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Protecting Against Data Breaches and Crisis Communications

As the most critical part of data breach crisis communications, notifications can have a tremendous impact on the perception of the public and managing the company's image. Some of the critical questions to include when playing a notification protocol can consist of:

Protecting Against Data Breaches

When is the right time to notify the stakeholders?

It can be rare that all facts about a data breach are known upfront. If you decide to implement a notification strategy immediately, it could mean that you care about the situation, stakeholders and are working in good trust. However, this move could also backfire; it could signal that you do not have all the facts and have been hasty in sending out notifications. Hence, perhaps it can help to wait for a while until you have all the information that can help you to cut down the range of notification obligations. Unfortunately, there is no set right time when sending out notifications. Under such situations, crisis management teams have to consider several trade-offs.

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Who must be notified?

With regards to internal notifications, legal departments and upper management must be notified immediately. In some cases, legal departments or law enforcement agencies must be brought in swiftly. In the United States, some states require notification to be given to an attorney general and other legal parties. Contingent on the kind of data exposed, it could become necessary to inform the workforce and customers.

What are the platforms to notify?

Typically, conventional options are printed letters, email notifications, web declarations, press announcements, phone calls and texts. Based on the type of data that has been breached, you may want to establish a notification protocol. Further, depending on the number of consumers who have been affected, the location of the exposed data and other factors are additional aspects to consider. It can be expensive to set a notification protocol, and in most cases, such costs can be limiting factors. Today several companies adopt multipronged notification strategies that include paper and email notifications, supported by an FAQ on the website and a dedicated helpline where affected customers can receive more information on how to proceed.

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What kind of information must be included in the notification?

The purpose of issuing notifications is to build trust and appear genuine to your stakeholders. At the same time, it is also important to provide your stakeholders with adequate data that can help them to reduce their risk, whenever possible. However, existing regulations may not be in line with people's expectations of data privacy. Generally, data that is not individually regulated, such as the buying history of shoppers or their surfing habits may not be outlined explicitly in a data breach declaration, even if such data may have been violated.

Most companies face numerous challenges when dealing with a data breach. And more so for data breach response teams that look to determine when, who and how to implement the notification protocol.

Typically, data breach investigations are conducted to assess the amount of damage that information which has been regulated by a data breach notification law or clause has been inappropriately accessed or obtained. Today, data breach response teams are often led by an experienced lawyer who coaches them on how to coordinate the process, while at the same time, directing the inquiry. Besides, digital forensic investigators approach the attorney to understand how to proceed based on the information they have acquired. These investigators are also instrumental in obtaining and examining the evidence that attorneys need to decide if a notification law has been triggered.

In the United States, data breach notification regulations emerged during a time when data breaches were not as complicated and rampant as today. For instance, several state regulations were built in response to the data breach that occurred in 2005 at Choice Point. The financial fraud during that time had captured the media's attention resulting in a massive uproar among the public, thus resulting in creating the laws. During this period, credit monitoring and identity theft protection also emerged, thus becoming a part of data breach response procedures.

Typically, state breach notification regulations do not compel companies to disclose the entire event to consumers, nor do they require organizations to report every single information element that may have been exposed. Instead, the regulations are created in a manner to safeguard an individual and a limited subset of personal data. How then does one decide about buying history, web surfing details, lifestyle habits, financial credentials and such? As long as the exposed data does not contain any of the components that could spur notification such as financial account information or Social Security numbers, it does not activate the notification necessities. Even in instances where controlled information elements have been affected, companies that have experienced a breach are not required to inform parties about other, non regulated details that may have been exposed.

A threat to data security is not a novel phenomenon. A rise in external threats like data attacks, organized crime, corporate or government surveillance, and so on from conventional and non-conventional sources is increasing by the day—take, for instance, the exponential rise in data attacks during the 2020-21 Covid-19 pandemic. Besides, the growing number of insider dangers such as administration mistakes, irresponsible attitude or internal data breaches; and the rising requirements to handle an increasing number of regulations to maintain compliance — all this and more is now an actuality of today's online work environment.

In the absence of an efficient process to protect your documents and data, your organization remains exposed to data threats. These security threats could result in the loss of data assets, brand and company image and even bankruptcy. It is no longer adequate to protect your information only with anti-virus software, but rather comprehensive data protection security using IDS and document protection through Digital Rights Management (DRM). An encompassing document security system such as DRM offers safeguarded end to end distribution of your protected content, cutting down the dangers of data breaches, piracy and leakage.  Document DRM can through encryption ensure only authorized users can access confidential and sensitive documents, and can be used to restrict document use (such as disabling printing, preventing editing, stopping sharing, enforcing expiry, etc.) to ensure document use is tightly controlled.  Document DRM enables companies to share documents securely both internally and externally without worrying about undisclosed data breaches.


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