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March 21, 2022

What to do after a Data Breach


We live in a vibrant digital age. While the advantages of technology allow us great benefits and efficiencies in our lives, they can also bring dangerous security risks.

Computer-related crimes are on the rise, targeting consumers and businesses alike. Safeguarding our personal and financial information from cyber threats is extremely important, especially when it comes to identity theft.

Many of us have protections in place, such as firewall security and anti-malware software, to try and prevent scammers from targeting our computers and gaining unauthorized access.

But even the best protections can fail against a cyber attack. Information that can be compromised in an attack may include:

  • Usernames and passwords
  • Email addresses
  • Phone Numbers and Home Addresses
  • Birthdays
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Driver’s License Numbers
  • Credit Card or Debit Card Numbers
  • Bank Account Information

What can individuals and businesses do to reduce the impact of a data breach?  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends following the steps below.

FOR CONSUMERS IMPACTED BY A DATA BREACH

1) Contact your bank immediately

  • Check for any unusual activity on all your accounts. 
  • Check your statements regularly for potentially fraudulent activity.
  • Report any unusual activity right away.

2) Report It

  • If you’re a victim of identity theft, file a police report and an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov
  • This establishes a legal record of theft and will help in case someone does attempt to use your social security number to commit fraud. 

3) Place a Fraud Alert on Credit Reports

  • Place a fraud alert by contacting any one of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. 
    • You don’t need to contact all three.  The credit bureau you reached out to must tell the other two you have placed a fraud alert on your credit report.
  • A fraud alert requires potential creditors to contact you, the consumer, to obtain permission to open new accounts or lines of credit.
  • When you place a fraud alert, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus.
  • A fraud alert lasts for one year, after which time you can renew it.
    • Extended fraud alerts are available, but only if you’ve had your identity stolen, have filed a police report and completed an FTC identity theft report at IdentityTheft.gov
    • When you place an extended fraud alert, you are allowed a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus twice within one year from the time you placed the alert.
    • An extended fraud alert lasts seven years.
  • The cost is free for both types of fraud alerts.

4) Place a Credit Freeze on Credit Reports

  • A credit freeze restricts access to your account, so that you, or others, won’t be able to open new accounts in your name while the freeze is in place. 
  • You can temporarily lift the credit freeze if circumstances arise where you need to apply for credit.
  • To place a credit freeze, you must contact each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

5) Check Your Credit Report Annually

  • Consumers are entitled by law to a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus once per year.
  • Review your reports annually to ensure all your credit information is accurate and up to date.
  • The credit bureaus offer a centralized, authorized website to order free credit reports, or you can call 1-877-322-8228.

FOR BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY A DATA BREACH

1) Secure Operations

  • Secure physical areas potentially related to the breach. 
  • Closely monitor all entry and exit points.
  • Secure and lock these areas, restrict access, and change access codes if needed.
  • Update credentials and passwords for authorized users.
  • If a hacker stole credentials, put new ones in place, even if the hacker’s tools have been removed.
  • Mobilize your internal breach response team to prevent additional data loss.
    • Depending on the size and nature of your company, your breach response team may include forensics, legal, information security, information technology, operations, human resources, and management.

2) Fix Vulnerabilities

  • Take affected equipment offline immediately.
  • Check with external service providers to ensure they were not compromised.
  • Work with forensics experts:
    • Determine who had access to the data at the time of the breach.
    • Verify the type of information compromised and the number of people impacted.

3) Have a Communications Plan

  • If you haven’t already, create a comprehensive plan that reaches all impacted parties.
    • This includes employees, customers, investors, business partners and stakeholders.
  • Don’t withhold key details about the breach that may help consumers protect themselves.
  • Don’t publicly share information that might put consumers at further risk.

4) Notify Appropriate Parties

  • This includes your local police department.
    • Report your situation and the potential risk for identity theft
    • The sooner local law enforcement is made aware of a breach, the more effective they can be to assist.
  • For further assistance investigating information compromises, contact the local FBI office or the U.S. Secret Service.

5) Did the Breach Involve Personal Health Records?

  • Check if you’re covered by the Health Breach Notification Rule.  If so, you must notify the FTC and, in some cases, the media.
  • For additional resources regarding health breaches, visit this site.

To learn more about how to respond after a data breach, please visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at ftc.gov