Security breaches are a common occurrence, and no organization is immune, in the current digital era. Therefore, it is essential to have a plan of action in place in case of a security breach. Discovering a network has been hacked can be a daunting experience, but it is not the end of the game. With the increasing sophistication of cyber threats, the need for a comprehensive cybersecurity plan is more critical now than ever before. There is need to act fast and follow a systematic process to mitigate the damage and prevent any further compromise of network. This paper outlines the necessary steps one needs to take if they discover that their network has been hacked. Additionally, it also presents the top five best practices to the management team to minimize the risk of outside hackers infiltrating the network moving forward.
Steps we can take if we discover our network has been hacked
Immediately inform the IT department and all stakeholders
If a network is hacked, it is crucial to take immediate action to mitigate the damage and prevent any further compromise of sensitive information. The first step in responding to a hack is to immediately inform the IT department and all stakeholders who may be impacted. This will enable the IT team to gather critical information about the breach and start assessing the impact of the attack. By quickly notifying stakeholders, the organization can take steps to mitigate the damage, reduce the risk of any further compromise, and protect sensitive data (What to Do When Your Network Has Been Hacked: A Five Step Plan – Comport, 2019). Additionally, it is essential to establish a clear communication plan to keep stakeholders informed throughout the process.
Shut down the network, change passwords, and back up data
In the event of a network hack, it is important to take immediate action to minimize the damage and prevent further unauthorized access. It is important to shut down the affected network as soon as possible to prevent hackers from continuing their activities. Simultaneously, it is also necessary to change all passwords associated with the network, including those for user accounts, administrative privileges and third-party integrations. This ensures that hackers cannot use previously stolen credentials to continue to access the system. Backing up all data is also crucial, as it will ensure that we can restore any lost or damaged information that may result from the attack. It is important to maintain copies of files in secure off-site locations to minimize the risk of data loss.
Review logs to identify the source and nature of the attack
In the event that our network has been hacked, we need to take immediate action to identify the source and nature of the attack. One of the key steps in this process is to review logs. Logs are critical in determining the specifics of an attack, including time and date, affected systems, and types of attacks used. By reviewing the logs, we can determine the extent of the attack and create a plan to recover from it. In addition to reviewing logs, there are other steps we can take to minimize the risk of a cyberattack in the first place. Here are five best practices that we should implement:
Use firewalls and antivirus to protect the network from future attacks
After assessing the extent of the breach, we will implement several best practices with justifications to minimize the risk of similar attacks. Another important practice is to use firewalls and antivirus software to strengthen the network protection. Firewalls filter out unwanted traffic and limit access to network resources while antivirus software protects the devices in the network from malware and possible infections that could compromise the network security (Deshpande, 2022). By implementing firewalls and antivirus software, we can protect our network from the majority of external security breaches.
To minimize the risk of network attacks from outside hackers, it is crucial to establish and enforce robust security protocols. Here are five best practices that can help reduce the risk of network breaches:
1. Keep software up to date: Regular software updates can fix bugs and address security vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of a successful attack.
Best practices to minimize risks from outside hackers include keeping software up-to-date, using a firewall and intrusion detection system, maintaining a strong password policy, and regularly training employees on cybersecurity awareness. By keeping software constantly updated, we can reduce the likelihood of vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit (Bunker, 2020). Robust firewalls, combined with intrusion detection systems, can help prevent hackers from accessing the network. Implementing a strong password policy is essential to prevent brute force attacks. Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring users
2. Use strong passwords: Strong passwords that include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to our systems.
A strong password can be thought of as a barrier between the personal information and potential cyber attackers. Using passwords that are easily guessable, such as “password” or “123456”, makes it simple for attackers to gain access to our accounts. Therefore, using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols can make it more difficult for hackers to crack our passwords. It is also important to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, as this can make it easier for attackers to gain access to all of our accounts if they guess just one password. By using strong, unique passwords for each of our accounts, we can significantly improve our online security.
3. Implement multi-factor authentication: multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring an additional form of authentication, such as a text message or biometric scan, to access our systems.
Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a crucial step in securing our digital assets against potential cyber threats. With the rise of sophisticated hacking techniques, relying on just a single password for authentication is no longer sufficient (Shacklett & Contributor, 2021). MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring an additional form of authentication, such as a text message or biometric scan, before granting access to our systems. This means that even if an attacker manages to obtain our password, they would still need to provide the additional authentication factor, making it much more difficult for them to gain access. In addition to providing enhanced security, MFA is also becoming a standard requirement for compliance with various regulatory frameworks. For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires MFA for remote access to systems that store or process cardholder data. By implementing MFA, we are not only protecting ourselves from potential cyber-attacks but also ensuring that we are compliant with industry regulations stated Shacklett and Contributor (2021). Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize the implementation of MFA across our systems to ensure the security and compliance of our organization.
4. Limit user access: In order to minimize the risk of unauthorized access, we should limit user access based on job requirements and least.
Effectively limits user access; it is important to implement a least privilege access model. This means that users are given access only to the data and resources that they require to do their jobs, and nothing more (Lal et al., 2017). For example, an employee in the marketing department may only need access to marketing data, while an employee in the finance department may only need access to financial data. By implementing a least privilege access model, the risk of sensitive information being compromised due to unauthorized access is significantly reduced. In addition, it is important to regularly review and update user access permissions to ensure that employees have access only to the data and resources they need, and that those permissions are revoked when they are no longer needed.
5. Encrypt sensitive data: Data encryption can make it much more difficult for cybercriminals to access sensitive information.
Encryption works by scrambling the data using complex algorithms that convert the original text into a code that can only be deciphered with the appropriate key. The key is used to decrypt the code and return the original data to its readable form. The encryption key is usually only accessible to authorized individuals or systems, ensuring that only the intended recipients can access the data. With the increasing threat of cyber-attacks, data encryption has become a critical component of data protection (Bunker, 2020). Encrypting sensitive data is a simple but effective way of safeguarding the business or personal information from unauthorized access.
Bunker, G. (2020). Targeted cyber-attacks: how to mitigate the increasing risk. Network Security, 2020(1), 17–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1353-4858(20)30010-6
Deshpande, C. (2022, November 18). What Is Firewall: Types, How Does It Work, Advantages & Its Importance [Video]. Simplilearn.com. https://www.simplilearn.com/tutorials/cyber-security-tutorial/what-is-firewall
Lal, S., Taleb, T., & Dutta, A. (2017). NFV: Security Threats and Best Practices. IEEE Communications Magazine, 55(8), 211–217. https://doi.org/10.1109/mcom.2017.1600899
Shacklett, M. E., & Contributor, T. (2021). What is multifactor authentication and how does it work? Security. https://www.techtarget.com/searchsecurity/definition/multifactor-authentication-MFA
What To Do When Your Network Has Been Hacked: A Five Step Plan – Comport. (2019, September 5). Comport Technology Solutions. https://comport.com/resources/networking/what-to-do-when-your-network-has-been-hacked-a-five-step-planpost 2023-08-11 15:08:15