as needed.
- Develop a communications plan – Be prepared with a plan for informing any parties that may be affected by the breach. Be honest and clear, but mindful not to share any situation that could exacerbate the problem created by the breach. And be prepared to answer questions.
The best offense is a solid defense. Proper planning should facilitate the implementation of robust security measures that will meet industry standards and keep data secure.
Ensure all personnel adhere to the organization’s security plan to reduce the risk of incidents such as data breaches. Reassess regularly to evaluate the efficacy of the data breach management plan, and make ongoing enhancements and improvements an established part of its procedures.
Documentation is an essential part of any security plan. Monitor and log activities related to data access and the use of systems that store and process data, and the networks that transmit data.
Logging normal activities will make it easier to track down issues before incidents take place or root out the cause of a breach. In the case of an incident, document all findings uncovered during the investigation and maintain those records as required by any applicable regulations.
How your organization responds to a data breach can have a significant influence on how much an impact the incident has. Make sure to account for the following:
- Act immediately – Secure systems, call upon your data breach response team, and take whatever actions are needed to prevent any additional data loss, theft, or other damage. This may include ceasing operations and keeping systems offline until it has been verified that the environment is re-secured.
- Track down leaked data – Determine what data has been compromised and search to see if it has been released publically. Remove anything that has been published on your own organization’s website and contact any other websites where leaked data is found to request removal.
- Investigate – Perform system audits, interview anyone involved in the breach, and gather any other evidence related to the breach. Document all findings and ensure all evidence is protected to maintain the integrity of the investigation.
The steps to full recovery will depend on your organization’s IT environment and the nature of a breach. When creating a plan for the recovery phase, consider the following:
- Existing security configurations – Determine if and how existing security controls and other system configurations failed to prevent the breach. Enact a plan to update existing controls and other technical procedures to protect against any threats your environment is found to be vulnerable to.
- Network segmentation – Assess whether the existing network segmentation successfully limited the scope of the breach. If the existing configuration is found to have been ineffective, do any necessary reconfiguration.
- Service providers – If a service provider is identified as being connected to the incident, assess the recovery steps they’re taking and consider adjusting their privileges. If necessary, assess whether or not it aligns with your own organization’s goals and security standards to continue working with that service provider.
- Investigation results – Review the results of the investigation and take any other steps needed to correct identified security concerns, digital or otherwise.
6. Notify the Relevant Parties
Know who needs to be informed about breaches ahead of time and set a plan for sending out notifications. Depending on legal and other regulatory requirements, be prepared to notify several parties, potentially including any of the following:
- Law enforcement
- Individuals whose information was compromised
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- The media
- Credit bureaus
- Various supervisory authorities
Besides knowing who to notify, be aware of what precisely needs to be disclosed and how much time you have to disclose that information. Depending on the regulations your organization is subject to, failure to properly notify the appropriate parties could have legal repercussions.
After all the steps have been taken to get things back to normal, review the results of the incident response process and determine what can be changed to improve security measures. Use resources such as the guidance from the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. or the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe to ensure alignment with best practices.
RSI Security will help your organization implement data security best practices and an incident management plan to be prepared for all scenarios.
Always Be Prepared to Respond to Cyber Threats
Hackers and security professionals are always working to try to stay one foot ahead of the other. No matter how robust and successful your organization’s security strategy is, a data breach could happen. And it’s crucial to be prepared to mitigate the impact these incidents can have.
Contact RSI Security today to learn about data breach management plans to support your organization’s data protection strategy.