UK: Hit By A Cyber Attack? What To Do, Who To Contact And The Importance Of A Rapid Response

Last Updated: 14 November 2016
Article by Dean Carrigan, John Gallagher and Nitesh Patel

Most Read Contributor in UK, November 2017

The first 48 hours following a cyber attack are critical. Making the right calls will manage the threat and mitigate the risk to your business. You need a rapid response - but, what are the right calls? We set out the steps you should take.


You are the chief information security officer at a high profile, multinational company, well known and well respected. You know about the risks of data breaches and cyber attacks and convinced the board to include a cyber insurance policy within your suite of cover.

Late one afternoon, you receive a call from one of your employees. From what they tell you, you suspect the company is currently under a cyber attack. You're not sure and you do not know where to begin looking. But thousands of clients' data may be at risk if your suspicions are correct, although you are not sure precisely how many.

Lucky you have that cyber policy; that should come in handy... what do you do now?


Much has been written about the real and present risk of a cyber attack on businesses and individuals ̶and with good reason.

Recent cyber attacks on motor vehicles, airlines, insurance companies, health organisations, retailers, e tailers, law firms, hotels, charities, online service providers, restaurants, aerospace companies and government organisations (among others) have categorically demonstrated that every industry has exposure to cyber risk and is susceptible to data breaches.

Government and regulators (both Australian and international) are increasingly focused on cybersecurity and cyber resilience, with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) identifying cyber resilience as a key area of focus for the coming years. Most recently, the Australian Government has finally taken further steps towards enacting a mandatory breach notification scheme by reading the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016 in parliament.

Against this background, it is clear that cyber risk management should be at the top of every company's agenda. Like any other risk, cyber risk can be managed and mitigated. Increasingly, cyber insurance (and the response teams that often come with such insurance) is being considered as a key aspect of a business' risk management and mitigation strategy.


In responding to a major cyber attack, rapid response cover can play a pivotal role in controlling the fallout from an attack and also limit the financial and reputational damage.

The first 48 hours after a company has identified it is under a cyber attack are pivotal. The decisions made on how to deal with an attack at this time will impact how the matter will be handled going forward.

Ideally, any business facing a cyber attack will have in place a considered and tested incident response plan to provide guidance on how to react. The importance of preparation in effectively managing a cyber attack or data breach and some proposed steps were set out in our previous article, 'Data breaches – how to effectively avoid them and manage them if they happen'.

Where rapid response cover is available (through cyber insurance cover or otherwise), a company should immediately contact the rapid response provider (often referred to as a breach coach, details of which are often in the cyber policy or incident response plan) as soon as it becomes aware it has been the subject of an attack.

The breach coach will act in a coordination role, summoning team of legal, privacy, security, technology and media experts to determine how to handle the current situation in very short order.


Manage and protect communications

In the heat of the first 48 hours it is often the case that purported admissions or incriminating statements can be made by a company's staff (particularly IT staff), which can be misinterpreted in the public domain and impact the company's reputation or worse lead to third party claims. It is imperative that these and other communications about the attack are carefully managed and protected as soon as possible.

It is highly recommended that a legal advisor be assigned the duty of coordinating the rapid response team as they will be able to liaise with team members and the company and claim the protection of legal professional privilege over most of those communications.

The ability to preserve privilege following a data breach has been considered in detail in our article, 'Preserving privilege following a data breach'.

Plugging the hole

It is of course critical that any cyber attack be stopped as soon as possible. However, depending on the nature of the attack, a heavy handed response is not always best. This is particularly the case with more complex attacks that may be exploiting multiple weaknesses to attack your systems in a multi-pronged manner.

A brute force approach in those circumstances may simply alert the attackers of your knowledge of the attack and cause them to retreat, which may in turn prevent you from identifying all the system weaknesses that were exploited.

To determine the best approach to secure the attack, the breach coach will direct technology and security experts to liaise with the company's staff to determine the best response to the attack.

Where available, a security and technology plan is often executed to respond to the attack, part of which will involve identifying the extent of damage caused by the attack and also to limit the extent of business disruption caused.

Has there been a data breach?

