What to Do After a Company Data Breach

By Zachary Amos •  Updated: 01/16/22 •  5 min read

No company wants to experience a data breach, but it can happen, and it happens more often than you might think.

Many cybersecurity measures can be used to prevent data breaches. However, malicious actors will still find ways to infiltrate your network, take advantage of employee passwords, and capitalize on other vulnerabilities.

Below, we’ll cover how consumers should react to data breaches and how companies can protect themselves if they’ve experienced a breach.

Consumer Actions to Take Following a Data Breach

Data breaches have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s not expected that they’ll let up anytime soon. High-profile incidents have been reported, including ransomware, supply chain attacks, and hackers exploiting vulnerabilities.

Now is the time to consider preparing for a cybersecurity breach or data loss, as it’s becoming a prevalent issue across various industries. Below are some steps to take immediately after a data breach if you’re a consumer.

1. Find Out What Data Was Stolen

Many states have laws protecting consumers and requiring businesses to inform their customers about data breaches. Now would be a good time to consider seeking identity theft protection services, especially if sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers or banking information, was exposed during the breach.

Consider speaking with the company that experienced the breach and learning what types of data are compromised. Read the details of any reports from the company explaining the breach so you know what steps to take next.

1. Change Passwords

This is a crucial step to take to protect your information from being stolen or sold on the Dark Web. Even if your passwords were not exposed during a breach, it’s best to assume the worst and change it anyway.

Make sure you’re using capital letters and special characters, and be sure to use unique passwords for all the various online accounts you use. This will make a hacker’s job much more difficult and provide you with strong protection. Many people will use an additional layer of security, known as two-factor authentication, to secure their devices and accounts.

3. Check Financial Records

Finally, you should look into your finances and ensure that no money was stolen or if any charges look suspicious. It’s best to alert your bank that a data breach has occurred and look at your statements to check for these potential fraudulent charges.

You can also request a free credit report, which will show you if any new accounts were opened in your name. It’s wise to be proactive during this time to protect yourself and your information adequately.

These three steps will help you manage your financial situation and ensure your accounts are not compromised. Below, we’ll explore some steps that companies should take after they’ve experienced a data breach.

Steps Companies Should Take After a Breach

No company wants to deal with a data breach in the first place, but time is of the essence to lessen the impact of the breach itself.

1. Be Transparent With Employees and Customers

It’s recommended that you adopt a spirit of transparency when a breach occurs. Letting internal employees and your customers know that their data could be compromised will help them take steps to lessen the impact of the breach. Your business reputation could be at stake if you’re not adamant about sharing details of the breach.

Suppose you decide to take an alternative approach and keep breaches a secret. In that case, it could lead to lawsuits, loss of employees, or backlash from customers who had their data stolen or even sold on the Dark Web. This is why it’s vital to be open and honest about the breach that occurred.

2. Secure Systems and Identify Where the Breach Occurred

Preventing more data from being exposed should be paramount for all companies. Be sure to secure your systems, identify what data may have been disclosed, and investigate the circumstances of the breach. Keep track of all the breach details and communicate with your IT department.

It’s wise to change access codes and passwords to prevent further intrusion. Also, consider shutting down remote access for your systems out of an abundance of caution.

3. Implement New Cybersecurity Measures to Fill Gaps

Because a breach occurred, you now know the vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your existing cybersecurity measures. It would help if you implemented new ways to protect against malicious actors.

Now is the time to focus on rebuilding, restructuring, or strengthening your existing cybersecurity practices to prevent future incidents. Patch up the holes in your systems and make a hacker’s job more difficult using the best cybersecurity practices.

4. Build a Disaster Recovery Plan

While many companies take precautionary measures with their cybersecurity, these breaches still happen, and being prepared can help make the breach less likely to harm customers. Following a data breach, the last step you should take is to build a disaster recovery plan.

Here are some steps to take when building a disaster recovery plan:

● Identify potential threats

● Assess your downtime tolerance

● Find viable solutions to use in case of a breach

● Train employees about procedures and what to expect if a breach occurs

Both customers and companies need to recognize the importance of preparing for a potential data breach. Preparedness plays a significant role in lessening the impact of a breach.

Take the Proper Steps Following a Data Breach

If you’ve realized your company has suffered a data breach, some steps must be taken to lessen the impact and damage the breach causes. It’s possible that, depending on your specific case, you may need to take alternate measures to protect your data. However, customers and companies can benefit from following the outlined steps listed above.

Zachary Amos

Zachary is a tech writer and the features editor of ReHack Magazine where he covers cybersecurity and all things technology.