San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Overcoming a data breach as a small business

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

Struggling with data breaches has become the norm for businesses globally. The occurrence of a cyberattack increased considerably after the pandemic as a consequence of lack of proper security. Since people started working from home, companies couldn’t provide the same digital safety to everyone’s devices. Moreover, as online shopping also faced a boom, hackers had more chances to enter weak systems. 

Overall, millions were affected, from regular customers to employees and governments. But one 

of the most vulnerable targets includes small businesses because while they don’t have considerable finances, they help important data sets with client’s personal information.

Unfortunately, a small number of the affected SMEs have an incident management plan, even if they’ve informed the headboard. This showcases how unprepared companies are in the case of a breach, which is why they also don’t know what steps are required after the attack to put the organisation back in place. Hence, here’s how to overcome such an incident as a small business. 


Don’t act out of fear 

Most of the time, the first response is determined by panic. Of course, it’s understandable why, but when it comes to being responsible for customers’ safety, you must stay calm and balance your actions because this timeframe between finding out about the breach and acting is critical. 

It would be best to assess current outcomes because if the casualties affected customers financially or mentally, they’re in the right to file for claims. In this case, you’ll most likely need to pay considerable money to cover this mistake. 

However, knowing and managing the situation objectively is better than panicking immediately. 


Try to stop the hack from expanding 

After assessing the data breach, it’s time to find ways to contain it so there’s no further damage to your systems. This means having a prepared IT team that can isolate the affected parts of the company’s digital environments and even shut them down. 

Identifying the source of the breach and other vulnerabilities is the next step in containing the attack. It’s better to act as fast as possible, so along with your team, you must change all passwords to any accounts and essential documents that might have been corrupted. 

Slowing down the expansion of the breach helps minimise increasing damage to the company’s systems.  


Identify the losses 

After everything is relatively settled and you can pause to think, you must assess the damage and learn how much of the business has been affected or how much customer data has been stolen. Most of the time, hackers are looking for client or employee confidential information for either identity theft or ransom in exchange for money. 

This step will help you understand the gravity of the situation because if the company’s data is entirely compromised, you most likely have to close the activity and start again. However, considering it’s a small business, chances of regaining control are few, especially if you’ve just begun to work on your products. 


Notify everyone affected 

This might be the most challenging part of dealing with a data breach because it can be the start of a backlash. Telling customers their data has been affected will most likely influence their view of the brand, leading to losing a lot of loyal clients. Even associates or partners won’t work with you again. 

Still, you need to be respectful and understanding because, as a business, you are responsible for keeping people’s information safe, considering you collected it for the business’s benefit. This is a risk that all organisations should be aware of. 


Prepare for the following challenges

In 2022, the cost of data breaches was £4,200 for small businesses in the UK. However, medium to large companies were affected by about £19,400 since they’ve got more financial resources. While it’s true that the number of cyber-attacks slightly decreased compared to previous years, their future costs might be more than expected. 

Hence, if your small business survives, you must protect and strengthen it for the following years. The first step is developing a thorough plan based on your breach experience and others to determine what can be done to avoid reaching such situations again. Most advice is similar for all kinds of organisations, but preparation must be different in accordance with data character and system possibilities. 

A data breach prevention plan should include some of the following aspects:

  • Clear policies and procedures on how to handle systems and data;
  • Providing data access to fewer employees, especially if they’re not involved in certain projects;
  • Monitoring access and activity more often to track where and how data is transferred;
  • Using prevention tools against malware, phishing attacks and other common breaches;


Learn about every possible breach 

Knowing what to expect is one of the safest ways to protect your small business from breaches. This way, you can tailor a better response plan and quicker response to the breach. So, what you can do is develop weekly or monthly meetings where you discuss all kinds of attack types and learn what pain points hackers usually target. This will help your IT department considerably because they will easily spot irregular activities within the company’s system. At the same time, employees will understand the gravity of the situation so they will better protect their documents, have strong passwords and avoid disclosing information mistakenly. Learning about common tactics is helpful for any small business because knowledge can be used for prevention. 


Final considerations 

Data breaches in the UK are affecting a considerable number of small businesses, whose majority have to close their activities after a cyber-attack. Although they might not have sufficient resources to tackle all risks, they can mitigate safety by taking the right steps after a breath and preparing for further attacks. 

Considering that the likelihood of a company experiencing a data breach is based on the type of data you handle and used infrastructure, you may be more or less the perfect target, so learn how to get ready in such situations. 

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