How To Build a Data Breach Response Plan: 5 Great Resources

What is a data breach?

The definition seems obvious for any organization.  A data breach occurs when data that was supposed to be protected from unauthorized access is exposed.

What may not be as clear cut is all of the ways that sensitive data can be compromised.  These include malicious attacks, accidental mistakes, and employee incompetence.  Confidential information can fall into the wrong hands during electronic file transfers, accessing lost or stolen devices, or as a result of hackers' infiltration into a company's servers.  Even sending an unsecure email could qualify as a data breach, depending on the information it contained.

five resources for developing a data breach response planWhat is your data breach response plan?

As complex as the causes of data breaches can be, the steps for responding are fairly straightforward, though time-consuming, stressful, and expensive.  Dealing with the breach will be monumentally more challenging if you don't already have a data breach response plan in place.

Generally agreed upon steps include

  • thorough, extensive documentation of events leading up to and immediately following the discovery of the breach
  • clear and immediate communication with everyone in the company about what happened, and how they should respond to any external inquiries
  • immediate notification and activation of the designated response team, especially legal counsel, to determine whether law enforcement and/or other regulatory agencies need to be involved
  • identification of the cause of the breach and implementation of whatever steps are necessary to fix the problem
  • development of messaging and deployment schedule for notifying those whose data was compromised, based on counsel from lawyers who will review state laws, compliance regulations, and other mandates affecting what the messaging must say and how soon notification must occur, as well as what compensation to affected victims should be provided

5 Important Resources

If your company does not yet have a data breach plan in place, or if you've been thinking it might be time to update your current policy, here are five great resources that you'll want to review.

Data Breach Response Guide (Experian Data Breach Resolution Team)

Here is a comprehensive 30-page PDF that includes how to handle each step of the response process, as well as information about specific kinds of breaches such as healthcare breaches.  It even includes an audit tool for you to use to check your current plan to make sure it's as updated as it needs to be.

Security Breach Response Plan Toolkit (International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP))

Use this questionnaire to guide the development of your incident response plan.  Involve your executive and IT team so everyone can better understand all facets of the process.

Specifically designed for small businesses, the BBB provides a series of articles and resources to help companies understand the issues surrounding data security, as well as how to build a response plan.

Model Data Security Breach Preparedness Guide (American Bar Association)

For those with limited access to legal counsel, this PDF provides an overview from the legal perspective of how to prepare for a data breach.  It obviously isn't a substitute for seeking advice from a lawyer who knows or can learn the details of your specific situation as well as the laws that apply in your state and industry.  However, it does provide some good general information that could help you launch a discussion with your legal team.

Data Breach Charts (Baker Hostetler law firm)

If your company does business in more than one state, this is a great starting point to review how different states' data breach laws compare.  Again, it doesn't take the place of your legal team, but it's a helpful overview.

What other resources do you know about that should be included in this list?  Let us know in the comments!  

Healthcare Industry Still Lags in Protecting Data

As healthcare information security requirements and penalties get tougher, a great deal of discussion is focused around how well the healthcare industry is securing patient data.

healthcare data security survey results

The general consensus is that the industry still has a long way to go. One of the industry's publications, Healthcare InfoSecurity, released the results of the Healthcare Information Security Today survey sponsored by RSA which took an in-depth look at security and IT practices of senior executives in the healthcare industry.

<< click on the image to learn more  


The survey reviews many information security topics including

  • Impact of a data breach
  • Security threats
  • Compliance and steps to improve security
  • Risk assessment

Some of the responses surprised us on how far healthcare companies need to go for proper HIPAA compliance. Take a look at these statistics:

  • 55% of respondents were not confident in their organization's ability to comply with HIPAA and HITECH Act regulations concerning privacy and security (grading themselves adequate or less).
  • 66% responded that their organization's ability to counter internal information security threats was adequate or less.
  • Only 47% of survey participants utilize encryption for information accessible via a virtual private network or portal.
  • 32% of respondents have not conducted a detailed information technology security risk assessment/analysis within the past year with 47% updating their risk assessment only periodically.

The good news is that the survey shows that healthcare organizations are taking steps in the right direction to improve their security practices.

  • 37% of organizations' budgets for information security are scheduled to increase over the next year.
  • 40% of respondents plan to implement audit tool or a log management solution within the next year.

When asked what their organization's top three information security priorities are for the coming year, the top responses included

  • Improving regulatory compliance efforts
  • Improving security awareness/education
  • Preventing and detecting breaches

Healthcare IT teams will need updated security policies, comprehensive training for employees, and reliable tools and solutions that can deliver functionality, ease of use, audit reporting, and efficient workflows that protect the security of confidential data at rest and in motion.

The pressure is growing, compliance audits are looming, and tackling these issues are just part of the evolution of the healthcare industry.  