In addition to identifying and plugging the attack, technology and security experts assist in determining if a data breach has occurred and its extent.

Contrary to common misconception, a cyber attack and a data breach are not the same. While many cyber attacks have the primary aim of extracting data from a system, constituting a data breach, other forms of attack aim to directly extort funds from a company (for example, certain malware attacks). A 2015 AON Cyber Impact Report revealed that only 29 per cent of cyber attacks experienced by respondents in the past 2 years resulted in the theft of confidential company data. Many data breaches also occur due to improper internal handling of data.

Breach notifications

If a data breach has occurred, it is important to identify as accurately as possible the extent of the records stolen, particularly the nature of the information stolen and the location (or locations) of the affected entities, which is required for notification purposes.

The data breach information the security experts gather is conveyed to the breach coach, who is burdened with the potentially substantial task of coordinating the identification of and compliance with relevant notification laws.

The first step will be to identify jurisdictions that are affected by the data breach. The identification of jurisdictions a company may be exposed to is an often overlooked risk that companies do not properly consider. In fact, AON's report revealed that only 24 per cent of respondents are fully aware of the consequences that could result from a data breach or security exploit in other countries in which their company operates.

Identifying the jurisdictions and breach notification laws of each jurisdiction as soon as possible is critical given the diversity in the requirements that notification laws across the world impose. Advisors with a global reach greatly assist in undertaking this possibly mammoth task within a reasonable time frame.

The variety of the notification requirements for even a relatively minor breach can be surprising, with regulations in some jurisdictions amounting the breach to criminal conduct, whereas no action may be required in other jurisdictions. The deadlines by which a breach needs to be notified also vary.

The breach coach must often prioritise which of the jurisdictional requirements are the most pressing and connect legal advisors in the relevant jurisdictions with company staff so suitable notifications can be drafted in compliance with regulations.

Of course, the breach coach will also need to liaise with the security experts and be mindful to ensure that any breach notification will not further expose the company to additional attacks.

Managing communications

Depending on how serious a breach is and the extent of the notification that will be made, a breach coach may also need to consider, in conjunction with the jurisdictional legal advisors and the company, whether any public relations material or campaigns will need to be prepared to protect the brand and reputation of the affected company.

The extent of public relations involvement may be heavily guided by how successfully communications regarding the breach have been protected. Generally, the more information that needs to be disclosed about a breach, the greater the need for the involvement of public relations and damage control.

What about cyber insurance coverage?

Cyber insurance is somewhat different to other types of insurance. The most comprehensive cyber policies include rapid response cover. Unlike most other policies, the protection afforded by rapid response could come into play as soon as a potential cyber attack has been identified, before the existence of a claim has been established.

In this respect, in the midst of responding to an attack, coverage issues may also be lingering. However, it is likely that the information required to determine coverage may not be able available for days, weeks or perhaps months. For insurers and their agents to be acting in good faith and to minimise the extent of any loss and damage, particularly business interruption losses, coverage issues should not impede a rapid response to a cyber attack or data breach incident.

Where policies have significant deductibles, the majority of the rapid response costs will likely fall within the ambit of the deductible and to the feet of the insured. Any delay in coverage determination should not adversely affect insurers or insured businesses (as those costs will fall within their deductible) in such cases.

It is not so clear cut where policies have smaller deductibles. However, insurers and insured businesses should work together and structure their policies appropriately to account for rapid response costs.

Cyber insurance - not your traditional policy

The protections afforded under a cyber insurance policy and the steps that insurers and insured businesses need to take to maximise the benefit of the policy are unique.

The most comprehensive policies in the market have a rapid response cover and access to a team of experts on call to respond to a cyber attack. However, access to a team of experts in and of itself is not enough. That team needs to be quickly and efficiently coordinated by an experienced breach coach to minimise the loss and damage caused by a cyber attack and to ensure the optimum outcome for all parties.

Hit By A Cyber Attack? What To Do, Who To Contact And The Importance Of A Rapid Response

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

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

John Gallagher
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
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 you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (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

    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’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.

    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 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.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    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

    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

    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

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

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions