Immediate Steps To Take After a Data Breach

A data breach is a security incident in which sensitive or confidential information (credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit reports, or other customer information) is accessed, disclosed, or stolen by unauthorized individuals, identity thieves, scammers, or hackers. As a managed service provider (MSP), we understand that data breaches can have devastating consequences for businesses, including financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Therefore, in the event of a data breach, businesses must act swiftly and decisively to minimize the impact. This includes conducting a thorough investigation to determine the scope and nature of the breach, notifying affected parties, implementing measures to prevent further damage, and working with cybersecurity professionals to prevent future breaches.


April 28, 2023

1. Secure Your Operations

Securing your operations after a data breach is essential because it helps prevent further damage and protects your business from additional risks. Failure to secure your operations can lead to more severe consequences, such as continued data exposure, unauthorized access, and further compromises to your network. Additionally, it can have a significant impact on your organization’s reputation, resulting in a loss of customer trust and potential legal repercussions. 

System Vulnerabilities

It is imperative that you act quickly to secure your systems and fix vulnerabilities that may have caused the breach because it helps to prevent further damage and reduce the impact of the breach. Attackers often leave behind backdoors, malware, or other malicious code that can allow them to continue accessing your systems even after the initial breach. Moreover, failing to address vulnerabilities that may have caused the breach can leave your systems and data vulnerable to future attacks. The longer it takes to secure your systems and address vulnerabilities, the more time attackers have to exploit them, making it more difficult and expensive to contain the breach and recover from its effects. 

Secure Physical Areas

Securing physical areas related to a data breach is crucial because it can help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information and reduce the risk of further breaches. Physical security measures, such as surveillance cameras, access controls, and employee training, can help deter and detect unauthorized access to areas where sensitive data is stored, processed, or transmitted. It can also help to prevent the physical theft of devices or documents containing sensitive information. Failing to secure physical areas related to a data breach can lead to further data exposure, identity theft, or financial loss, making it essential to implement effective physical security measures as part of an overall cybersecurity strategy.

Activate Your Current Breach Response Team

It is crucial to activate your data breach response team immediately after a data breach to prevent additional data loss because time is of the essence in responding to security incidents. Every minute counts in preventing attackers from causing further damage, stealing more data, or compromising additional systems. A well-prepared and trained data breach response team can quickly assess the scope and impact of the breach, contain the damage, and implement effective remediation measures to prevent further data loss. Failing to activate your response team promptly can lead to delays in containing the breach, allowing attackers to move laterally through your network, stealing more data and causing more damage.

Assemble a Group of Experts To Perform an Exhaustive Breach Response

Assembling a group of experts to perform an exhaustive breach response after a data breach is essential to ensure a comprehensive and effective response. A breach response team typically includes experts from various disciplines, such as cybersecurity, legal, public relations, and forensics, who can work together to investigate the breach, contain the damage, and implement effective remediation measures. In addition, these experts bring specialized skills and knowledge that are essential in responding to complex and evolving cybersecurity threats. A coordinated and collaborative effort among the team members can lead to a faster and more effective response, minimizing the impact of the breach and reducing the risk of further data loss

Consider a Data Forensics Team

It is important to work with a data forensics team following a data breach because they have specialized skills and knowledge in analyzing digital evidence and verifying the root cause of the breach. Data forensics experts use advanced techniques and tools to collect, preserve, and analyze digital evidence to determine the extent of the breach, identify the attack vectors, and uncover any malicious activities that occurred. They can also provide insights into the types of data that may have been compromised, helping businesses understand the scope and impact of the breach. By working with a data forensics team, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of the breach, which can help them to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses and prevent future incidents.

Employ Legal Expertise

A business should employ legal counsel following a data breach because of the legal implications and obligations that may arise. Legal counsel can provide guidance on the applicable laws and regulations that may apply to the breach, such as data breach notification requirements or potential liability for data breaches. They can also advise on the steps the business should take to comply with legal obligations, such as preserving evidence or reporting the breach to regulatory authorities. Legal counsel can also help companies navigate any legal proceedings that may arise as a result of the breach, such as litigation or regulatory investigations. By consulting with legal counsel, businesses can better understand their legal obligations and risks, mitigate potential legal consequences, and protect their reputation and financial interests.

