A data breach can happen to any small business at any time. And among all types of businesses that are hit with a data breach, newly-formed enterprises and startups are especially susceptible. In most small business data breach incidents occur, the company’s business records, user data, customer information, financial records or all of the above, have been accessed, compromised and possibly stolen. As an entrepreneur dealing with a small business data breach, you may feel like the world is crumbling beneath you and that all is lost. However, despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation, data breach mitigation is possible.
Am I really susceptible to a data breach?
The short answer is yes, much more so than even just a year ago. In 2018, the instances of data breaches in the US jumped 47 percent over the previous year. Newly-formed businesses and startups are typically more at risk of suffering a data breach because they often have new or weaker infrastructure, new employees, and a lack of extra cash lying around to fund strong cybersecurity measures. Hackers with bad intentions are acutely aware of these vulnerabilities and can steal your data, but you can also suffer a small business data breach because of lax in-house security, poor employee training, and sloppy data storage techniques. The consequences of an unresolved breach can be severe. As such, it is critical that data breach mitigation begin as soon as possible, once it has been discovered. The following four steps can help you with the process of mitigating data breaches.
Step 1: Plug and repair the breach
Your first step in mitigating a data breach is essentially triage. At the bare minimum, here you need to be changing logins and passwords, shutting off access points to your company data, and getting your IT team working on plugging the breach (if your IT team is lacking, hire help immediately). Even if hackers already stole much of your private data, you want to root them out of your system before you can get to work on anything else.
Step 2: Hire digital forensic specialists to help you get a handle on the scope of the breach
When dealing with the consequences of a small business data breach,, there’s a good chance you haven’t had the extra cash to keep skilled digital forensic specialists on your payroll. That’s okay. Fortunately, there are contract pros that specialize in data breach mitigation. Specialists like Secure Forensics can help you track down those responsible for the breach and can also help you plug vulnerabilities and provide you with a blueprint for keeping your company’s network and critical data secure.
Step 3: Be honest and upfront with your customers and others impacted by the breach
As AllBusiness.com points out, regulations that deal with data breaches — at both the state and federal levels — can be complex. But there’s no scenario where lying to your customers and business partners about a data breach is the right move. Honestly is the best policy — truly. It can be seen as an ethical obligation, as a breach of your system can affect your customer and client security all the way down the chain.
Step 4: Get to work on security
The best way to respond after a small business data breach is to not have to respond to one in the first place. An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure here, as there’s no real cure for a major data breach.
Securing your systems so that hackers can’t access them in the first place is paramount, but there are ways to make it even harder for people with bad intentions to misuse your company and client data even if they get their hands on it. Some of those measures include data encryption, tokenization, and de-identification. You will also want to review your hiring and employee protocols and reiterate the importance of password security. Data breaches aren’t always the work of hackers. Many times the breach comes from within, which means training employees to be vigilant.
If you follow these basic steps when you learn about a data breach, you will get through this. It’s a scary thing — especially for an entrepreneur with a lot on the line — but your business can survive. Data breaches are much more common than you think, so if you’re reading this and have yet to be hit, you should start taking proactive security measures ASAP!
Today’s article is brought to us courtesy of Patrick Young, who is an educator and activist. He believes people with disabilities must live within a unique set of circumstances–the outside world often either underestimates them or ignores their needs altogether. He created AbleUSA to offer helpful resources to people with disabilities and to provide advice on navigating various aspects of life as a person with disabilities.
Interested in learning more about data breaches and how you can minimize your startup’s risk of suffering from one? Contact me today and let’s talk!