Cybersecurity essentials: How to identify and mitigate a data breach

Cybersecurity · Jun 18, 2024

We already discussed
employee training
on the first blog and
password management
on the second blog. This third and last read in the ‘Cybersecurity essentials’ series, we focus on identifying and managing a data breach when – and if – it happens. It’s no surprise that cybersecurity is a top priority for any business and understanding what a breach is, how to identify one and manage its impact can make a significant difference for your business.

What is a data breach

A data breach is a cybersecurity incident in which unauthorized individuals gain access to your system, your networks, your data or your clients’ information. System and software vulnerabilities are exploited to break security defences by using malware tactics like viruses, ransomware, spyware or phishing. Malware can be introduced through malicious links, attachments or compromised websites, leading to unauthorized access, exposure or disclosure of data.
Weak security measures, such as poor password choices, unpatched software or lack of encryption can help create a great deal of opportunities for breaches to occur. Employees or individuals with authorized access to systems can also pose a threat to security if they don’t have the proper
Prioritizing cybersecurity awareness, training and robust security practices can help reduce cybersecurity costs and the likelihood of breaches happening and help protect your people, customers and business  against threats from unauthorized users.

Identifying a data breach

Identifying a breach
as early as possible is crucial when trying to minimize its impact. Implementing monitoring tools and conducting regular security audits can help you detect breaches promptly and minimize the impact on your small business. Here are some steps that can help you identify a data breach:
Monitor network activity: You should aim for continuous, real-time 24/7 monitoring of your network traffic and system logs to detect unusual or suspicious activity, like unauthorized access attempts, unusual login patterns or data transfers from outside your business.
Implement Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): This type of tool can help monitor your business' network traffic for malicious activity and can provide alerts when potential security breaches are detected. The IDS serves as a proactive security measure to identify and respond to threats promptly. 
Educate employees
: Train your employees on cybersecurity best practices and how to recognize potential security threats, such as phishing and ransomware. 
Use Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools: These tools help identify, monitor and respond to suspicious activities on endpoints, like workstations and servers.
It can be hard to identify a breach as it may not have any clear indications that it’s happened. Signs of a breach can vary depending on the nature of the attack and the systems affected. Some common signs include unusual network activity, unexpected system slowdowns, unauthorized access, changes in system settings, unexplained data loss, phishing emails and social engineering attempts. 
Proactively monitoring your network, educating your employees, implementing robust security tools and responding promptly to any suspicious activities, can help improve your chances of detecting and mitigating attacks early so that you can
protect your small business
from potential threats.

How to manage a data breach

The detection and response times for an incident can often be slow, as 58% of Canadian businesses affected by breaches can take an average of six months or longer to detect the problem. Further, 60% of breaches can take more than a month to respond, according to
EY 2023 Global Cybersecurity Leadership Insights study
Managing a breach effectively requires a structured and coordinated response to minimize the impact on your business. In the event of an incident, it's essential to act swiftly and decisively. Here are some steps small businesses can take and strategies to implement if an attack occurs:
Contain the incident: Immediately isolate the affected systems or networks to help prevent further unauthorized access. Disable compromised accounts or services to limit the breach's spread and implement firewall rules or access controls to contain the breach within the affected areas. Also, make sure to notify the cyber insurance provider about the incident.
Inform key stakeholders: It’s important to be transparent and communicate with employees, customers and partners regarding the incident, including providing guidance on next steps to maintain open communication with those affected. Provide regular updates on the incident, actions taken and measures implemented to address the breach and how you will be enhancing security.
Mitigate risks and restore systems: Once the breach is contained, restore affected systems from backups or clean sources to ensure they are secure and free from malware. Update security patches, strengthen access controls and enhance monitoring to help prevent more breaches from happening. Having a secure data-backup and recovery solution established is imperative to help streamline the recovery of your business.
Comply with legal and regulatory requirements: Follow data breach notification laws and regulations by reporting the breach to relevant authorities within the required timeframe. Cooperate with investigations and audits to ensure compliance with legal obligations and protect your business from potential penalties.*
Conduct a post-incident review: Lead a thorough post-incident review to analyze the breach response, identify areas for improvement and implement lessons learned. In addition, you should update your incident response plans, security policies and training programs based on the findings to help improve your cybersecurity measures.
Even the most prepared businesses are susceptible to breaches, which is why it’s imperative that your company has measures in place to mitigate risk and exposure to potential threats. 

What to do after a breach

After managing a breach, it's important to learn from the experience and improve your
cybersecurity measures
by conducting a post-incident review where you should identify vulnerabilities and implement the necessary improvements. 
Recovering from a security breach requires a strategic approach to restore operations, rebuilding trust with stakeholders and strengthening cybersecurity defences. Assess the impact on your organization, train employees on cybersecurity best practices and engage with legal and regulatory authorities to report the breach and address any legal implications.
Rebuilding trust with stakeholders can be done by demonstrating your commitment to cybersecurity and data protection. Provide assurances of enhanced security measures, transparency in communication and proactive steps that are being taken to prevent future attacks.
Understanding the
basics of cybersecurity
, can help safeguard your small businesses from breaches and enhance security of your valuable data. Adopting a proactive and comprehensive approach to breach management, can help effectively respond to security incidents, protect your business assets and strengthen your cybersecurity in the face of evolving threats.
TELUS Business can help you implement a layered approach to cybersecurity to help reduce exposure to cyberattacks such as a data breach.
Connect with a managed IT specialist today to learn how we can help with your cybersecurity needs

*This is for informational purposes only, please consult Legal experts for advice pertaining to your specific scenario.