Cybersecurity is riddled with overly technical terms that can leave Australian business owners with more questions than answers. However, the focus of this article isn’t about confusing security jargon. It’s about two terms that you’ve probably already heard of: security incidents and data breaches.

While both terms seem straightforward and tend to be used synonymously, there are slight differences between them. Knowing these distinctions is important because it dictates your company’s security response strategy.

How are security incidents and data breaches different?

A security incident refers to any event that violates an organisation’s systems, policies, and procedures. Information can be threatened when a security incident occurs, but some security incidents may not involve your data at all. There are cyberattacks solely designed to disrupt computers and servers, consume network resources, and ruin your company’s reputation. A hacker using your computer’s processing power to run cryptojacking malware, for example, would be classified as a security incident.

Meanwhile, data breaches are a type of security incident where unauthorised users gain access to sensitive information. So although all data breaches are security incidents, not all security incidents are data breaches.

Data breaches often stem from malicious threats like phishing, account hijacking, and malware attacks, but they can also be caused by employees. Some may abuse their access privileges to steal confidential information, while others can misplace documents or accidentally share classified data.

Another point of difference between data breaches and security incidents are the regulations. If your company suffers a breach, you must notify authorities like the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). You’ll also have to inform all individuals whose data were affected. By contrast, you only need to report security incidents to your managed IT services provider (MSP) for investigative purposes. Though for transparency’s sake, it may be in your best interest to release a public press statement about the incident.

Developing a response plan

Now that you know the differences between incidents and breaches, you must develop specialised security response plans. Here’s a basic outline for a response plan, but do keep in mind that some steps are specific to data breaches.

1. Identification and analysis
The first step is to detect the event and determine whether it’s a security incident or a data breach. To check if your security is at risk, ask your MSP to proactively monitor your systems. It’s also a good idea to check in on user accounts and ask your employees to report anything that seems suspicious. Additionally, you should stay up to date on security news that may affect your company.

Next, conduct a comprehensive security analysis to verify the nature of the event. If there’s any indication that personal information has been compromised, you’ll need to take extra precautions in the containment phase. Note that events involving malware, phishing, network intrusions, and strange account behaviour should be treated as if data has been breached.

2. Containment
Once you detect an incident or breach, your next priority is to prevent the issue from causing further damage. This means disconnecting all affected computers and mobile devices from the network, informing users of the threat, restricting access privileges, disabling accounts, and resetting all passwords.

In case of a data breach, don’t delete corrupted data just yet. Monitor affected systems, keep a record of compromised data, and log all suspicious actions taken prior to the breach. This information will be useful for investigating the threat and strengthening your security.

3. Eradication
After containment is eliminating the threat. Naturally, the processes in this phase will vary depending on what caused the incident or breach. You may have to use antivirus software to safely remove malware, strengthen network firewalls, or wipe lost or stolen devices. If ransomware has taken your data hostage, you’ll need reliable decryption software to regain access to your files.

Regardless of the threat, it’s important to clean all affected systems thoroughly to prevent cybercriminals from instigating a similar incident.

4. Recovery
The recovery phase involves getting your networks, systems, and devices back online. As for data breaches, you’ll need to restore clean copies of your files with your backups.

Keep in mind that a full recovery means your systems must be stronger than they were before the breach. You must install the latest firmware, software, and security patches to mitigate vulnerabilities. Also consider tightening access privileges, enabling two-factor authentication, or implementing stricter data sharing policies.

5. Breach notification
In the event of a data breach, it pays to have a clear communication strategy to promptly notify the OAIC and affected entities. When reporting to the OAIC, go to their page and give a detailed account of the incident. When alerting clients, the best way is often through email linking to a contact number or an FAQ page for more information. Make sure to explain how the data breach occurred, what data was compromised, and how you’ve resolved the issue.

6. Review
Cyber security is an ongoing process, so it’s vital to review the incident and evaluate how your company handled the crisis. If the recovery process is your biggest pain point, for instance, you may be overdue for cloud backup and patch management software upgrades. The review phase also pushes you to rethink your security training programs to reduce the likelihood of data breaches and security incidents.

As you can see, preparing your business from security incidents and data breaches is no small feat. It requires a lot of time and cyber security solutions to protect your company from potential threats, and that’s why you need Empower IT. As one of Australia’s leading managed IT services providers, we have the tools and expertise to prepare you for any security incident. Call us now to get started!


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