Recovering from a data breach: a guide for small businesses

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When a business suffers a data breach, it is far more than an inconvenience. The negative effects can last for many years and, for some businesses, can even signal the end of the road. From reputational damage and a loss of customer trust, lost revenue, lawsuits from affected customers and/or employees and having to dismiss employees to cut costs, just a single data breach can put businesses on the scrap heap. However, with the right approach to recovery, it might be possible to keep the organisation afloat.

Here are the most important steps to take in the months and years following a data breach to get your business back on track.

Educate customers about identity theft

When personal and financial data is stolen, it may be some time before it is used to steal money or an identity, so your customers will need to be alert to this for at least a year. This means you will need to be able to satisfy questions and handle complaints for many months following the breach.

Cooperate with the police

The police and various government agencies may need to be involved to get to the bottom of what has happened and prevent it from happening again. Make sure you are compliant with all of their requests.

Invest in a PR strategy

Reputational damage can be incredibly difficult to repair and you will need to put in the effort to regain consumer trust and find new customers. Treat it as a chance for a fresh start and shout about the improved security you have in place. It’s also likely that sales may be slower after the breach and, if you have needed downtime, your revenue will have taken a hit. It may be worth looking into applying for compensation for a data breach as this may help to plug the gap financially.

Analyse your security

You need to take a good hard look at why the data breach occurred. It may be that there was an issue with your security network, but often problems are caused by human error from either within your organisation or a third party supplier. Find out exactly what happened and take steps to ensure it never happens again.

Upgrade your security

Now is the time to make sure that your website and internal network is secure and up to date. This means upgrading all software to the latest versions, which many small businesses don’t download regularly because they don’t understand the risks involved In using out of date software. Ideally, you should be investing in a complete security solution rather than using several different ones.

Assess your recovery strategy

When you have come out the other side of the data breach and the business is back on a more even keel, it’s time to assess how your recovery went. Were you able to minimise the damage of the data breach? If it were to happen again, what would you do differently? Hopefully, if you have improved your security you will never have to deal with another data breach, but unfortunately, cyber criminals are devising new strategies all the time, so it’s always best to be prepared.