How should you respond to a data breach?

How should you respond to a data breach?

A data breach can occur at any time. Should it happen to your company, you need to know how to respond to the incident so you can limit its impact on your customers and your business’s operations and resources.

What is a data breach?

You can only properly respond to a problem if you understand what it is, so it’s crucial that you know what happens during a data breach. Simply put, a data breach is a cybersecurity incident in which your company’s information is accessed by unauthorized parties.

This information is typically something that only members of your organization are privy to, such as financial statements, trade secrets, or your employees’ Social Security numbers. It could also be data entrusted to you, such as your vendors’ phone numbers or your customers’ credit card details.

Many data breaches result from cybercriminals exploiting vulnerabilities or infecting their victims’ IT systems with ransomware or other malicious programs. For instance, trucking company Forward Air suffered a data breach that exposed their employees’ information following a ransomware attack in December 2020. In some cases, data breaches are caused by users within the organization, either intentionally or through mistakes like opening phishing emails or clicking on malware-laden online ads.

How you respond to a data breach will significantly impact the incident’s effects on your business and possibly how customers perceive your business afterward.

In many data breaches, crooks access and steal information to pressure victims into paying them or so they can sell the data on the dark web. Personal information, in particular, can fetch a good price, as it can be used for identity theft or to launch other cyberattacks, or resold at a higher cost.

Your business could lose a lot from a successful data breach. It could result in diminished customer trust, reputational damage, and the inability to attract potential clients in the future. You might also be hit with severe penalties, especially if you belong to highly regulated industries like finance and healthcare.

What should you do during a data breach?

How you respond to a data breach will significantly impact the incident’s effects on your business and possibly how customers perceive your business afterward. Here are the steps you should take during a data breach:


There are different ways of responding to different incidents. For instance, a strategy that applies to data breaches may not work for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Therefore, you need to determine and confirm whether you’re experiencing a data breach or some other type of security incident.

To identify data breaches, your IT team or managed IT services provider (MSP) must focus on monitoring for indicators of a breach. Should they detect activities involving malware, phishing, and hacking, it’s safe to assume that some of your data have been exposed one way or another. In any case, have them determine if any and which business data has been compromised.


Security incidents very rarely remain isolated, so you need to take steps to stop them from spreading across your IT systems and causing more damage. Any affected devices must be disconnected from the network. Alert your employees to the breach and, in the meantime, restrict all access privileges and reset all passwords.

You may find corrupted or infected data as you scour your network. Instead of deleting it outright, contain and isolate such data for further analysis. Record and go over events and actions leading to the breach, such as incoming traffic, suspicious file downloads, and others. Analyzing these will help you understand the threat better and develop better preventive strategies.


Once you have confirmed the breach, waste no time in informing your clients about the incident, even if they are likely unaffected by it. Advise your customers to change their passwords or disable their accounts, or perform other necessary next steps to protect themselves. Do not downplay the incident, as understanding its severity will help convince clients to take immediate action.


After analyzing the cyberthreat that caused the data breach, you need to address or eliminate it. What tool you use to do these will depend on the threat. For instance, you can use anti-malware software to delete viruses or disable employee credentials and accounts that perps may have hijacked to hack into your network.


Once you’ve addressed the threat, you have to get your IT systems back up and running. If the breach resulted in data loss, then you need to load the latest data backups so you can resume your operations.


A data breach should provide you with insights into your network’s vulnerabilities and what you can do to strengthen your defenses. Make sure to build upon everything that you have learned so far. For example, if the data breach occurred because hackers exploited weaknesses in your apps, update all your software and replace those with exploitable vulnerabilities. If the breach happened because of your employees’ errors, put them through cybersecurity awareness training or implement zero trust.

No business is absolutely safe from data breaches, but we at Quicktech can reduce its likelihood of happening to your company. We do this by ensuring that your networks are adequately equipped with the best cybersecurity solutions available and providing top-notch services. Discover how we can make a difference in your business by downloading this free eBook today.