Here’s What to do if Your Business Experiences a Data Breach

It doesn’t matter what your business is – private security, airport transportation services, social media management – data breaches should be taken very seriously for specific reasons. First and foremost, customer trust is essential for any business – and a data breach is one of the easiest ways to jeopardize that. In addition, data breaches can be extremely costly – in terms of both money and time – to clean up.

And finally, if sensitive information like credit card numbers or Social Security numbers is involved, businesses can face serious legal trouble.

Here’s what to do if your business experiences a data breach, in no particular order.

Notify the Proper Authorities

Typically, this will be the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US. In some cases, businesses may also need to notify state attorneys general or consumer reporting agencies.

How do you notify the authorities? The specific process will vary depending on the type of data that was breached and the location of your business, but you’ll generally need to provide a written notice that includes:

  • The name and contact information for your business
  • A description of the incident, including when it occurred and how many customers were affected
  • A list of the type of information that was involved in the breach

Hold a Strategy Meeting with Your Communications Team

One of the trickiest parts of handling a data breach is figuring out how and what to say to the affected customers. You don’t want to cause unnecessary panic – but you also need to be transparent about what happened and what steps you’re taking to fix the problem.

The best way to handle this is to hold a strategy meeting with your communications team – including anyone who will be responsible for drafting and sending out customer notifications. During this meeting, you should:

  • Draft a template for customer notifications that includes all of the essential information
  • Decide on the best method for sending out notifications (e.g., email, letter, or phone call)
  • Choose a suitable date and time for sending out the notifications (e.g., not midnight on a weekend)

Have Your IT Department Find the Source of the Breach

The importance of properly dealing with the technical aspects of the data breach can’t be overstated.

This step with your IT team is vital for two reasons. First, this is how you’ll determine exactly what information was accessed and how. Second, you can’t prevent future breaches if you don’t identify the security flaw that allowed the initial breach to occur.

Implement Additional Security Measures

Under no circumstances should you leave your systems as they are after a data breach.

In addition to changing passwords, you’ll need to take stringent steps to secure your systems and prevent future breaches. This may include anything from adding two-factor authentication to your login process to investing in new security software. The specific measures to take will depend on the type of breach that occurred and the type of data that was compromised.

Data breaches are never fun – but by following the steps above, you can minimize the damage and get your business back on track as quickly as possible.