Retailers Struggle to Protect Against Data Breach

data breach, data securityAs thousands of harried spouses and romantically entangled Americans scramble to find the right Valentine's Day gifts this week, many are pulling out the credit cards and ordering online or over the phone or waiting in line to swipe their debit cards at the florist or candy store.  That's a lot of personal data zooming through cyberspace, which can make the perfect gift for hackers.

One of the compliance regulations that controls how merchants and others handle credit card data is PCI DSS, established to prevent, detect and react to unauthorized access to personal payment information.  The standards are strict and penalties can be stiff.

The challenge comes when retailers, overwhelmed with busy shopping seasons and lines of customers, have so many things to manage that their vigilance protecting customer data can lose priority.  And yet, it just takes one misstep to open the doors to a data breach.

That's why it's critical that retailers and other organizations who handle credit card information regularly assess their data protection policies and processes, and implement effective encryption and data transfer tools that can automate the process of keeping data secure so they can focus on keeping their customers happy.

For more information about how Linoma Software can help keep your data safe at rest and in motion, email Solutions@LinomaSoftware.com.

New Protections for Patient Data Increase Pressure For Trading Partners to Get Compliant

Yet another layer of regulation has been added to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that offers even greater protection for healthcare patients' privacy, while also defining new rights regarding how they can access their health records.

meet HIPAA compliance regulationsThe biggest change is the expansion of HIPAA compliance requirements to include trading partners and third parties who also handle patient data, such as billing companies, contractors, and more.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that these third parties have been responsible for several significant data breaches which is one reason the responsibility for compliance has been extended to this group.

Penalties for violating HIPAA compliance rules will be assessed based on the determined level of negligence, and can go as high as $1.5 million per incident.

Other issues addressed with the latest additions to the HIPAA regulations include more clarity in defining which types of breaches need to be reported, as well as how patients will be allowed to access and interact with their health records electronically.

If you're concerned about whether your FTP server meets compliance regulations, join us for a webinar on Thursday, Jan. 31 at Noon Central entitled "Get Your FTP Server in Compliance!"  You can learn more about the agenda for this webinar here.

For more information about the new HIPAA rules, check out the press release from HHS.

Healthcare Data Breaches on the Rise

Stories of data breaches across all industries continue to make the news, and nowhere is the pressure greater to keep data safe than on healthcare IT managers.

Healthcare IT News states that health data breaches increased by 97% in 2011. The 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon's RISK team confirmed that over 174 million records were reported as compromised, mostly as the result of hackers accessing the data. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center 2011 Breach Stats Report, 20% of all data breaches in 2011 were in the healthcare industry.

data breach statistics for 2012

What is most startling about this report is that, according to the RISK study, 97% of these cases could have been avoided through simple or intermediate security controls.  The graphic (see right) is one of the many included in Verizon's study.

Because the most common place where data is compromised is from corporate databases and web servers, hackers who gain access to these vulnerable areas are mining this data for private information such as social security numbers, birthdates and credit card information.

Studies like these underscore the importance of establishing network security perimeters and implementing procedures that protect the privacy of  patients' information residing on these servers.

IT managers must be vigilant to combat hackers' ever more sophisticated tools and methods, and that begins with better security procedures at the office.

Security Policy and Procedures Document

The first step in ramping up security is to write and formalize a security policy and procedures document that addresses best practice protocols and that encompasses applicable HIPAA and HITECH regulations.

Next, all employees must be trained and expectations for compliance made clear,  because it takes a concerted effort on everyone's part to ensure the required protections are implemented consistently.

Secure Data Files In Motion

One of the more popular ways for hackers to capture sensitive data is via the movement of files and documents across the Internet.  In an earlier blog post, we talked about how standard FTP is commonly used to send files. However, FTP sends the files in unencrypted form, and offers no protection for the server's login credentials. Once those credentials are captured, hackers can use them to access the FTP server to mine additional data files.

While managing the security of all of the files in the office may seem overwhelming, Managed File Transfer solutions can simplify this task. Used in conjunction with a reverse proxy gateway, a much greater security perimeter is formed around the network, servers and the sensitive data that need protection.

HITECH Compliance Offers Challenges for IT

Outside of the finance industry, healthcare is one of the most regulated industries in the U.S.  As the healthcare policy debates rage on, one issue on which most Americans can agree is the need to keep personal healthcare information confidential and secure.

Major regulations such as HIPAA and HITECH have been passed into law to increase the security of our personal health information.  For better or worse, a major portion of the burden to comply with the regulations and all of their revisions falls upon the IT professionals.

HIPAA and HITECH: a brief overviewHITECH, data security, compliance

While HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act), passed in 1996, has received the most attention (see our blog), the more recently implemented HITECH law is quickly having an impact.

HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) was passed into law in 2009. The goal for the  HITECH is to strengthen the civil and criminal enforcement of already existing HIPAA regulations that require health organizations and their business partners to report data breaches.  HITECH also increases the penalties for security violations, and implements new rules for tracking and disclosing patient information breaches.

Data breach notification

Under HITECH rules, all data breaches of PHI (protected health information) must be reported to the individuals whose data was compromised. This includes reporting files that may have been hacked, stolen, lost or even transmitted in an unencrypted fashion.  If such a breach -- or potential breach -- affects 500 people or more, the media must also be notified.   Breaches of all sizes must always be reported to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), but if fewer than 500 individuals' records are affected, healthcare organizations can report the breach via the HHS website on an annual basis.  Larger breaches must be reported to HHS within 60 days.

Penalties for data breach

The HITECH Act implements a four tier system of financial penalties assessed based on the level of "willful neglect" a healthcare organization demonstrated resulting in the breach. Fines range from  $100 per breached record for unintended violations all the way up to $50,000 per record (with an annual cap of $1.5 million) when "willful neglect" is demonstrated.

Access to electronic health records (EHRs)

HITECH requires that the software that a health organization uses to manage its EHRs must make a person's electronic PHI records available to the patient and yet remain protected from data breach by encrypting the data and securing the connection.  Not surprisingly, email is not considered a secure method of data transmission.

Business associates

Before HITECH,  business associates of healthcare organizations were not held directly liable for privacy and security under the HIPAA rules, even though they had access to PHI.  HITECH now requires that all business associates with access to PHI are subject to the HIPAA rules and must maintain Business Associate Agreements with the healthcare organization that provides the PHI.  Business associates are also required to report any data breaches and are subject to the same penalties as their healthcare business partners.

Are Insurance Companies Managing Their Risk of Data Breach?

An injury that doesn't happen needs no treatment. An emergency that doesn't occur requires no response. An illness that doesn't develop demands no remedy. The best way to stay safe ½ is to avoid getting into trouble in the first place. That requires planning, training, leadership, good judgment, and accepting responsibility--in short, risk management.  

 -- Boy Scout Field Book

Insurance companies are the experts at analyzing and managing risk. They identify, quantify and set pricing based on the calculated costs of risk. Naturally, the higher the perceived risk, the higher the cost to mitigate the potential losses.

Yet here is the irony.  While those in the insurance industry excel at evaluating risk management for their clients, they often neglect risk mitigation within their own operation.

Exposed data is serious risk

The insurance industry collects and analyzes overwhelming amounts of data. This often sensitive and confidential information becomes the basis upon which many critical decisions are made, and which produces the competitive advantage to provide better policies, prices, and solutions to the market.

All of this data, both historical and cutting-edge, is truly the lifeblood of the insurance industry. Therefore, the astute management and protection of this data is the infrastructure of arteries and veins delivering this lifeblood to all of the appendages of the company that need the results of this data compilation.

In addition, this sensitive and private information is disseminated to various internal and external associates, customers, partners and collaborators usually via the Internet, which exposes this data to compromise.

And yet, despite their expertise in risk analysis, many in the insurance industry fail to ask these questions:

  • Given how much data we're exchanging with clients, partners, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, etc., what is our risk of a data breach?
  • What is our liability if we suffer a data breach?
  • What can be done to mitigate potential losses?

When examined this way, any underwriter would agree that failure to adequately protect the sensitive data continually in transit in an insurance company's daily workflow presents an extremely high risk.

Insurance industry, heal thyself

If data really is the lifeblood of the insurance business, and the data center is at the heart of the company, then the arteries and veins are the methods of moving that data to and from your departments, clients, business partners, and others.

While adding layers of physical security to the data center is a top priority for insurance IT professionals, securing the pathways in and out of that data center tends to be overlooked, despite media coverage of data breaches at companies worldwide.   This lack of action underestimates the extent of the public's concern that their private data may be compromised, and state and federal efforts to more strictly regulate data storage and transfer policies.

Effectively managing FTP transactions is essential to mitigating the risks of data loss.  The costs of implementing managed file transfer solutions are minimal and provide tremendous flexibility when striving to meet the requirements of trading partners and compliance regulations.

As the insurance industry knows better than anyone, the best approach is to mitigate risk with a cost efficient solution.  In this case, taking direct action to protect data transfers is the obvious prescription for any organization -- especially one based on risk management.

FTP May Be Easy, But That May Be the Problem

It happens in your office every day:  someone on your team hits a roadblock when they realize that email just won't handle the huge file they need to send - immediately. Or another coworker starts to send an account number or password via email and realizes that perhaps, email isn't all that secure. FTP alternative, managed file transfer

That's when the tech savvy gal in the corner suggests the obvious solution: just send that file or sensitive personal information via FTP!  She lists a variety of "free" tools that can be downloaded easily, as well as a couple cloud solutions, and in desperation (and often ignorance), your coworker takes her advice and a new FTPer is born.

