Are You Prepared to Handle a Security Breach?

Nancy Anderson
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Thanks to recent high-profile incidents at retailers such as Target and Home Depot, consumers have developed a keen awareness of security breaches. For businesses, the continuing attacks highlight the importance of data security. By preparing your company, you can maintain customer confidence and minimize losses in the event of a breach.

Businesses that depend on technology for client records, payments and financial accounting are at an increased risk for hacker attacks. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, security breaches are inevitable — particularly for small businesses with weak defense systems. With that in mind, strengthening your defenses and planning a response can help save money and frustration in the long run.

Employee Training

Employee training is one of the most important steps in preventing and handling security breaches. Preventative training helps employees understand how their actions impact data security at the company, so they can be more vigilant. It should cover topics such as phishing emails, logging in to work accounts from unsecured Wi-Fi networks and avoiding personal accounts on work computers. Training for the IT department might cover security configurations, authentication systems and firewalls. The training should also help employees understand how to interpret company policies and teach them how to test the existing security procedures.

Response training, which teaches employees what to do in the case of a breach, is equally important. This might include backing up data, shutting down server access or taking your entire system offline. Consult with a security expert to determine the best actions for your company. A clear-cut procedure helps employees respond quickly, thereby stemming the effects of the attack.


During a data crisis, communication can help manage the chaos and fear. After the high-profile breaches at Target and Home Depot, customers expected a fast response. To respond effectively and limit losses, your company must have a plan in place that alerts employees and customers about security breaches. The first communication tier should involve executives and crucial IT professionals; the second tier should include all employees. Once the internal situation is under control, the company must communicate the problem to customers and explain the actions they can take to limit damage.

Customer Care

When the initial crisis has passed, your company focus must turn to customer care. As you are analyzing company readiness, consider your plan to assist customers. Will you provide financial assistance or free credit monitoring? Do you have dedicated employees to tend to worried customers? By setting up these procedures in advance, you can activate them quickly and help customers mitigate the damages. Security breaches can be public relations nightmares, and a strong customer care program can help put you in a more positive light.


After a data breach, it is important to find and eradicate the weaknesses in your system. In most cases, this requires collaboration with your IT team, the security product manufacturer and law enforcement. Keep a file that contains all important names and numbers for each of these groups. In the event of a crisis, you don't want to waste time hunting for the numbers.

Handling security breaches is never an easy task. With the appropriate training and response plan, you can prepare your employees to react quickly and stop the breach before it does serious damage.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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