Stop and think for a moment about the amount of data in your life.
Consider how much you’ve accumulated in just a handful of years – digital photos, documents, reports, videos, and social media posts – and how much more you generate every day.
It’s staggering. We created more data in 2015 and 2016 than the previous 5,000 years of human civilisation. Experts predict we’ll have produced more in 2017 than 2016, 2015, and those same 5,000 years combined.
About 90% of the data online has been created in just the past two years, and we add 2.5 quintillion bytes every day (that’s apparently enough to fill 10 million blu-ray disks), including personal data, business data, and everything in between.
It’s almost impossible to wrap your head around it. On a typical day – in just a single minute – we generate:
- 456,000 tweets
- 3,607,080 searches on Google
- 46,740 posts on Instagram
- 527,760 photos are shared on Snapchat
- 15,220,700 text messages
- 510,000 comments, 293,000 status updates, and 136,000 photos shared on Facebook
- And more…
Worldwide, we send almost 270 billion emails daily. Everything you do, everything you look at, everything you share, upload, browse, navigate, research, or create online leaves at least a little data behind.
And when it comes to your business, you probably rely on the cloud for at least some of your professional needs: storage, document creation, digital signing, email, social media, digital marketing, tracking deliveries, client list, financial records, and a great deal more.
The cloud and digital tools can make your business leaner, faster, more innovative, less expensive, and more productive. But when your business data sits on the cloud – and not in the file cabinet beside your desk – what do you do if the unthinkable happens?
What do you do if your data goes missing or is breached?
Why You Should Care About Data Security
If you’re an entrepreneur, start-up, or a small-to-midsized business (SMB), you may have a few misconceptions about the cloud.
You may be living in denial, believing that your small operation isn’t worth the attention of a hacker or cybercriminal when they could go after the Amazons, Googles, Facebooks, and Walmarts of the world.
However, nearly 80% of SMB respondents in a recent survey reported that they either spend “nothing” or “very little” on cybersecurity. These numbers don’t add up.
If your business data is the new currency, isn’t it worth protecting it like you do your money and investments? A single hack can end up costing you between $82,200 and $256,000 (or more, depending on the scale of the breach and the type of data compromised).
Can you afford that? Security breaches in the payments industry, as one high profile example, cost about $445 billion annually according to the 2017 PwC Global Risks Report.
Small business owners have just as much to lose in terms of profits, reputation, and stability. The harsh reality? A full 60% of SMBs are out of business within 6 months of a cyberattack. You’ve got a lot more data that needs top-notch protection than you might be thinking:
Large-scale enterprises may have the big budgets and dedicated IT and/or cybersecurity personnel, but SMBs don’t have to be left exposed. There are tools and services that can make your digital existence and assets safer and more secure.
“It’s highly unlikely for SMBs to have a full time security staff or person, so their best bet is to outsource to things like Microsoft 365 for business applications or other cloud services.” ~Chris Weber, Co-founder of Casaba Security
Be aware. Use the best tools and third-party solutions that you can afford. And stay vigilant. Known vulnerabilities – such as weak passwords, unencrypted data, phishing scams – are still the leading cause of breaches and threats.
If they’re known, you can address them.
If they’re known and you ignore them, it’s a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’.
PS. There are things you can do now to prevent issues – check this guide out
When the Unthinkable Happens
Even if cybercrime is the last thing on your mind, you need to have a recovery plan in place that’ll help you mitigate losses, protect your customers, and shore up the leak.
Assign roles and responsibilities. Conduct drills. The time to practice and prepare is before the threat, not after it.
Your Recovery Plan
On average, it takes about 200 days from a successful security breach or theft to full recognition. Once discovered, you can’t afford any more delays in dealing with it. A recovery plan is absolutely crucial.
Take a look at the A-B-C-D Response; a recovery plan that’s beautiful in its simplicity and effectiveness. Any business – no matter how small – can take these steps to limit the damage of a cyber attack or breach, should the worst occur.
