As the Target security breach illustrated, cyber-crime can result in devastating consequences for both retailer and customer, and for small businesses in particular responding to a breach fast can make or break your company’s survival. In fact, according to a study conducted by Gartner Research, 40% of small enterprises go out of businesses if operations are not up and running within the first 24 hours following a data loss crisis.

For companies of all sizes maintaining ‘business as usual’ following hacker attack or another security breach can be particularly difficult to achieve as the aftermath of financial loss and damaged reputation become a reality. Let me take you through the steps every business should take in the hours, days and weeks after a security breach, so you can protect your business should the worst happen.

Act Fast

When it comes to recovering from a security breach, one theme is apparent in every case study we have encountered – acting fast and taking precautions in regards to password changes is of utmost importance in the hours following the identification of a breach.

Any passwords used on the front and back end of your site, plus passwords utilised on web applications, must be changed immediately. If you use the same or similar passwords elsewhere across the Web, change these too in order to close all loopholes that could be additional points of entry for hackers and fraudsters.

Enforcing a password duration policy for both employees and customers is advisable, whether you are working to prevent an attack or facing recovery. In addition to this, refining your privacy and security settings in the weeks and months that follow will ensure you are taking all the precautions you can to protect customer accounts.

Identify & Remove Suspect Systems

Determining the source of the breach and closing any associated loopholes to prevent further attack is vital to the survival of your IT infrastructure.

Sourcing the systems and applications you can trust and which you cannot may require the assistance of an information security expert, who will carry out computer forensics to understand more about what and who compromised your network, Website or mobile devices.

Following a full investigation, you and your IT team can then take the necessary steps to remove and replace suspect systems and get your security strategy on the right track once again.


Communicating any security breaches to your customers and partners quickly ensures they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their sensitive data following data loss. Whilst the Target breach occurred at an unfortunate time of year, during the height of the Christmas shopping season, the company were heavily criticised for not alerting their customers fast enough.

Learn from Target’s mistake and minimise reputational damage in the process by communicating transparently with customers as soon as possible and advising them about what they should do next as a consumer. Brand loyalty is important to any business and can be the most difficult thing to recover following hacker attack, however, by confessing your misdemeanours and responding to customers’ queries promptly you can retain a part of this relationship before it’s lost.

Work On Your Preventative Strategy

In the weeks that follow, you should be focused on how to improve your security strategy and prevent incidents occurring in the future. Strengthening your strategy and upgrading to more secure business practice will reassure your customers that you are doing all you can to protect their data and in turn, become one step closer to rebuilding trust with your core demographic.

Enlisting services such as penetration testing, security auditing, malware analysis and source code review from an ethical hacking service will ensure you can deliver a service that is unwilling to compromise on its customers’ security and safety.