Additional Data Security Measures To Consider During Your Investigation 

During your comprehensive investigation into the data breach, it is worth considering the following action steps:

Take Your Equipment Offline

After a data breach, it is crucial to take affected equipment offline to prevent additional data loss. However, we recommend not turning any machines off until the forensics experts can do a thorough examination. This is because the attacker may still have access to the system, and taking the equipment offline stops them from accessing any additional data. In addition, this step is necessary to limit the damage caused by the breach and prevent the attacker from causing further harm.

Consider Clean Machines

In some cases, it may be necessary to replace affected machines. This is especially true if the attacker was able to install malicious software or if the system was otherwise compromised. Replacing affected machines ensures that the attacker no longer has access to the system and prevents any further damage from occurring.

Monitor Entry & Exit Points

It is also important to closely monitor entry and exit points to the system. This involves looking for any suspicious activity, such as unauthorized access attempts or unusual network traffic. By monitoring these entry and exit points, you can quickly identify any further attempts by the attacker to access the system.

Update Credentials

Finally, updating credentials for authorized users is essential to prevent the attacker from accessing the system again. This involves changing passwords, disabling old accounts, creating new accounts with strong passwords, and implementing two-factor authentication. By updating credentials, you can ensure that only authorized users have access to the system and that the attacker cannot use any stolen credentials to gain access again.

Scrub Exposed Data From the Internet

Scrubbing improperly posted data from the internet after a data breach is crucial to prevent further harm and protect the privacy and security of affected individuals. Here are two focus areas:

Your Website

Removing personal information improperly posted on your website is crucial because it can lead to serious privacy violations and potential identity theft. Even if the information was posted in error, it could still be accessed by anyone with access to the internet, putting the affected individuals at risk. Furthermore, search engines can cache personal information, meaning that even after it is removed from the website, it may still be accessible through search engine results. Therefore, contacting search engines to ensure they don’t archive personal information is therefore essential to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data

Other Websites

If information about a data breach is posted on other organizations’ websites, it is important to contact them and request the removal of the information. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that any communication regarding the breach is accurate and consistent across all platforms to prevent any misunderstandings or confusion about the incident.

Speak to Your Staff

After a data breach, speaking with staff members is important for several reasons:

Help the Investigation

Firstly, they may have relevant information about the incident that could help with the investigation. For example, they may have noticed unusual activity on the network or received suspicious emails that could provide clues about the attacker’s identity or methods.

Identify Weaknesses

Speaking with staff members can help identify potential weaknesses in the organization’s security protocols. For example, if several employees were unaware of the proper procedures for reporting security incidents, this may indicate a need for additional training or more explicit security policies.

Establish Trust

Communicating with staff members about the breach and its impact can help build trust and promote transparency within the organization. It is important to let employees know what steps are being taken to address the breach and how they can help prevent similar incidents in the future. By doing so, employees may be more likely to report suspicious activity and take other proactive measures to protect the organization’s data.

Preserve Evidence

It is crucial to keep forensic evidence throughout the investigation and remediation following a data breach because it can provide valuable information about the nature and scope of the attack. This evidence can help identify the cause of the breach, the affected systems and data, and any data the attacker may have exfiltrated. This information is essential for assessing the impact of the breach and developing an effective remediation plan to prevent similar incidents in the future. By preserving forensic evidence, organizations can ensure that they have a complete picture of the breach and can take appropriate measures to mitigate the damage.

2. Remedy Vulnerabilities

Fixing vulnerabilities following a data breach is crucial because it helps prevent future breaches. Once an attacker has exploited a vulnerability, it becomes more likely that other attackers will discover and exploit it as well. By fixing vulnerabilities promptly, organizations can reduce the risk of a repeat attack and protect their systems and data. Additionally, fixing vulnerabilities can help rebuild trust with customers and stakeholders by demonstrating a commitment to security and responsible data management. Finally, by investing in proactive information security measures and addressing vulnerabilities as soon as they are discovered, organizations can help prevent the devastating consequences of a data breach.