- When did it happen?
- Who are the victims?
- How will it affect them?
- What data was affected?
- How did it happen?
- What’s the worst-case impact?
- Once you’ve identified the type of attack and how it happened, immediately shore up that leak.
- Resist the kneejerk response of severing all connections and access points. It’s necessary to keep your business running.
- Depending on severity, you might also isolate highly sensitive or confidential data, scan and cleanse your entire system with a powerful anti-virus and malware tool, update affected software and applications, and initiate a new login procedure (have everyone immediately change their passwords).
- Slow down and collect as much data and evidence on the breach as possible.
- How long did it last?
- What devices or systems were affected?
- Time logs, access points, compromised login credentials.
- Capture a forensic image of affected systems with sanitised media. This is pivotal for later investigation and possible criminal charges against the perpetrator.
“Ideally, the victim of a cyberattack will make a forensic image of the affected computers as soon as the incident is detected. Doing so preserves a record of the system for analysis and potentially for use as evidence at a trial. Restrict access to these materials in order to maintain the integrity of the copy’s authenticity. Safeguard these materials from unidentified malicious insiders and establish a chain of custody.” ~Ed McAndrew and Anthony Di Bello, How to prepare for and respond to a cyber attack
- Notify all impacted parties: your customers, your suppliers, your partners, your branches, your employees, and any relevant governing bodies or associations.
- It’s impossible to keep anything under wraps for long in the 21st century, and a little bit of bad press and backlash is much better than the stronger, more severe stuff that follows an exposed cover-up. Yahoo, Equifax, and Talk Talk are three examples of companies that tried to hide a breach with disastrous results.
- How to do it correctly? Kmart notified customers and government agencies within days of discovering a massive security breach of their system in 2015.
- Keep a detailed record of your response and steps taken following the incident. Share it with affected parties.
If possible – and if you can afford it – it’s a good idea to hire a digital forensic investigator to perform a detailed examination of what happened and how. While you’re at it, if you have room in the budget, dedicated cybersecurity personnel can end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.
According to IBM, having an incident response team can save you an average of $19 per record, and $457,691 per breach. More widespread use of powerful encryption can save $16 per record and $385,000 per breach, and participating in threat sharing saves up to $8 per record and $193,000 per breach.
Most experts highly recommend creating a security incident playbooks to guide your efforts and increase both their speed and efficiency. What are your key threat areas? What risks exist, and where?
For example: how much would your client list be worth to a competitor? What would happen if you lost it? Where is it stored: in an isolated system, multiple employee digital folders, onsite, or in the cloud? Do employees have access to it? Do they share or send it by means of unsecured systems like web email?
You need to ask questions and find answers.
Examine, analyse, and consider every digital asset you have. Create a playbook for each asset – or at least the most valuable like customer lists, employee details, payroll, and so forth – and keep it somewhere that everyone has access to it.
Stay Safe with Cloud-Based Redundancies
Phishing attacks, spear-phishing attacks, network probes, brute-force, drive-by download, DDoS, advanced persistent threat attacks, and ransomware are some of the biggest and most common threats facing enterprise, midsized, and small businesses today.
Ransomware is spiking. The global and far-reaching attacks in May and June of 2017 were a wake-up call for many countries, businesses, and individuals.
If you’ve got valuable digital assets stored locally on a particular computer, you’re vulnerable. If your “office” computer was locked and encrypted, what could you do besides pay the ransom and hope the hackers release your device?
But if your crucial digital assets are backed up and/or synced to the cloud, you’ve got more options. Your data is recoverable because it’s stored safely with a system like Microsoft Business 365.
Ultimately, keep the following wisdom from Lincoln Kaffenberger, U.S. Army and the National Security Agency in mind: “There are two kinds of organizations: those who have been hacked, and those who will be.”
So what do you do when the unthinkable happens? You actively work to prevent it, but you also plan for when it happens so that you can recover as quickly as possible.