The increasing worry about online attacks is tough to overlook in the smooth blend of technology into our work and personal lives. Whether you’re managing a big company or a small business, we all must deal with the danger of a cyber attack event. While the media often emphasizes security breaches, the consequences—especially the complex process and expenses of recovering lost data—seldom receive attention. Follow along in this blog series as we uncover the layers of recovery after a cyber attack, examining disruptions, financial consequences, and the significant effects on a company’s image and standing. In part two, our focus turns to another crucial aspect of the aftermath: the influence on an organization’s image and reputation.
Brand and Reputation
An organization’s brand and reputation are a fragile ecosystem, built over years of hard work and vast investments. One cyber attack can obliterate this hard work in a matter of minutes, leading to:
Customer Trust Erosion:
- Data Breach Fallout: Customers may lose faith in a business’s ability to protect their sensitive information, leading to customer attrition.
- Negative Media Coverage: Public exposure can amplify the negative impacts caused by an attack, further eroding public and market trust.
- Brand Depreciation: Once an organization’s reputation is tarnished, the overall value diminishes in the market, even after recovery. Potential customers, partners, and investors may avoid associating with the brand to save their own integrity.
- Loss of Credibility: Loss of credibility spans across customer outrage, internal confusion, and public exposure from a cyber attack.
Recovering from a cyber attack is a long road that requires strategic planning, a tactical team of experts to work through the technological, operational, communication, and legal efforts needed to recover. There are 4 waves of strategy in the recovery process:
- Assess the Situation: When this first step begins, there is a forensic style analysis that takes place to understand the methods the attackers used and identify all vulnerabilities.
- Tactical Response: Taking immediate action post situation evaluation, the team will rapidly gauge the scope of the attack, contain the breach, and prevent further damage.
- Restoration and Recovery: Diligence is key to rebuilding compromised systems, networks, and databases. Normal operations cannot continue until these elements are reconstructed appropriately. Also, the retrieval of lost or stolen data will be achieved through backups or recovery techniques. Time, accuracy, and even the ability to achieve this depends on the amount of data to be recovered and the robust nature of the backup or recovery solution.
- Rebuilding Trust Through Communication: Constant communication to affected customers and maintaining a transparent lens will help maintain trust during the process. For the external perspective, a communication strategy should be crafted and delivered in a timely manner to help reduce negative impact to the company’s brand and reputation.
Real-Life Example: A Story of Recovery
Target® Corporation (2013)
In late 2013 Target Corporation suffered from a major data breach from a malware attack that allowed millions of customers personal and financial data to land in the hands of cybercriminals. Target suffered numerous consequences from the attack including massive recovery costs, decreased customer confidence, hundreds of lawsuits, lost profits, and widespread criticism.
How Did Cybercriminals Gain Access?
They “utilized an email-based phishing scam to trick an employee from Fazio Mechanical—an HVAC contractor and one of Target’s third-party vendors—into providing their credentials. From there, the cybercriminals used these stolen credentials to infiltrate Target’s network and install malware on several point-of-sale systems on November 15th. Even though Target had various cybersecurity measures in place to help avoid such an incident, Fazio Mechanical’s lack of malware detection software and both companies’ failure to properly segment their networks permitted the cyber-criminals to execute their plan successfully”.
The severity of the malware attack created quite a costly journey for Target to recover and rebuild. Their efforts stretch across all the topics we have outlined in this blog. From systems security build, recovery, legal challenges, and reputation.
Costs For Recovery:
These costs do not include legal fees or other penalties Target incurred, these costs are directly associated with the ability to contain, remove, and rebuild damaged systems. To recover, Target gained assistance from a forensics firm for investigation purposes, established a call center for customer concerns, gave customers one-year free credit monitoring, established new point-of-sale-systems with stricter security, divided and secured company networks with stricter access. All these listed efforts (and those not publicized) roll up for a grand total of $250 million.
Legal Coverage and Expenses
No matter the size of the business, legal entities will need to be involved in the recovery process to help reduce or eliminate legal challenges from those affected by the attack. For Target, they faced over 140 lawsuits from those affected by the breach. These lawsuits came to a hefty $18.5 million in settlements across the country. Beyond the $18.5 million, Target was required, per the settlement, to bring in a consultant group to assist with encryption expectations to help secure customer data, as well as hire an executive to run a cybersecurity program and team. This additional cost is not provided to the public, but it adds to the grand total for Target.
Beyond all the legal and systems costs, one of the most damaging to an organization is a broken reputation due to something like a breach. For Target, the customer base lost trust in the company and their leadership. The result – “Target’s profits dropped by a staggering 46% during the final quarter of 2013. Moving into January 2014, one-third (33%) of U.S.”
The attack was not a direct hit to Target – the cybercriminals found a loophole through a third-party that was more susceptible to an attack, leading to a backdoor to Target Corporation systems. The hope that Target did not secure interactions between entities became a dream come true for cybercriminals. The breach resulted in a loss of customer trust, financial penalties, and a drop in stock prices – all of which could have been prevented with appropriate security measures with their third-party partners. In the end, investing in cybersecurity measures, planning, and training is well worth the investment and time to keep your business safe. Approximate Financial Loss: Over $270 Million.
The reality of recovery after a cyber attack is a harsh and complex ordeal that goes far beyond just technology. The monetary losses, service disruptions, and reputation damage can have far-reaching consequences. The journey to recovery requires a blend of strategic investments, technical expertise, and clear communication. By understanding the multifaceted challenges and learning from real-life examples of businesses that successfully rebounded, companies can better prepare themselves to face the growing threat of cyber attacks in today’s digital age.