Imagine the following worst-case scenario: your company has taken the right steps to protect its employees, customers and data from cyber-attacks, and yet a ransomware attack still occurred. Now what? It happens; no company is fully safe from today’s rising cases of cyber-attacks and data breaches. Even with the most secure platforms, hackers may find discerning ways to infiltrate the system. How a company reacts in the first few hours and days following a cyber-attack is crucial.

First Step: Recognizing the signs of a data breach

Employees must be educated and empowered to immediately inform their IT department if they suspect a ransomware attack has occurred. Employees may feel guilty and embarrassed if they believe they are at fault of letting a data breach happen. However, if the threat is not addressed immediately, the consequences could be more severe. The best way to damage control is to respond to a security threat immediately. Signs of a data breach include but are not limited to:

  •         Locked accounts or changed user credentials

  •         Missing funds or assets

  •         New suspicious or unknown files

  •         Reduced Internet speed.

Next: Determine and isolate the systems impacted.

Early on, only a few computers may be affected in the attack. In this case, it is crucial to disconnect the affected hardware from the system. The network should then be taken entirely offline. If the network cannot be taken offline, all devices should be powered down. It is important to however note that in that case you may lose some evidence of the attack which would be beneficial for the authorities. Best course of action is therefore to take the entire network offline at the switch level. Once damage control is done, the company may begin restoring critically important systems based on priority level.

Final Steps: Engage the right stakeholders

Depending on where your company is located, you may want to contact the FBI or the police once the first step is complete and the affected systems are isolated. It is important for your IT department to identify what information the hackers may have infiltrated for the authorities to try to salvage the situation accordingly. If the hackers ask for a ransom, do not attempt paying them right away but rather let the professionals handle it. Majority of the time, even if a ransom is paid, data has already been stolen or compromised. The next relevant stakeholders to contact would include managed security service providers, your cyber insurance company, and the board of directors and other developmental leaders.

Lastly, your company will need to find a proper way to disclose its data breach to either the public or simply just the affected customers; this will depend on the impact of the attack and how many potential customers’ data was affected. Your communication department can handle this appropriately. Customers whose data has been compromised need to be informed right away. Although loss of trust from customers is a serious consequence of ransomware attacks, if handled appropriately, it is possible for a business to rebuild itself and regain trust from the public.


By: Joanna Ambros, MBA