How to Recover from a Network Breach

April 16, 2019 Eric Dosal Eric Dosal

It is an unfortunate truth that no business network is completely immune to a data security breach. In fact, network breaches are an inevitability. Sooner or later, somebody is going to be skilled, persistent, or just plain lucky enough to find a way to circumvent your security systems and carry out a network hack.

This is not to say that cybersecurity measures aren’t worth the effort—far from it. Having multiple types of network security measures in place is crucial for minimizing risk and limiting the impact of a network breach. However, there is more to protecting your network than simply having strong security measures.

To help you deal with network hacking attempts, here’s a quick guide of what to do if your network is hacked:

Network Breach Recovery Starts with Preparation

The process for recovering from network breaches starts before the breaches do. Thoroughly preparing for a network security breach is key for being able to quickly recover from one. Some key preparations to make include:

  • Setting up a Remote Data Backup of Critical Information. Before an attack occurs, it’s essential to create a remote data backup of your organization’s most important information so local files can be restored following a network breach. This helps prevent data loss from breaches that damage or encrypt locally-stored files. It’s also an important part of a disaster recovery (DR) plan. Setting up the backup, naturally, requires the organization to categorize all of its data so the most important information can be preserved in an emergency. Trying to simply copy everything leads to bloat in the backup that slows down data copying and adds unnecessary expenses (because of the extra storage needed to hold everything vs only needing to budget for mission-critical data).

  • Creating an Incident Response Plan. An incident response plan (IRP) is the document that outlines what each person in the organization needs to do in response to a network breach. Having an IRP in place helps employees react more quickly and consistently to network hacks so the breach can be contained and eliminated faster. Part of setting up an incident response plan is distributing the plan to every employee in the organization and verifying that they understand and can meet the expectations laid out in the IRP document. This may require extra training sessions or meetings to go over the plan’s contents and explain how to use specific tools needed to identify, contain, and eliminate a network breach.

  • Setting up Intrusion Detection Systems. To be able to contain a network security breach and recover from it, you first need to know that the breach is occurring. Intrusion detection systems (IDSs) help to identify network breaches as they happen, generating alerts that allow the network security team to deal with the attack. Intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) take things a step further by automatically triggering network breach response measures that help contain the attack immediately. Security information and event management (SIEM) systems can help gather information about the network hacking attempt to reveal the methodology of the attack—which is useful for preventing future attacks.

What to Do If Your Network is Hacked

After setting the groundwork for your network breach response by creating a data backup, establishing an incident response plan, and adding various tools for detecting and investigating attacks, what’s next?

If you’re affected by a network breach, there are five key steps to the recovery process:

  1. Contain the Breach. Following the detection of a network breach, the most important thing to do is to contain and eliminate the breach. This means cutting off the attacker’s access to your system—which may involve isolating or even disabling the network assets that the attack has compromised. It’s only after the breach is contained that the recovery process can truly begin. Trying to recover from a breach before the attack is contained is like trying to shovel the sidewalk in the middle of a blizzard.

  2. Investigate the Network Breach. After the breach has been contained/eliminated, it’s important to investigate how the attack was carried out so you can apply fixes to whatever network security weaknesses the attack exploited. SIEM activity logs can be invaluable for this—though they tend to present a lot of unnecessary data that is difficult to sort through on top of the information about the attack.

  3. Restore the Network to Normal Functionality. Once you’ve verified that the network breach has been contained and that no further surprises are lurking in the network, the process of restoring the network to normal can begin. The specific steps you need to take to restore the network will vary depending on the nature of the attack—different types of data breaches will affect assets in different ways and may need different remediation methods. Additionally, the disaster recovery/business continuity plan you have in place may impact how you restore the network. If you have a remote, cloud-based replica of your primary production environment ready to be spun up on a moment’s notice, you may want to activate it while your primary production environment is taken offline for more extensive fixing.

  4. Notify Affected Parties. During the investigation into the data security breach, you should be able to identify whether any sensitive data was compromised by the attack. If so, it’s important to send out notifications to any affected parties as soon as possible—both to help these parties prevent fraud and to comply with data security breach notification laws. These notifications should be communicated using a variety of methods to minimize the risk of an affected party missing the alert (phone, text, email, regular mail, etc.). The authorities should also be notified of the breach for data security breach regulatory compliance reasons.

  5. Prepare for the Next Network Breach Attempt. Once the network has been restored to full functionality, it’s time to start applying fixes to whatever weaknesses the attacker exploited. In some cases, these fixes may be applied during the recovery process to minimize the risk of another attack. While applying fixes specific to the weaknesses revealed in the attack is important, it’s also important to check for additional vulnerabilities that may be exploited by future attacks. Here, running penetration tests can help. It can also help to review your current cybersecurity measures and policies to find obsolete or redundant network security measures that need to be replaced or updated.

Need help recovering from a network breach or preparing your network security to minimize risks? Reach out to the team at Compuquip for help and advice now.


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