Data breach response plan: how to create one for an SME

Today’s cyber threats are like mosquitos that buzz in the night – we hear them, but we might not see them until we turn on the light and they’re in front of our faces. By that time, the damage has already been done; it can be devastating for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Unfortunately, it’s the reality we’re living in. Reportedly, across the world, “108.9 million accounts” were the victims of data breaches in 2022’s third quarter. Fortunately, there are steps that all SMEs can take to prevent data breaches and respond quickly when a cyber security breach does occur. We’re talking about the ol’ trusty data breach response plan.

What is a data breach response plan (DBRP)?

A DBRP is a plan for handling a data breach. It outlines steps to take, such as reporting the breach, assessing damages, restoring sensitive data, and protecting data to reduce the chances of another incident.

It’s a crucial security measure for any company that wants to safeguard information – which should be everyone, FYI – and uphold gold medal standards of data privacy and risk mitigation. And while it may seem overwhelming at first, it’s a necessary tool to have in place. After all, there’s nothing better than safe environments and safer customer data!

What can a DBRP help protect SMEs from?

Cyber risks… cyber risks everywhere. According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), 63% of data breaches were caused by malicious entities or cyber-attacks in the first half of 2022. And that’s only part of the equation! Security systems can also be breached through human error, a fact we can’t turn a blind eye to anymore.

An effective DBRP can help protect our organisations from the consequences of successful breaches, such as:

Our data is the information customers give us about themselves, like names, contact details, and financial information. If this data is leaked, it can hurt our businesses and force them to close.

How to create a DBRP in 5 steps

Developing security operations is a lot like constructing a building. No architect or builder would ever throw a few bricks and nails together and call it a day. They would sit down and figure out exactly what they wanted their building to look like and how it would function.

A DBRP is no different. While they’re unique, the steps that go into making one are pretty standard across the board.

1. Create a DBRP security team

They can go by whatever name we want – the DBRP team, the data protection solution squad, the Justice League – we just need them to be responsive and dynamic. The security team should include representatives from IT, legal, HR, c-suite executives, and more. 

Members should have an understanding of the company’s data protection policies and procedures, be able to act calmly and decisively in the event of an incident, and have a clear role. The team should have regular meetings and training sessions to keep up to date on new threats, risks, and developments.

2. Consider threats and countermeasures

Have the DBRP team investigate the organisation’s security posture by reviewing current practices and security tools. This can include a review of access controls, mobile devices and other infrastructure, data classification and encryption, the quality of employee training, the company’s overall attitude toward cyber security (the basis of any healthy security culture), and the specific programs and devices the business uses to keep its services operational.

They should also research cyber security trends and threats. At this stage, we want to be able to identify every weakness and have a security solution to solve it. 

3. Plan out procedures

Clearly defined strategies should cover how the company will contain the breach. Different incidents may call for different responses. A DBRP should encompass all the hypotheticals that affect our businesses and organise the information in ways that promote quick access and easy perusal.

These procedures need to include:

The strategies outlined in a DBRP will need to be communicated to the entire company to ensure everyone is ready for action.

4. Test the DBRP

Testing the DBRP can help us identify any gaps or weaknesses in our security strategies and provide opportunities to make changes before the plan is officially rolled out. Testing the plan and sharing the results also helps to attain employee buy-in, making the DBRP a truly inclusive solution that’s not just for a specific demographic.

5. Update the plan

The DBRP is like a bottle of milk. Eventually, it’ll spoil and become irrelevant. Once the data breach plan is instated, it needs to be revised whenever the business experiences technological changes or operational shakeups.

It’s important to update data breach response plans regularly in order to keep everyone prepared for threats. It guarantees that our networks and security measures are more in sync than a marching band.

Cyber security services for SMEs across Australia

A DBRP is an essential document for SMEs to develop. It outlines the steps that need to be taken to effectively manage and resolve data breach incidents, as well as provide guidance on how to remain compliant with the law and industry regulations.

The cyber security services at Atarix offer enterprise data security measures for SMEs in Australia. With an Atarix cyber security expert on speed dial, SMEs can access the expertise of data breach professionals who can help them develop DBRPs that strengthen data security posture, reduce risks, and keep sensitive information out of malicious hands.