What happens if your company suffers a data leak?

words Alexa Wang

company data leak

Suffering a data leak can be crushingly challenging for a company. It is a major shock to the system for everyone involved and can make you question everything – even the core structure of your business.

This level of earth-shaking impact can cause catastrophic damage to various parts of your organization. Some of this damage will be immediate and excruciatingly painful, and other issues will lie dormant for months or even years, waiting to rear their ugly heads.

The most fundamental problem with data leaks is not the information itself being publicized; it is the loss of trust from your customers and even your staff. 

It takes a lot of trust and goodwill for a customer to willingly hand over their private information. When this trust is then broken by a data leak – with the business clearly being unfit to handle and store that data – it is likely that the customer’s faith in you has been lost forever. 

Furthermore, the future reputational integrity of your business rests upon your response to the situation. If you panic and fail to deal with the situation quickly, your brand image will further tarnish.

However, if you show authority in your decisions and contrition to your customers, you may stand a good chance of recovery.

This is what you need to do if you suffer a data leak:

Notify employees and any affected third parties

If you discover that you have suffered from a data leak, then the first action is to notify any affected people. Although it might be tempting to hold off, cover up the leak and deal with it internally, you can’t leave customers or contractors in the dark if their information has been compromised. 

However, it is this transparency that could win you back some favor from your customers. If you are seen as completely honest and apologetic about the leak, they may forgive you in the long run. 

This does not mean you have to make a public statement immediately- only to notify any third parties. Having press attention is the last thing you need in a situation like this.

If you want to learn more about data leaks, visit Proofpoint.

Secure any vulnerable data

Next, you need to make sure that any vulnerable data has been secured. Leaving the loophole open will risk the chance of more data being leaked, so you need to identify it and close off the security breach immediately.

Of course, this might not be the work of a moment, so you should be sure to remove any sensitive data from your system and store it securely while you patch up the issue.

Find out how it happened 

This is the part that is most disturbing in many instances. 

Data leaks can happen for several reasons – whether it is a glitch in your security, an employee unwittingly sharing it with an external third party, or a hacker purposefully breaking down your firewalls to steal the information.

However, arguably the most horrible reason of all is a malicious party acting within your organization. If you have a disgruntled employee, a whistle-blower, or a mole working for another company, you need to identify them as quickly as possible. 

This could affect your business again in the future, so don’t be afraid to act boldly.

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