United States: Incident Response Tip: Five Ways To Improve Information Security And Reduce The Impact Of A Data Breach

Last Updated: January 6 2016
Article by Scott Koller

The new year will arrive in a few short days and when the bell tolls, it will mark the end of another extremely active year of data breaches. High-profile breaches such as Anthem, Ashley Madison, and the Office of Personnel Management serve as a reminder that it is a matter of when, not if, your organization experiences a data breach. Here are a few relatively simple ways to improve information security and reduce the impact of a potential data breach when that day comes.

Review Your Incident Response Plan

First and foremost, review your incident response plan. An incident response plan should be a flexible playbook that evolves over time and helps guide your response to a potential data breach. As 2015 comes to an end, take this opportunity to see if there are any ways in which your incident response plan can be improved. Does the plan provide enough detail? Are there procedures that should be changed or updated? Consider the impact of new business relationships or product lines, or whether systems were recently deployed or upgraded. Contact information for your incident response team, especially after hours, is a vital part of your response plan, yet personnel changes are frequently overlooked. The worst time to find out your CTO got a new cell phone number is when you are trying to reach him or her at 2 a.m. on a Saturday. Even if nothing has changed within your organization, new vulnerabilities are being discovered and laws are frequently amended. In just the past year alone, 10 states have formalized amendments to their breach notification laws. For a detailed breakdown of these amendments, check out my prior article on the subject, " State Law Roundup: Legislatures Across the U.S. Revamp Data Breach Notification Laws," and BakerHostetler's state-by-state Survey of Data Breach Notification Laws. Bottom line, no matter how good your incident response plan was a year ago, there is likely something that should be updated or changed. Don't wait until you are in the middle of a data breach crisis to review your incident response plan.

Conduct a Tabletop Exercise

There is a reason most buildings conduct yearly fire drills. Through practice and repetition, your response to an emergency can become second nature. Similarly, most data breaches are highly stressful events with serious ramifications for the organization. Tabletop exercises provide an excellent opportunity to practice your response in a low-stress, informal setting. Moreover, tabletop exercises can help identify gaps in your incident response plan and highlight ways in which you can become better prepared in the event of a data breach. Therefore, consider making a data breach tabletop exercise an annual event.

Review and Test Backup Procedures

A properly implemented backup procedure can help safeguard the availability and integrity of company data, as well as protect against the growing threat of ransomware viruses. According to a report by McAfee, reports of ransomware infections have grown exponentially over the past year. Even though backing up data is second nature to most IT professionals, many still forget the critical step of testing those backups to ensure the information was successfully backed up, is capable of being fully restored, and includes all critical data. Remember that some variants of ransomware will encrypt network shares, so it is important to segregate backup systems from your primary network.

Audit External Service Providers

As Target learned the hard way, external service providers represent an alternative way hackers can infiltrate your network. Consider auditing your service providers to ensure they are using appropriate safeguards. If possible, try to limit their access to only the data and systems needed to fulfill their function. Remote access should be provided "on demand" when needed but otherwise disabled when not in use. In addition, service provider agreements should be reviewed annually to ensure that the indemnification, limitation of liability, and cyber liability insurance provisions are appropriate. These provisions should reflect a balance between the amount of data at risk, the extent of the service provider's access to that data, and the potential costs associated with a data breach. If a service provider has agreed to indemnify your organization for data breaches, make sure the vendor has the financial resources to do so, and if not, require cyber liability insurance provisions to cover any shortfall. Be mindful of limitation of liability provisions, which routinely limit liability to the amount of fees collected under the service agreement or within a certain period.

Perform a Risk Assessment

If you do not know what sensitive personal information and business data you have, where it resides, and who has access to it, you cannot implement appropriate safeguards to protect it. When facing a potential data breach, the inability to provide an accurate network diagram and describe the company's sensitive data flow will complicate the forensic investigation. Risk assessments can help address these issues and should be performed on a regular basis to account for new vulnerabilities, changes to the organization's structure or business operations, and the ability of existing security controls to detect and defend against likely cyberattacks.


No amount of advance preparation can entirely prevent a data breach from occurring. However, it is possible to reduce the frequency and severity of incidents by following the steps discussed here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.