How to Respond to a Data Breach: 6 Initial Steps to Take

Worried about a data breach?

How you respond to a breach can have a huge impact on the amount of damage it does. 

So, we’ve put together this expert guide on how to respond to a data breach to help you out. 


How to Respond to a Data Breach


If you’ve experienced a data breach, then don’t panic. 

Take your time and work through these steps on how to respond to a data breach. 

1. Recognize the Breach

It sounds obvious, but before you respond to a data breach you’ve got to recognize that one’s taken place. 

This isn’t always easy, and far too often, data breaches go unnoticed for many months. 

In fact, it takes an average of 287 days to identify a data breach

Unfortunately, when many businesses get to the point where they’re considering how to respond to a data breach, they’re already on the back foot. This is why preemptive cybersecurity is so important. 

Data breaches happen though, so how should you respond to one once you’ve identified it?

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2. Stop the Breach 

Once you’ve identified a data breach, the next step is to stop it. 

At this point, the most important thing is that you remain calm and work strategically to identify where the leak is coming from and how you can stop it. 

You’ve already taken the most important step here by identifying the breach in the first place. Now, all you have to do is isolate the offending systems, or remove the accounts that are the sources of leaks. 

Act quickly, and be thorough. You can always reinstate an account at a later date, but the longer the breach lasts, the more damage it can do. 

3. Analyze the Data Breach

When companies consider how to respond to a data breach they’re often tempted to panic at this point. 

They’ve found a data breach that can potentially impact a large number of customers and do untold reputational damage to their brand. It’s not a situation anyone wants to find themselves in. 

Here’s the thing, you need to be open and alert customers quickly. 

However, it’s no use reaching out to anyone until you have the full facts. 

Before you start advising the affected parties, you need to analyze the data breach to understand how it happened, who is impacted, and how they’re affected. 

Your IT team may be able to do this, or you can turn to a specialist cybersecurity firm like Stickman Cyber Security, to do the testing for you. Either way, you want to have a good grasp on what’s happened and what this means for your business and its customers. 

4. Notify Affected Parties 

Now is the time to get out in front of the data breach. 

People’s information has been leaked, but there’s not much you can do about it now. 

What you can do is tell them what’s happened and help them protect themselves from any negative side effects. It’s vitally important you are open and honest here. 

You might well suffer from some reputational damage, but it will be much worse if it's found out that you’ve covered the problem up. People understand that there’s no such thing as 100% security (even the biggest brands in the world get caught out sometimes), what they want to know is that you’re doing something about it. 

By giving people access to the information they need to protect themselves, and showing the actions you’re taking to protect them in the future, you can limit the reputational damage of a data breach. 

5. Perform a Security Assessment 

You may have patched one security vulnerability, but there’s a reasonable chance there are more left out there. 

To make sure you’re not at risk from another data breach, the best thing to do is perform a security assessment. This will give you a complete audit of your online security, highlighting areas of weakness and key areas for improvement. 

The best way to protect your business is to be proactive so that you stop the next data breach before it materializes. A thorough security assessment will give you a good overview of the next steps you need to take as part of your cybersecurity plan. 

6. Finish with a Process Review 

If you’ve carried out step five, then you should be in a good position to successfully deal with the data breach and upgrade your security capabilities. 

However, what you’ve been through provides a great lesson. 

It’s not something you want to brush over and forget. You want to dig into the details and use them to improve your processes. 

Even with the best cybersecurity in the world, you can suffer from an attack, so knowing how to respond to a data breach is valuable knowledge. Go over your response and find areas where you can improve your processes. 

Prevention and Preparedness are the Best Ways to Deal with a Data Breach in Australia

This process is much easier if you’re investing in prevention and preparedness. 

First off, if you’ve got the right cybersecurity in place, then you’re much less likely to suffer from a data breach. But if you do, it pays to have planned ahead and have a clear protocol in place. 

This will help you spot a breach and handle the fallout much more efficiently, negating some of the reputational damage to your brand, and saving you a lot of money. 

One of the best ways for small businesses to do this is with cybersecurity-as-service, which offers world-class security without the costs of having to put your own team together.

Concerned about a data breach? 

Check out how StickmanCyber can help, or share your requirements and one of our experts will be in touch.

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