Third-Party Providers

After a data breach, it is important to consider service providers when fixing vulnerabilities, as they often have access to the organization’s systems and data, and any vulnerabilities in their systems could potentially lead to further issues. Additionally, service providers may be responsible for implementing security measures, and any failures on their part could put the organization at risk. Therefore, it is important to assess the security measures of all service providers involved and take steps to address any vulnerabilities or weaknesses. This may include renegotiating contracts or partnerships with service providers, establishing stronger security protocols, or working with them to implement additional safeguards. By including service providers in the vulnerability remediation process, organizations can help ensure that all potential sources of risk are addressed and that their systems and data remain secure.

Examine Your Network Segmentation 

Examining your system segmentation following a data breach is important because it can help identify areas of weakness in your security infrastructure. Segmentation is the practice of dividing a network into smaller, more secure subnetworks to reduce the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches. If an attacker is able to breach one segment of the network, segmentation can help contain the damage and prevent them from accessing other parts of the network. However, if the segmentation is not correctly configured or maintained, it may not provide the intended level of data protection. Therefore, examining your system segmentation following a data breach can help identify any gaps or weaknesses in your network architecture and allow you to take corrective action to address them. In addition, by ensuring that your segmentation is effective and properly implemented, you can help minimize the impact of future security breaches and protect your systems and data.

Interview Your Forensics Team

Forensic experts are trained to investigate and analyze cyber attacks to determine the cause, scope, and impact of the security breach. By interviewing them, you can gain valuable insights into the methods used by the attacker, the vulnerabilities that were exploited, and the extent of the damage. This information can then be used to inform your future security strategy, including identifying areas that need improvement and implementing new measures to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future. By learning from the experience of a data breach and leveraging the knowledge of your forensics experts, you can strengthen your defenses and better protect your systems and data from cyber attacks.

Implement Changes Based on Your Findings

Implementing changes that improve your cybersecurity posture is vital after fully assessing a data breach and understanding your security vulnerabilities. Failing to do so can result in severe consequences for your organization, including financial loss, reputational damage, loss of trust, and legal penalties. Implementing changes that address vulnerabilities discovered during the assessment can help prevent future attacks, mitigate the impact of any future breaches, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards. In addition, proactively improving your security posture demonstrates a commitment to protecting customer data, building trust with stakeholders, and securing the long-term success of your organization.

3. Notifying Relevant Parties

After a data breach, it is legally required to notify the appropriate parties, including law enforcement, other affected businesses, and individuals, to ensure transparency and take necessary steps to mitigate the damage caused by the breach.

Determine your legal requirements. 

It is important to understand your legal requirements when preparing to notify people after a data breach because failure to comply with the relevant state and federal laws and regulations can result in significant legal and financial consequences, such as fines, penalties, and legal action, and can damage the reputation of the organization. Additionally, knowing the legal requirements can help organizations communicate the appropriate information to the affected individuals and other parties in a timely and effective manner, which is critical for mitigating the impact of the breach and rebuilding trust with stakeholders.

Healthcare Breaches

In the event that electronic personal health records are compromised, and you are subject to the Health Breach Notification Rule, it is necessary to inform the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and potentially the media. The FTC‘s Health Breach Notification Rule provides guidance on the appropriate recipients and timing of such notifications. Moreover, it is important to determine whether the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule applies to you. If it does, you must notify the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and possibly the media. The HHS’s Breach Notification Rule specifies whom you must notify and when.

Here are a few healthcare data breach resources:

HIPAA Breach Notification Rule

HHS HIPAA Breach Notification Form

Complying with the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule:

Breaches Involving Social Security Numbers

If Social Security numbers are compromised, it is recommended to reach out to the primary credit bureaus for further guidance or assistance.

