Cyberattacks have become an increasingly prominent threat to all businesses, regardless of size. Unfortunately, there are so many potential attack vectors for cybercriminals — from poor passwords to phishing to physical access — that it can be difficult to know exactly how the hack happened.
Although companies will immediately feel the consequences of a data breach, understanding how and when a hack occurred and how to address it usually requires an investigation.
How To Investigate A Cyberattack
These investigations usually take a lot of time and resources, and companies that have never been targeted before might need to learn how to conduct them. Here are a few tips businesses could use to investigate a cyberattack.
Identify the Cyberattack
Companies relying heavily on digital tools must create a cyber incident plan. It should include comprehensive guidelines on what administrators should do during a data breach, including how to respond once one occurs.
Part of taking measures to prepare for a cyberattack is identifying a baseline for all computer systems. This baseline is the metric that determines when computer systems are running normally. Hacks leave traces in the system, and a baseline can recognize an attack by finding anomalies.
It can be challenging for company staff to identify when a data breach has occurred by themselves. Cyberattacks destabilize the computer’s system at the coded level — beyond the usual scope of what a human can access. Automated threat detection programs can send warnings to administrators when they detect malicious activity.
Conduct an Initial Investigation
Administrators should conduct a preliminary investigation after detecting a data breach. This investigation should include all systems and services that may have been affected by the cyberattack to grasp the full scope of the situation.
Identifying what systems were affected, if a hacker stole data from the company, and what kind is essential in determining what parts of the business were compromised.
Companies dealing with clients’ accounts could lose them to hackers if they steal an agent’s access. Cybercriminals that use ransomware to hijack the system may affect the code.
Take Immediate Action
Once the areas affected by the cyberattack are known, the company should immediately isolate the affected systems so the attack does not spread. It should also preserve evidence so security professionals can analyze it.
Administrators should interview employees involved when the breach occurred to gain as much information as possible. Understanding how the attack happened will be important moving forward. Was it the fault of a staff member or a security vulnerability?
Once the company has collected the relevant information, it should contact its cybersecurity team or law enforcement. Businesses that handle sensitive information for clients or business partners should notify them and any other parties of the data breach.
Draft a Cyberattack Report
After the investigation, the company might have to issue a report to law enforcement and all relevant parties. This report should detail the breach and the investigation — including how it occurred, also when its effects were noticed, and what kind of data was stolen.
Companies that have suffered a data breach may need legal assistance to determine the requirements they must meet in the report. Affected parties can ask for detailed data and intellectual property status information.
Drafting a cyberattack report provides a good opportunity for a company to review its cybersecurity. The data collected from the investigation should set a new standard of security measures and practices.
Investigating Cyberattacks Is Critical
Investigating and reporting on data breaches is crucial for a business in the digital age. Law enforcement and clients must know what kind of data was stolen during an attack — especially if it was theirs.
Conducting a thorough investigation will reduce the time authorities take in their inquiries — allowing businesses to get back to regular operations more quickly.