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The First Critical Steps After a Cyber Attack

The First Critical Steps After a Cyber AttackThe First Critical Steps After a Cyber Attack

Your security has been breached. You've read all about the devastating impact that breaches cause, and you KNOW this is a very bad situation. There is no time to waste, you need to act as soon as possible to do as much damage control as you can. Below are the first critical steps that you will need to take after a cyber attack occurs. 


1. Do Not Panic

You or your team may already be panicking. Stop. While it may be easier said than done, it is important that you stay as calm as possible.

A cyber attack can certainly be classified as a disaster scenario, and a clear mind is needed to navigate a solution. Once you and your team adopt a problem-solving attitude, you will be able to respond to the breach in a logical and organized way.


2. Do Not Pay a Ransom

Some cyber attackers will request a ransom, and it can be tempting to meet their demand to regain control of your servers. Often, attackers will set a low ransom demand to tempt businesses to pay it, offering a short-term solution to the immediate problem.

However, these types of attacks are often used to advertise the hacker's abilities so that they will be hired for more damaging attacks in the future. It is also extremely common for hackers to communicate and share the vulnerabilities in your defenses that they have discovered. If you pay their ransom, you may be leaving your business open for future attacks.

Instead, it is much more profitable in the long-term to hire an outside cyber security consultant to investigate and remedy the problem. (Learn more about the most important questions to ask a cyber security consultant.)


3. Form a Response Team

To address the damage caused by the cyber attack, you will need a capable and experienced response team. This team should largely be made up of IT staff members, either contracted or in-house, who will investigate the attack and work to resolve it.

You may also need to include HR professionals on this team if your employees have been impacted by the attack. In some cases, PR representatives will be helpful in determining the best way to explain the attack to your customers. Finally, you may need to include legal counsel since breaches can have a number of legal implications.


4. Use Your Backup Servers

If you have backup servers available and undamaged from the attack, have your response team switch to them immediately. The backup servers can keep your network functioning while your team is working to fix the issue.

If you do not have backup servers, avoid the temptation to switch off your main servers. While switching off the infected servers may seem to be a solution, it will not help fix the damage. Instead, leaving them 'on' will allow your response team to analyze evidence from the attack and use it to find a solution.


5. Isolate the Breach

Though your organization's IT environment will undeniably be impacted by the breach, it is imperative that you minimize the number of affected systems. To accomplish this, your response team will need to isolate where the breach occurred. Once the location is isolated, your team will be able to contain the problem more quickly and stop it from infecting other systems.

Unfortunately, once the location is isolated, often the compromised part of your network will need to be suspended. It is possible that you may need to temporarily suspend your entire network.

Once the breached portion has been suspended, your response team can test other portions of your network to see if they have been compromised as well. After isolating all affected systems, the response team start to investigate the breach.


6. Investigate & Manage

The effects of a data breach reach beyond your IT systems, and your response team needs to quickly identify and manage the damage. While the IT staff are investigating the source, effects, and actions that need to be taken to fix the damage to your IT, your non-IT response team members also need to mobilize rapidly. 

Upon investigation, you may find that the damage affects numerous portions of your organization. HR response team members will need to be address any impact on your employees. If your customers or the public were affected, PR staff will need to control the damage done to your reputation. The attack may even cause legal ramifications, and as such your business's lawyers may need to be involved.

Investigating the damages will allow you to start to manage the affected areas and thus, start to recover.


7. Document

As your response team is investigating the attack, ensure that they are documenting both their process and their findings. From this evidence, you will be able to ascertain the vulnerability that allowed the attack to be successful, and thus fortify it going forward.

Aside from aiding in strengthening your cyber security, documentation typically is useful when addressing regulatory and legal requirements, as well as managing public relations.


8. Contact Clients

The PR members on your response team need to reach out to all clients who have been impacted by the breach as soon as possible. For security purposes, your clients may need to change their passwords or PIN numbers if their private information was compromised.

Additionally, taking a reactive approach to informing your customers can massively damage your company's reputation. Your clients may see your business as dishonest if you notify them of a breach only AFTER they have already discovered that their information has been compromised. Instead if you inform your clients of the issue and assure them that you are in the process of remedying the situation, they will be more inclined to respect you for your honesty.


9. Prevent Future Attacks

While you are working to repair the damage from the present breach, you also need to ensure that your organization will not be compromised again. If your team is unable to effectively secure your organization's IT, you may need to partner with an outside cyber security company. 

Though cyber security companies may cost more than an in-house team, they are often more effective. Cyber security companies often have better access to state-of-the-art technology than in-house IT teams, and consequently will be better equipped to deal with ever adapting cyber threats. Outside consultants will also be able to provide a wider range of services, from security assessments to world class antivirus software, designed to keep your organization safe.

(Learn more about why to consider a managed security services provider.)


Preparing for a Cyber Attack

As cyber threats continue to rise, it is imperative that your business is well protected. Whether you've recently been attacked, or you want to ensure that you are ready when an attack comes, we can help.

Contact us today to test your current cyber security and fortify your organization against cyber attacks.

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