Equifax Website or call (800) 685-1111

Experian Website or call (888) 397-3742

TransUnion Website or call (888) 909-8872

Develop a Comprehensive Communications Plan

Developing a comprehensive communication plan that addresses relevant parties is essential for managing the fallout from the breach, mitigating the damage caused, and rebuilding trust with stakeholders. The plan should outline who will communicate what, when, and how and should include clear and concise messaging that is tailored to each audience. Failure to communicate effectively can lead to confusion, misinformation, and further damage to the organization’s reputation. 

Law Enforcement

It is important to include law enforcement in your communications plan as they can assist in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators, help identify vulnerabilities that led to the breach, and provide guidance on how to prevent future breaches. Law enforcement agencies also have the authority to request information from the affected organization to aid in their investigations. Failure to comply with these requests can result in legal consequences. Additionally, involving law enforcement in the communication plan demonstrates the organization’s commitment to transparency and cooperation, which can help mitigate legal and reputational consequences. 

Affected Businesses

Affected businesses should be included in your communications plan following a data breach because sharing information about the incident can help them take steps to protect their own systems and data. Collaboration with other affected businesses can also help identify common vulnerabilities and prevent similar attacks in the future. Furthermore, open communication demonstrates a commitment to transparency and cooperation, which can help rebuild trust with stakeholders and minimize the impact of the breach. 

Affected Individuals

Individuals have a right to know that their personal data has been compromised. The communication should include state laws, what happened, what data was involved, what actions they can take to protect themselves, and current information about how to recover from identity theft at

Notifying affected individuals promptly and transparently can also help rebuild trust and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to protecting their data. Additionally, many jurisdictions have laws and regulations that require organizations to notify affected individuals of a data breach. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in significant legal and financial consequences. 

It can also be important to outline how you plan to communicate with affected consumers. For instance, if communication will be exclusively through the mail, it should be explicitly stated. If phone contact will not be made under any circumstance, that should also be clarified to prevent phishing scams associated with the breach and preserve your company’s image. It may be helpful to inform consumers that updates will be posted on your website, providing them with a centralized source for the most current information to ensure timely and transparent communication.

Internal Staff

Notifying internal staff about a data breach can be valuable for several reasons: 

  1. It allows them to be aware of the situation and take necessary precautions to protect their own personal information, which may have also been compromised in the breach. 
  2. It allows staff to be informed and prepared to answer questions from concerned customers or clients who may call or email the company seeking information about the breach. 
  3. Notifying internal staff of a data breach demonstrates the organization’s commitment to transparency and can help maintain trust and confidence in the company. 
  4. It can help staff understand the severity of the breach and the importance of following established security protocols and procedures going forward, which can help prevent future breaches. 

Communication Tips

  • To avoid hindering the investigation, make sure to discuss the notification timing with your law enforcement contact.
  • Assign a representative within your organization to disseminate information and provide them with up-to-date details regarding the breach, response efforts, and recommended actions for individuals.
  • Explore options such as websites and toll-free numbers to communicate with individuals whose information may have been compromised. In case contact information for all affected individuals is unavailable, it may be necessary to implement a comprehensive public relations campaign, which could include notifying the news media through press releases or other means.
  • In cases where financial information or Social Security numbers are exposed, consider offering at least one year of free credit monitoring or additional support such as identity theft protection or identity restoration services. 

Contact Meriplex For Help

Data breaches can have a devastating impact on organizations and individuals alike, so it is essential to develop an effective incident response plan. Promptly notifying the appropriate parties, including internal staff, customers or clients, law enforcement, and regulatory bodies, can help minimize the damage caused by a data breach and preserve your company’s image. The steps outlined above should serve as a guide for preparing and executing an effective data breach response strategy.  It is also important to continuously train staff on the latest security protocols, audit regularly, and monitor technology to reduce the risk of future breaches. By taking proactive steps to protect your company’s systems and data, you can help ensure that your organization remains secure and compliant.  

If you are interested in how Meriplex can help your business recover from a data breach, please contact us today!