Developing a Data Breach Incident Response Plan

data breach incident response

With cybersecurity boundaries going beyond the traditional walls of an office and attack surfaces constantly expanding, data breaches are inevitable. Managing risks from data breaches requires organizations to develop a comprehensive incident response plan – an established guideline that facilitates incident detection, response and containment, and empowers cybersecurity analysts to secure a company’s digital asset. In essence, having the right response plan can mean the difference between a minor annoyance and a massive disaster. 

How to Create a Data Breach Incident Response Plan

In this blog, we’ll be explaining the five steps you should take to keep your data safe and reduce the damage caused by a breach. The five steps are:

  1. Identify the Breach
  2. Contain the Breach
  3. Assess the Damage
  4. Decide Whether to Convene Your Response Team
  5. Review the Incident

Step 1: Identify the Breach

The foundation for your response to data breaches should be identification through intrusion detection systems. These systems parse through multiple data points to detect deviation from normal distribution, dispatching alerts when an incident is identified. To ensure that these alerts reach the right on-call security analyst wherever they are, alert management systems are leveraged. Tools such as OnPage provide their users with the ability to automate alert management, immediately mobilizing teams into action once a breach has been identified. Equipped with powerful tools such as these, organizations can provide unparalleled threat alert visibility and automation.

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If you don’t have these tools in your arsenal, you’ll have to do your best to identify and analyze data breaches on your own. This means looking out for signs of a suspected breach at all times, tracking the time and date one occurs the second it’s been confirmed. After a data breach is detected, record what type of information was involved in the breach, and the extent to which the hackers were able to penetrate your network before being noticed. All of this will help you better assess the damage and formulate an appropriate response.

Step 2: Contain the Breach

Once a breach has been confirmed, you’ll want to contain it any way you can. The analysis you conduct in step one will be critical here, as that information will help you and your team find the parts of your network that have been attacked. Proper containment means isolating all systems currently affected by the breach while securing any accounts and devices that have any connection to compromised networks. Even if you believe a breach hasn’t affected certain areas of your system, it’s still best to change all passwords and log in credentials after a breach. This helps cut the hackers off from any potential access and keeps your unaffected data from being damaged.

Step 3: Assess the Damage

After the initial attack, you’ll want to determine what areas of your network have been damaged. This means finding the exact time the hack occurred, cataloging all information that may have been leaked during the hack, and canvassing all individuals whose data was compromised. This process is usually conducted by your Chief Privacy Officer, who will determine what further action is necessary after their damage assessment. The Chief Privacy Officer will also keep a careful log of all activity related to the breach so there is a clean record of the event for future review.

For any individuals who’ve been affected by a breach, you’ll want to recommend they run a free identity threat scan. This can help determine whether their personal information has been leaked online, showing them what their data is being used for. Finding out what’s happened to your personal data can prevent online scams, including identity theft. While securing your business data is important, safeguarding the personal information of your employees should remain a high priority.

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Step 4: Decide Whether to Convene Your Response Team

During the Chief Privacy Officer’s assessment, they will determine whether the breach necessitates the attention of your Data Breach Response Team. Though all data breaches are problematic, each specific incident will vary in magnitude. In cases where a monitoring system was able to triage a breach quickly, the incident may only require brief review by the Chief Privacy Officer. If the damage is significant or uncontainable, however, then it may be best to convene your team and discuss further options.

Step 5: Review the Incident

After the breach has been identified and dealt with, a full incident review should be conducted by both your Chief Privacy Officer and administrative staff overseeing affected areas. You’ll want to make sure the review panel discusses and makes a record of the type of attack that took place, what level of threat it posed, what damage occurred, how well the response team dealt with the attack, and what system vulnerabilities led to it happening in the first place. These reviews can help strengthen your cybersecurity protocols, so a similar breach doesn’t occur in the future.

Unless Dealt with Properly, Data Breaches Cause Significant Damage

Data breaches are a scary prospect, and the reality is that a single breach can cost your company thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars. If you take the time to work with your response team and develop airtight cybersecurity incident procedures, you’ll be able to mitigate most of the damages. In addition to saving money, you can keep the data of your employees and customers safe, preserving trust in your company. 

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