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Data threats are bad news. They can stop your business and project operations, expose proprietary data, harm your client’s public image, and compromise the trust of your client’s customers, all of which impact your reputation and your bottom line.
As more people switched to a work-from-home set up in 2020, cybercrime also increased. Data shows that cloud storage data leaks increased by 150% due to remote work. There were also more cyberattacks in the first half of 2020 than in 2019.
Let’s talk about what you can do if your client is hacked, how you can prevent it from happening, and how to stop it from causing irreversible damage.
Common Data Security Threats
Below are ways your client can have their data compromised.
Malware: Short for malicious software, malware is an umbrella term for any piece of software that’s designed to steal, destroy, or disrupt files or access to computer systems. Examples of malware are ransomware and other virus-carrying software.
Ransomware: Ransomware is named because it’s designed to hold access to a computer system hostage until the user pays a sum of money.
Phishing Attacks: Disguised as helpful emails or messages, phishing attacks are created to trick a reader into sharing sensitive information such as security codes, passwords, etc.
Data Breach: A data breach happens when an unauthorized person gains access to data from a computer system or network.
Scams: Taking on various forms, such as email, text, and calls, scammers make customers believe they will receive certain benefits if they follow instructions from the scammer. These procedures are designed for compromising sensitive information from the customer or outright getting them to send cash to the scammers.
Website Spoofing: Website spoofing creates duplicates of a reliable website to trick users into entering sensitive information.
What to Do When Your Client is Hacked
Contact key personnel for assistance
In a world where so much information is stored in networks and computers, data security breaches should be considered massive emergencies. And as with any emergency, it’s important to contact authorities who can assist in addressing the situation and mitigate its damage.
Even before a hack happens, it’s ideal that your client already has someone on staff or an external partner they can contact in case data security issues happen. Next, contact your client’s cyber risk insurance agent if they have one, and if your client’s government has policies against cybercrime, consult on whether you can take legal action.
Investigate and isolate
Once the data security professionals are in, they’ll have to gather information about the malware and the incident and stop further damage from being done. They can do this through investigation and isolation.
The first order of business would be to determine where the attack came from and cut the cybercriminal’s access to the company’s network.
Next is to survey the damage and isolate any unaffected endpoints. How many files or machines were infected? What networks were compromised? The compromised parts need to be segmented from the ones that are still safe.
Documentation is a vital procedure alongside these steps. Recording steps taken can help in backtracking and evaluation.
Notify key stakeholders
In 2021, Facebook received backlash for its 2021 data breach for not informing the 530 affected users. While it can be a press nightmare to share this type of information, failing to do so and risking their customers’ trust can be more harmful to your client’s business.
Aside from their customers, advise them to inform their leadership and management teams. If they break the news first, they’ll have the capacity to manage the narrative. Allowing the leadership teams to hear it from a different party can make them seem dishonest and potentially make the damage seem bigger than it was.
Communicating a crisis should be handled with tact. If you can, assist your client in planning their approach and encourage them to do it as soon as possible.
Once the data security professionals have ensured the threat has been neutralized, they will now need to help your client resume operations. Remediation needs to be done quickly because more time lost will affect your client’s productivity and your project.
As a project manager, your role at this point would be to cooperate and encourage the team to do the same.
Evaluate incident response plan
Data breaches aren’t welcome incidents. However, it’s also a good opportunity to evaluate and improve your client’s incident response plan.
Evaluate the steps taken after the hacking happened. Which parts of the incident response plan worked? What did not work? How can it be improved? Were all important pieces of the information present?
Take advantage of the time when stakeholders are extra collaborative because of the recent incident, and use the information you gathered to improve your response in case it happens again.
Preventive Measures for Hacking
Knowing what to do in case your client gets hacked is essential. However, incidents like this can use up a massive amount of resources. The best plan is to not get hacked in the first place. While hackers and their methods are evolving faster than security providers can respond, there are several important steps you should take to lessen the chances you — or your clients — will be exposed to the time and expense involved in a hacking incident.
Study your client’s incident response plan
Ask if your client has an incident response plan, and encourage them to make one if they don’t yet. If they already have one, check if it has all the important pieces of information: steps to take, important point persons, information and how to contact them, etc. Also, check where the incident response plan is located. If it’s a digital file, how will it be accessed in case of a data breach? Would it be possible to print a physical copy as well?
Arm yourself with the knowledge of what to do when a data breach occurs. This will enable you to respond promptly and lead your team to do the same.
Deploy data security measures
Data security measures are simple yet significant ways to avoid a data breach. Examples of these measures are password hygiene, observing data privacy requirements, backing up your data, and educating teams and stakeholders about the importance of data security.
Especially if your client stores many of its important files and programs in computer networks, ingraining these habits into their standard operating procedures can do wonders in increasing their protection against cybercrime.
Stay Informed and Prepared
Data breaches can have massive effects on your client’s business and project operations. When you spot a data breach, immediately take action using your client’s incident response plan as a guide. This will help you mitigate its effects on your project and their business.
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Hannah Donato is a SaaS freelance writer for project management and productivity. Her works help SaaS brands become more relatable with actionable tips and relevant stories. Currently, she’s also an events manager and brand coordinator for a game development company in the Philippines, with four years of experience as a producer for games on multiple platforms.