Navigating Through Data Breaches: Guidance from a Seasoned Practitioner on Data Breach Handling and Prevention

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October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, focusing on the theme of staying safe online in both personal and work life. During this time, organizations worldwide engage in initiatives to educate employees and the general public on best practices for online safety.

October also prompts us to reflect on the current state of cybersecurity and evaluate what we can do as individuals to safeguard ourselves and our information in an ever-evolving digital landscape. With the advancement of technology, cyber threats are becoming more frequent and complex, underscoring the importance of vigilance when accessing the internet.

In a world where data breaches pose a constant threat to businesses, understanding how to handle and prevent them is crucial. In this insightful interview, we delve into the expertise of Ciarán Johnson, Chief Information Security Officer at acre security.

The conversation explores the primary causes of data breaches, effective prevention strategies, the role of technology, and the implications of recent data protection regulations. It also emphasizes the significance of employee education and offers actionable advice for companies striving to enhance their data security. Read on to empower your company against the ever-present risk of data breaches.

1. Can you briefly describe your background and expertise in handling and preventing data breaches?

With over 30 years of experience safeguarding organizations from data breaches, I am a passionate advocate for security, risk, and data protection. I have developed practical solutions to address unique client challenges. My collaborations span private and public sectors, bolstering information security and data protection efforts. I prioritize efficiency and risk minimization, I believe in the energy of the employees to build strong defenses for our data, our customers’ data and our employees. I have built efficient tailored approaches to risk management, ISO 27001 certified Information Security Management Systems (ISMS), created Privacy Information Management Systems (PIMS) assessments, Data Protection programs, ISO 27701 evaluations, numerous educational entertaining table-top exercises, and workshops. I believe my track record has helped me develop the skills and knowledge to effectively handle and prevent data breaches.

2. In your experience, what are the most common causes of data breaches that businesses should be aware of?

The most common causes typically fall into three categories: insider threats, physical theft, and external attacks. Insider threats can be unintentional, such as an employee inadvertently clicking on a phishing link, or malicious, such as an employee leaking data. Physical theft usually involves stealing devices with sensitive data or accessing sites to cause damage or steal equipment. External attacks often exploit software vulnerabilities or use social engineering.

3. What are the immediate steps a company should take when they become aware of a data breach?

Once a data breach has been identified the company should take the following steps: 

  1. Isolate and contain the breach
  2. Notify the appropriate individuals in your organization - data breaches require careful handling to minimize the risk, so always advise your Data Protection or Information Security team/individual. They will then help with the investigation
  3. Gather evidence – it is vital that evidence is gathered and a log of all actions is started. 

The steps from there may involve: notifying your local Data Protection Authority (if you are a Data Controller) and notifying your customer if you are a Data Processor), advising affected parties in accordance with applicable laws, and implementing necessary measures to prevent a repeat occurrence.

4. Can you share some strategies businesses can implement to prevent data breaches?

Businesses can implement a multi-layered security approach that includes constant network monitoring, regular software updates and patches, strong password policies, encrypted data storage and transmission, and regular cybersecurity audits. 

5. What role does technology play in preventing data breaches and how can businesses leverage it effectively?

Technology is a critical tool in data breach prevention. It can automate the process of detecting and mitigating threats, enhance encryption, and aid in secure data storage and transmission. However, businesses must ensure that they are utilizing the right tools, in the right places in the data flow, and that these tools are configured and updated properly.

6. How important is employee education in preventing data breaches and how can it be effectively implemented?

Organizations should invest in their people – provide data breach awareness to all in your organization, identify those that require specific training like the Development Team, or the Facilities Team, and finally educate the specialists who will handle the data breach such as your Data Protection person or your Information Security Officer. Having a strong SETA (Security, Education, Training, and Awareness) program is a key strategy.

7. What services does acre security offer to help businesses prevent data breaches and enhance their cybersecurity?

Acre security offers top-notch cybersecurity solutions to businesses, helping prevent data breaches. We’ve got you covered with network monitoring. At acre security we are a global provider of security systems and solutions. We offer a range of products and services related to access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance, and more. Our portfolio includes well-known brands like TDS, Vanderbilt, ComNet, Feenics, and Open Options., to name a few. We focus on delivering integrated security solutions to businesses and organizations that prevent access to areas where organizations data may be processed. 

8. How do you foresee the future of data protection and what steps should businesses take to stay ahead?

The future of data protection lies in adopting a proactive rather than reactive approach. This involves continuously staying up-to-date with the latest threats, investing in cutting-edge security technologies, and fostering a company-wide culture of security. Businesses should also be prepared to comply with emerging data protection regulations.

9. Finally, what is one piece of advice you would give to companies to enhance their data security?

The one piece of advice I would give is: never to underestimate the human element. All your technical defenses will be enhanced with a community of security-aware employees. Therefore, in addition to investing in technology, companies should prioritize employee education and cultivate a strong culture of cybersecurity awareness.

Cybersecurity should be a top priority to prevent attacks that may lead to data breaches, like phishing or false authentication, and handle threats. Surprisingly, more than 90% of cybersecurity incidents occur not because of IT infrastructure weaknesses, like weak firewall policies, but due to a lack of employee awareness. It's all about people making uninformed decisions in their daily activities, which can lead to security incidents. Think Security – Act Securely

Ciaran Johnson, CISO, acre security



About Ciarán Johnson

Ciaran Johnson, Information Security Officer, acre security-1With over 30 years of expertise in information governance, encompassing security, data protection, and risk management, Ciarán has consistently demonstrated an unwavering dedication to ensuring data security and compliance across diverse industries.

Ciarán brings a wealth of experience from various domains to augment our acre security ISMS. Currently, he is driving the program to obtain formal ISO 27001:2022 certification for our cloud-based services. His exceptional ability to establish and nurture relationships at all organizational levels, as well as with external stakeholders, has proven invaluable in navigating complex problem areas and consistently delivering on commitments.

About acre security

Acre Security is a highly esteemed provider renowned for delivering cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions. Our extensive range of services encompasses network monitoring, vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, and incident response. With a team of seasoned professionals and state-of-the-art technologies, we adeptly identify and neutralize potential threats. 

Need an extra dose? acre security offers comprehensive training programs to enhance employee cybersecurity awareness and minimize the risk of human error. Our expertise extends to providing regulatory compliance services, and ensuring businesses' adherence to evolving data protection laws. Acre security's holistic approach to cybersecurity positions us as the preferred partner for businesses seeking to fortify their data security.

Don't leave your data security to chance, contact us today!

Tag icon Cybersecurity,  Thought Leadership,  Interviews