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Data Breaches in Africa: What Next for your Business if this Happens?


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people and businesses have established and expanded their digital footprint across numerous platforms, enlarging the playing field for bad actors looking to exploit cybersecurity weaknesses. Nearly 68 records are reportedly compromised per second, and as businesses continue to collect and store sensitive data, cyber attackers continue without ceasing.

Anyone can be affected by a data breach, from individuals to small businesses and large corporations. Technology is advancing faster than protection mechanisms are developing, thus leaving numerous loopholes for hackers to exploit. In Africa, the fast-growing youth population is at the forefront of digital adoption and cyber activities — young Africans are expected to constitute 42% of the global youth in the next eight years. This expected rapid growth in the continent’s cyber users reinforces the need to stay prepared and uphold cybersecurity best practices.

In 2020, two large Nigerian banks allegedly suffered data breaches, compromising their clients’ financial information. However, it took both banks days to react publicly, and their announcements neither denied nor acknowledged the alleged breaches, where communication should have been unequivocal.

Taking lessons from similar circumstances on the continent and beyond, this article outlines some actions businesses in Africa can take when hit with a data breach.

Confirm and Review the Full Extent of the Breach

After being notified of a data breach is confirmed that one has actually occurred. False alarms are reported to be common, reaching up to 50%. To avoid unnecessary scrambling, ascertaining that a data breach occurred is critical.

After confirmation, understanding the full scope of a breach is necessary; how much data has been accessed or disclosed? It is also critical to determine how the breach occurred; was it caused by social engineering, a misconfiguration, phishing, or an insider threat? Establishing and reviewing the cause of the data breach is the foundation for executing a solid response plan and addressing vulnerabilities.

Execute a Response Plan and Fix Vulnerabilities

An effective incident response plan can lessen the effects of breaches, such as reducing reputational damage. Ideally, staff should be pre-trained to respond rapidly to a data breach situation, and a response plan should be in place. The response plan should typically include members of the response team and defined roles. It should also have a business continuity strategy to ensure that business does not grind to a halt.

Once a response plan is in place, the first item on the action list should be to address the vulnerabilities. For example, shutting down or restricting access to the affected accounts or systems on the network.

Communicate and Preserve Evidence

Unfortunately, data breaches are often unreported in Africa, so when identities are stolen or misused, it often leads to preventable multiple cyber attacks across various platforms. This urgently calls for a centralized system where reporting data breaches become the norm — this way, the victims of stolen data can deploy safety measures promptly, and other institutional players can become aware of this occurrence to stay alert and safeguard their platforms from repeated attacks.

Even without a centralized system, it is critical to communicate data breaches to affected customers, users, and stakeholders to assist them in taking early safety measures such as password changes. It is also good to examine the breach evidence and make notes. The timeline of events is one thing to pay attention to. It could be essential when dealing with the relevant authorities; it will be easier to catch the wrongdoers and clear your company if you retain records and evidence.

Create New Defenses to Prevent Future Breaches

Learning from a data breach is an integral part of the process. It assists the company in identifying vulnerabilities that can be fixed to prevent future breaches. In addition, it should lead to the development of new defense mechanisms. Highlighting new defenses is essential to communicating with stakeholders to provide reassurance and boost confidence in your company.

Ultimately, companies are obligated to keep their brand promises by protecting their client’s information. In unavoidable instances of data breaches, comprehensive cybersecurity procedures involving detection, investigation, and reporting to involved parties should be prioritized. Although data breaches are understandably concerning, good communication about incidents and plans for mitigating them promotes trust over time.

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