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The Importance of a Data Breach Response Plan

Chris Murray
Posted on: September 11, 2017 by Chris Murray

This past weekend, there was yet another high-profile data breach. Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States, was breached between mid-May and July, and the personal information accessed by the hackers includes Social Security numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, full names, and other personally identifying information. It is currently estimated that 143 million Americans have had their information compromised in this breach.

Equifax’s security is not the only thing to have been negatively impacted; the business’s reputation has also declined as consumers have expressed their discomfort with how the company has handled the situation, particularly with how the online tool to check if they’d been compromised was performing.

While large companies like Equifax, Wells Fargo, Yahoo, and Target are appealing to hackers, smaller businesses are by no means safe. Many hackers choose to target smaller businesses as they are less likely to have the resources that larger companies do for protection. In addition, some smaller businesses may mistakenly believe that they do not need a breach response plan as they are unlikely to fall on a cyber attacker’s radar. However, company information and customers’ data is not something to gamble with. In an era where cyber attacks unfortunately are commonplace, every business should have a risk management plan in place that will protect them from future attacks and precisely outline what they will do in the event of a breach.

Before a Breach

The first step is implementing preventative measures. Network security should be prioritized, and the network should regularly be inspected to ensure that there are no weak points. In addition, it is wise for businesses to segment their network, so that in the event of a cyber attack the affected portion can be shut down without affecting the entire network. Protecting important data can also be done through requiring multi-step authentication and the creation of secure passwords, which should be changed regularly.

Once preventative measures have been taken care of, every business should create a risk management plan should a breach occur. This plan should detail how the breach will be contained, who will be responsible for stopping the attack, and what other employees should do in the event of a breach. It will also detail policies for freezing credit cards (if applicable) and changing passwords, and establish how the company will inform its customers if their personal information has been compromised as well as how the company will repair its reputation. This plan should be made readily available to all employees and be regularly reviewed.

After a Breach

While no business wants a breach to occur, once one occurs there should be no doubt about what to do. The previously-mentioned response plan should be ready to be implemented the second the breach is made apparent, with absolutely no confusion over who should be taking care of the breach and what should be done. Once the breach has been contained, the business should immediately inspect their network to look for the weak spot and fix it. All passwords should also be changed.

The next step is repairing the potential reputation damage. The worst thing that a company can do in this position is disappear and not communicate with its customers, who will likely be upset over the potential theft of their personal data. One person or department should be placed in charge of addressing the public, and nothing should be said without their approval as well as upper management’s approval.

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing insurance solutions to healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, addressing liability, property, cyber and privacy, workers’ comp, risk management, and many other exposures. To find out more about our programs, give us a call at 317.575.4440.

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