5. Hoping the worse doesn't happen only makes it worse
Nobody wants to have a data breach, but you need to act as if one will, advised Kevin Mandia, chief executive of Mandiant, which specializes in post-breach analysis services and software tools. Every organization can take steps to lessen the impact of a breach once it happens. Unfortunately, most companies wait until it is too late to test or even create their response strategies, he said.
Every company should record the data flow, from who had access when to what systems used the data. But few do, Mandia said. "There's no question, the most common error we see is failure to document what happened," he said. "People hire us and the first thing we ask for is any related documentation that people already have. Most often, people will hand terabytes of data and no formal documentation. Technicians stink at it, and lawyers don't mandate it. So in almost every incident, we go in and ask them what happened and the response is the sound of crickets chirping."
6. Avoiding or diluting response leadership makes breaches worse
Companies also seriously inhibit their ability to respond to breaches by failing to appoint a single leader or small team to spearhead efforts to respond to incidents and chase down important details.
In many firms, the process devolves into a game of pass-the-buck, while others involve so many people in the breach response effort that they actually become a hindrance to the related investigation.
"We often respond and no one is in charge, no one wants to be, and as a result, no one knows what dedication of resources to give the incident in terms of money, tools, or technologies, and no one person individually can balance their day job with the amount of resources needed to handle a major incident," Mandia said.
"On the flip side, some companies now bring too many people to the decision-making table while still trying to respond. We show up and we're immediately briefing 12 people -- and 10 don't need to be there," he said.