Staying Ahead of Data Breaches
As we become more connected in the digital age, data security becomes increasingly critical. For organizations around the world, the responsibility of protecting customer data by preventing a personal data breach has become a paramount concern, particularly when this data pertains to EU citizens. Previously known as the Data Protection Directive, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) puts stringent regulations on how organizations must handle the personal data of EU citizens, especially in the event of a data breach. Drawing from the $1.3B penalty Meta faced for noncompliance this year, we see the significant financial consequences tied to GDPR violations; rendering Europe, and possibly soon other EEA countries, passing data privacy laws that force any data controller to have implemented erasure protocol or safeguards against violations of the data protection law. This emphasizes the need to comprehend the key steps an organization handling EU citizens’ data should initiate if a data breach transpires:
Step 1: Identify and Confirm the Breach Notification
Before reacting, it is important to confirm that a data breach has actually occurred. An organization should have systems in place to detect data flow anomalies or suspicious activity from an IP address that might indicate a breach. Incorporating Dark Web monitoring as part of these systems can help detect breaches at the earliest time, as it can provide alerts when organization’s sensitive data surfaces online. Once an anomaly is detected, immediate actions must be taken to verify if the anomaly signifies a real data breach. A robust investigation involving your IT and cybersecurity teams can give an accurate determination.
Step 2: Contain and Mitigate the Breach
Once a breach has been identified, the primary goal is to contain it to prevent further data leaks. This involves securing your network, isolating affected systems, and removing any threats. Concurrently, it’s crucial to back up and preserve the system state for later analysis. As your organization continues with data processing it is advisable to implement a routine data protection impact assessment; which are great tool for negating risk and demonstrating GDPR compliance.
Step 3: Document and Analyze
Thoroughly document everything related to the breach: the nature of the breach, the type of data compromised, the number of affected individuals, and the steps taken to contain and mitigate it. Doing so will aid in any GDPR requirements you may need to report against. This documentation will be vital for internal reviews, regulatory reporting, and potentially for legal reasons.
Analyze the breach to understand how it happened and what vulnerabilities were exploited. This will be crucial in fortifying your defenses to prevent future breaches.
Step 4: Notify the Appropriate Regulatory Body
According to GDPR guidelines, organizations must notify the appropriate supervisory authority within 72 hours of becoming aware of a data breach that could result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals- which covers most breaches unless the data was sufficiently encrypted in a way that data subjects may not be identified. The report should contain the nature of the data breach, the categories and approximate number of individuals concerned, and the likely consequences.
The relevant authority varies by member state, so ensure you’re contacting the correct organization. If you operate across multiple EU member states, your lead supervisory authority is typically where your organization’s main establishment is.
Step 5: Notify Affected Individuals
If a data breach poses a high risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals, you must also inform those affected without undue delay. The notification should describe, in clear and plain language, the nature of the data breach, the name and contact details of your data protection officer (DPO) or another point of contact, the likely consequences, and the measures taken to address the breach.
Step 6: Review and Revise Data Protection Strategies
After handling the immediate concerns, an organization should take a step back and review their data protection strategies. Learn from the breach, strengthen your security, and train your staff accordingly. A third-party audit could provide valuable insight into your security measures’ effectiveness and identify potential areas for improvement.
While this post provides a general guideline, the specific steps can vary depending on the scope and nature of the breach. A well-prepared and practiced incident response plan, regular staff training, and robust cybersecurity measures can help you act quickly and efficiently.
Remember, the goal is not just compliance with GDPR but fostering trust and confidence among your customers and stakeholders that their data is safe with your organization. It’s not just about avoiding fines; it’s about upholding your commitment to protecting personal data.
The Best Strategy: Prevention
While it’s a necessity for organizations to understand how to respond to a breach in accordance with GDPR regulations, the best way for an organization to avoid issues with data privacy is to take steps to avoid ever experiencing a breach. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is especially true when dealing with European data; which has strict data protection laws. Making sure your DPAs (data processing agreements) are well-defined and understood by your data compliance team is a must.
Compromised credentials are the most common cause of data breaches. The alarming effectiveness of credential stuffing, where cybercriminals exploit these compromised credentials to gain unauthorized access, necessitates a vigilant, proactive stance from organizations. To this end, protecting credentials that protect your most valuable assets is a necessity for preventing a costly data breach and keeping your company GDPR compliant. At this point, if you are asking if you need to hire or talk with your Data Protection Officer (DPO); the answer is a loud, yes!
Josh is the Product Marketing Manager at Enzoic, where he leads the development and execution of strategies to bring innovative threat intelligence solutions to market. Outside of work, he can be found at the nearest bookstore or exploring the city’s local coffee scene.