How to Deal with Hackers: Detection and Action

November 30, 2020
Cyber Incident Response

Cybersecurity attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent, and small and medium-sized businesses are particularly vulnerable. In fact, they account for 43% of all breaches annually. This makes it essential for businesses of all sizes to have proper cyber crisis management strategies in place to prevent, detect, and respond to data breaches.

Despite the increasing prevalence of cyberattacks, many businesses still lack an effective plan of action to deal with them. When (not if) your company falls victim to a data breach, it is crucial to act swiftly and effectively to minimize damage and prevent further attacks.

To help you navigate the complex process of detecting and responding to a cyberattack, we’ve put together a simple, step-by-step guide on how to deal with hackers. By following these steps, you’ll be better equipped to monitor and manage a data breach, protect your sensitive information, and safeguard your business from future attacks.

Signs You’ve Been Hacked

Detecting a data breach early is crucial to minimize the damage it can cause. Fortunately, there are several warning signs to look out for that can indicate your company has been hacked.

The most obvious signs are the appearance of ransomware messages or fake antivirus alerts on your company’s browsers. You may also notice that your internet searches are being redirected, or that you’re receiving frequent, random pop-ups and rogue mouse pointers.

Have you had a data or cyber breach?

However, these signs are just the tip of the iceberg. More serious indicators of a data breach include unusual network traffic patterns, a surge in requests for the same file, geographical irregularities, and unauthorized database extractions.

Unfortunately, relying solely on antimalware software is not enough to keep your company safe. It’s essential to educate your employees about online safety and implement proactive measures, such as system monitoring and network traffic detection.

What Happens When a Company Gets Hacked?

A cybersecurity breach can have a devastating impact on a business, affecting multiple areas of operation. One of the most significant consequences of a data breach is unplanned downtime, which can bring operations to a grinding halt. The duration of the downtime is usually determined by the severity of the breach. The longer it lasts, the more it will cost the business in terms of time and money. In some cases, a cybercriminal may even aim to cripple a business’s operations and hold it for ransom.

Additional effects of a breach include:

  • Financial Loss:

    A data breach can result in significant financial losses, both in terms of immediate expenses related to recovery and remediation, as well as long-term costs resulting from lost business opportunities and legal liabilities.
  • Regulatory Compliance:

    Depending on the industry and location, businesses may be subject to various data protection regulations and compliance requirements. A data breach can result in non-compliance penalties and regulatory fines.
  • Intellectual Property Theft:

    Cybercriminals may target a business's intellectual property, such as trade secrets, patents, and proprietary information. Intellectual property theft can have severe long-term consequences, including damage to the business's competitive advantage.
  • Employee Morale:

    A data breach can lead to low employee morale and loss of trust in the business's leadership. Employees may feel vulnerable and uncertain about their job security, especially if sensitive employee data has been compromised.

Even after recovery, a cyberattack can have long-lasting effects on a business’s reputation and trust. This is particularly concerning if the breach involves sensitive customer or client data. Losing the trust of customers and clients can be difficult to recover from and can lead to significant financial losses.

My Network has Been Hacked, Now What?

In the wake of an attack, here’s how to deal with hackers and security breaches:

  1. Establish an Incident Response Team
    While technically not a step you would undertake after the fact, proper planning is the key to knowing how to react when the worst happens. An incident response team will be your first responders when dealing with your business’s unique security breach.
  • An effective incident response plan can help organizations save significantly on the cost of a breach – paying up to 58% less than those that do not have a plan in place. Continue reading about how to implement an incident response plan in your organization.
  1. Confirm the Breach
    The first thing you should do is verify the attack. This involves identifying which systems have been compromised, determining which IP addresses were used in the attack, and confirming the type of attack your company is facing — whether a virus, malware, unauthorized remote access, or anything else. This information will be critical for identifying the scope of the incident and planning an appropriate response.
  2. Respond Immediately
    The statement “time is money” has never been more appropriate. You should notify all users of the network immediately to help stop the spread. Responding quickly is imperative to stop any further attacks and minimize the damage caused.
  3. Isolate and Investigate Affected Computers and Servers
    While the knee-jerk reaction may be to shut down all servers or networks, by doing so you could cause more damage and disrupt operations on an even larger scale. Instead, your incident response team should block the “infected” networks, identify and investigate the damage done, and check for backdoors which may give hackers future access to your system.
  4. Engage a Fraud and Forensics Team
    You must understand the extent of the breach and recover any lost assets. This team will conduct a detailed investigation of the breach and work to identify any vulnerabilities that need to be addressed to prevent further attacks.
  5. Clean and Restore Systems
    Prioritize the servers and networks you will clean and restore based on their level of importance. Once clean, be sure to re-install your most recent clean backup and change passwords for all impacted systems, including all company passwords.
  6. Take Preventive Measures
    Once the immediate crisis has been averted, it’s essential to take steps to prevent future attacks. Identifying and addressing the root cause of the breach is crucial, as is implementing measures to mitigate the risk of a similar incident occurring. Consider partnering with security professionals who can assess your security posture and make recommendations for improvement. Remember, prevention is key to avoiding future breaches.

What’s Next?

Experiencing a cyberattack can be a harrowing experience for any organization, but it’s important to handle the aftermath calmly and securely. Learning from the attack is the first step towards fortifying your defenses and preventing future breaches.

To effectively prevent, detect, and manage your security posture, it’s essential to establish a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that encompasses the following:

  • Prevention:

    Invest in security software, firewalls, intrusion detection, and other protective measures to prevent future attacks.
  • Detection:

    Utilize a combination of automated and manual detection tools to identify any signs of a potential breach as soon as possible.
  • Response:

    Establish a dedicated incident response team that can quickly and effectively contain the breach, isolate affected systems, and limit damage.
  • Recovery:

    Develop a comprehensive recovery plan that includes restoring data and systems, reconfiguring networks, and changing all passwords and access codes.
  • Monitoring:

    Regularly monitor network activity, audit logs, and user activity to detect any unusual patterns that may indicate a breach.

By implementing these measures, your organization will be better prepared to prevent, detect, and recover from cyberattacks. If a breach does occur, it’s important to remain calm, follow your incident response plan, and work to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future.

Work with Security Professionals You Can Trust

Protecting your business from cybersecurity threats is critical in today's environment. At Eide Bailly, we understand the importance of having a strong cybersecurity strategy in place. Our experienced team offers tailored solutions and services to help you detect and manage your cybersecurity risks.

We work with professionals at every level to provide insight and guidance so that you can feel confident that your data is protected. As your partner in the evolution of cybersecurity, we will help you implement best practices and respond to any incidents.

Don't let your business fall victim to cyberattacks. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help fortify your defenses and protect your business.

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