Hackers aim to benefit from stolen data, blackmail or profit from the ones from whom they have illegally obtained the information or just cause disruption in a business. Based on the hackers’ objectives, the data they are after can change as well, for instance these could include classified company collateral, competitor strategies, proof of impropriety, taking apart alliances, turbulent M&As etc. Regardless of what they may be after, companies must be prepared with a set of internal and external guidelines accommodated for the specifics of any type of data breach.
A wide variety of adverse outcomes from the public’s perspective could be detrimental to the company’s standing in the event of a data breach. For instance, it could be as direct as having an unfavourable effect on the company’s reputation like in the case of the Target breach or a complete loss of trust in the company. It could also lead to civil proceedings like in the case of the Ashley Madison infringement, unlawful charges, penalties and restrictions by governing bodies or third parties. In many cases, senior management is responsible while the IT department could unquestionably be in jeopardy. In addition, making reparations to customers can also be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.
Apart from compromised security and the possibility of fraudulent charges made by customers or associates, there is a wide variety of negative consequences from data breaches. These include:
- Declining reputation – An organisation’s most treasured asset as a business is its good reputation and it continually works towards building and maintaining the wholeness of its brand through various activities. Unfortunately, it takes just one vulnerable moment like a data breach to stain even the best of reputations. While every data breach is different and affects organisations in different ways, businesses that have experienced a cyber-attack almost always see that their reputation has been affected in a negative manner. While building an emergency plan for possible cyber-attacks, organisations must involve specific strategies to sustain their reputation throughout the incident.
- Reduced competitive capacity – In most cases it is seen that cyber criminals are interested in stealing an organisation’s classified data, including copyright information, customer data, trade secrets or pricing strategies. With the stolen data, hackers can effectively destroy a company’s competitiveness by selling the data to competitors or displaying the data to the public.
- Failed consumer trust – Most organisations share information with other businesses, such as third-party vendors or contractors, assuming that these businesses have employed the right security measures to protect the information. When a data breach takes place, consumers begin to question the kind of trust they put into the organisation. Every business must have a contingency plan in place and communicate transparently with their customers as soon as possible, in the event of a data breach. This action reveals that organisations are not hiding facts and may be able to retain customer loyalty and trust through the incident.
Best response practices to data breaches
With data security attacks on the rise, decision-makers in a company must assess and get ahead of the situation, communicate to the concerned individuals and organise a statement to make the particulars known to the public. Depending upon the hackers’ motives (monetary reward, humiliation, business commotion, etc.) decision-makers may customise their actions with such information.
Experts advocate on building an emergency plan through the structure of readiness, response, reassurance, and recovery. The model suggests a course of action and answerability irrespective of the type of emergency or people affected by it.
Protecting a data breach
From the perspective of employees, the company should lay down guidelines on educating all staff to maintain strong passwords and train them on device protection. Concerning company information, encrypt all data and documents and access them on permitted devices only. No matter how safe PDF documents are, they are only as secure as the device they are downloaded on. All forms of classified communications and messaging, especially from board meetings and senior management discussions should be encrypted.
Incorporate security protections such as built-in encryption, password policies, device security management, document copy protection measurements, PDF document DRM etc., amongst others in all digital board tools across the company. In addition, the company should also be concerned of how its employees are distributing data with third parties and even within the company and manage this accordingly.
Board reports, data and documents are among the most classified pieces of data in an organisation. It is binding upon the directors of every company to ensure that their organisations have the correct data security procedures in place, requisite technology answers, and document protection set up in order to avert a data violation. These and an accurate emergency blueprint to act upon, should a data breach take place, will lend peace of mind as organisations engage in a progressively digital age.