How would you manage a data breach? No company is immune to cyberattacks and data breaches. Read on to learn how you can prepare your business.


Gauging a company’s true data breach risk from the outside is a difficult endeavor for insurers, with challenges both technical and informational. But even less attention has been paid to how companies would manage a breach if it happened, which has an enormous impact on the toll of the final damage.

See also: Analyze Your Risks with Hierl’s Cyber Security Advisors

No organization is immune to breach. If the National Security Agency can lose data, anyone can lose data, yet the scope of the current issue is still astounding.

According to another insurance company’s 2017 cyber readiness report, 72% of large U.S. businesses — nearly three out of four — and 68% of small- and mid-sized businesses — about seven in ten — reported cyber incidents in the previous year. Among these, close to half (47%) experienced two or more cyber incidents during that same time.

The largest breaches, affecting big-name companies like Equifax, Target, Home Depot and many others, drew substantial headlines because of the huge number of identities involved. But almost every business holds some sensitive information, either regarding its customers or its own intellectual property, finances or employees. In fact, smaller organizations often lack the internal resources to dedicate towards preparedness, making them very attractive targets for hackers.

Assessing the threats to your business

The first challenge with measuring a company’s risk exposure relates to the industrywide problem of tying compliance and policy to actual security. A company may have checked all the right boxes on paper, but doing so guarantees little about their actual cyber risk position.

The second issue is that people often matter much more than technology.

The public conversation focuses on high-profile hacking events, but data breaches are even more likely to be the result of internal issues, including breakdowns in training, procedure or plain old mistakes.

The overwhelming majority of all cyber attacks are successfully executed with information stolen from employees who unwittingly give away their system ID and access credentials to hackers or provide a gateway via a malware link embedded in some form of communication.

One of the most important components of an effective data breach readiness program is mandatory and frequent training to remind employees about the importance of security awareness.

See also: Your Cyber Liability Policy & Handling Data Breaches Like A Pro

Education information security best practices can help arm a team against threats such as phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, malware, and ransomware, substantially lowering the long-term risk.

An accurate understanding of a company’s sector-specific risks is another important point of departure in corporate cybersecurity. Healthcare employees, for instance, need to be especially on guard for EHR-related attacks and RDP server breaches, like the ones instigated by the SamSam virus (which took down Allscripts last month).

Other industries are more vulnerable to loopholes in common business apps; still, others are more frequently victims of point-of-sale malware or e-mail phishing scams. Once businesses understand where and how they are most likely to be targeted, they can begin providing training that takes into account the need for added vigilance in these specific areas.

The final challenge in correctly identifying breach risk involves understanding the extent to which recovery costs can vary. Discrepancies in cost depend not only on the severity of the breach, but also on how well the organization responds. Globally, the average cost to recover from a security breach is $158 per impacted individual, but that varies from of $60 to $400 per person.

While more companies than ever before are now either considering or have taken out some form of cyber insurance, this should not be considered an unloadable risk. Smart organizations are increasingly focusing on proactively identifying data breaches and preparing to efficiently react to them in advance of a data breach crisis.

Proper preparation means more education

The most devastating impacts of a data breach can only be avoided by coupling breach awareness and prevention efforts with readiness and response planning ahead of a cybersecurity incident.

Comprehensive breach readiness plans break down both pre-emptive and retrospective action steps by department: it’s sensible, for example, to task IT personnel with monitoring cloud connectivity and identifying network loopholes while entrusting financial staff with detecting suspicious activity along company bank and credit accounts.

Customer relations experts and account managers, on the other hand, are likely the best resources for overseeing client communications during and after a data breach, helping to re-establish trust and informing their consumer-facing workforce.

Here, inter-departmental communication is paramount: all workers should understand how and to whom they are to report possible breaches or scams, and when such breaches occur, the entire company should know what to expect employees in every department to do next.

Even for the most cyber-savvy corporations, however, internal resources alone are not enough these days. Outside resources are often critical to mitigating the threat of cyber attacks; Stop them once they start and restore company functions in a breach’s aftermath.

Establishing relationships and negotiating agreements with external subject matter experts is better done far in advance of an actual data breach. Contractual terms can be negotiated without the chaos and urgency of a crisis situation. The same is true for interfacing with law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

Knowing whom to contact and having an established communication chain can pay off when trying to execute an urgent data breach response.

See also: 5 Ways to Spot a Phishing Email

Both internally and externally, the human element of cybersecurity remains a business’s best defense across an ever-widening threat landscape. With the right planning and a rapid response team, companies should be able to withstand a breach with the least damage possible, limiting losses – and claims.

SOURCE: Thompson, J. (2 March 2018) “Meeting cybersecurity risks head-on: A guide to breach preparedness” (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2018/03/02/meeting-cybersecurity-risks-head-on-a-guide-to-bre/