FTP, or "file transfer protocol," is a solution that's been available for more than 30 years.  Within the last decade, so many free or inexpensive FTP tools have become available that many of us assume that FTP must be a reliable solution, or why would so many people be using it?

As we know with many of society's ills, just because something is easy to find and popular to use doesn't mean it's a smart or effective idea.

The downside of FTP

While FTP may be able to send large files, standard FTP - like email -- is not secure, and is therefore vulnerable to hackers.

Rogue FTP tools, like those free tools sprinkled on employees' PCs, start to become a liability to the company, both financially and to its reputation and credibility.

To begin with, multiple employees with multiple FTP tools mean that no one has a master view of the flow of data in and out of your company. It's impossible to know who is sending what to whom, and who is receiving files from where.

State and Federal laws require that data which contains personally identifiable information must be encrypted and secured. This also applies to most of the financial data that we collect and create. How can you keep tabs on all of this with a lot of FTP processes running on various PCs throughout the office?

Second, because FTP is not secure, the company increases its risk for a data breach.  Costs to notify those affected when a data breach occurs, combined with the fines that can be assessed, can be in the millions of dollars, not to mention the damage to the company's brand.

If not FTP, then what?

One approach to control FTP traffic is to set up restrictions on the corporate firewall, essentially prohibiting access for all but specifically authorized personnel to the ports required for FTP processes to work.

Chances are, though, that the same tech savvy employee who suggested FTP in the first place also knows how to bypass this restriction by finding different ports or switching to online FTP services. For determined FTPers, even our cell phones are equipped to send and receive files.

So, if it's hard to stop it, the next best option is to educate your employees, and to develop and promote clear expectations and consequences regarding sending files and sensitive data from work. Many employees want to do the right thing, but don't understand the implications of sending sensitive data through the easiest - though not necessarily the safest - means.

Another option that is rapidly growing in popularity is the implementation of a managed FTP solution that can be configured to allow users to send and receive large files  and sensitive information within their daily workflow, but with the addition of administrative control and much greater security.

A managed file transfer solution such as Linoma Software's GoAnywhere Suite, in combination with setting up appropriate firewall rules and educating all employees of corporate policy and procedures,  will keep your employees - tech savvy or not - productive and happy, and give your IT department peace of mind knowing that the company data is secure.

Is Your Company Letting Data Slip Through the Cracks?

data breach, managed file transferMany Americans have spent the last few days frantically searching for receipts and other documentation to finish their taxes before Tuesday, April 17.  No doubt some of those people thought they knew exactly where to find what they needed, and were dismayed to discover that their confidence -- as well as their data -- had been misplaced.

How about your confidence regarding your organization's sensitive data? As managers, are you aware of all of the transactions going in and out of the company network? Who is sending and pulling files, and why? What's the best way to manage all of these data exchanges? Isn't there a more user-friendly solution than prohibiting all FTP communications except from specified computers or user profiles?

Efficient workflow requires efficient data flow

No doubt data security is critical.  So is the ability to exchange information to accomplish daily business goals.  Almost every department needs to exchange files with trading partners, customers, vendors, remote employees, and more.

Here are just a few examples of data your company may be exchanging every day:


  • Tax documents
  • Annual, quarterly monthly reports to shareholders, investors, banks, financial partners
  • Personnel reporting


  • Art files to/from artists, printers, marketing partners
  • Video and other content for web, publishers, printers
  • PDF brochures, proposals, whitepapers to prospects, partners, customers

Information Technologies

  • Data files to/from system integration partners
  • Database exchanges with business networks
  • System updates
  • EDI file transaction exchanges
  • Update to HA and offsite systems

Customer Service

  • Customer update documents
  • Client reporting documents
  • Receipt of supporting documents


  • Supplier data exchange
  • Customer data exchange
  • Inventory reporting

Research & Development

  • Product specifications to/from manufacturing partners
  • Large CAD/engineering data to/from development partners

How do you control the data flow?

Educate your employees

Each organization has developed rules and codes of conduct to maintain productivity, positive morale, and customer confidence.  Ideally, these policies are documented and part of employee training. It's imperative that the rules governing data management are also included in the documented policies, and all employees regardless of their roles need to demonstrate their understanding of the data management policies. Clear directives regarding management's expectations is the first line of defense against data breach.

Implement the appropriate technology solution

The right technology tools can also be a valuable part of the data control approach.  Most data exchanges can be performed through secure email, FTP and network communications. A combined implementation of firewall and managed FTP solutions will help secure and distribute the resource requirements as appropriate for every department's needs.

Firewalls not only protect the company network from outside intruders, but can also help manage internal traffic.  A managed file transfer (MFT) system allows specific types of transfers based on users' permissions or specified events so the inbound/outbound flow of data can be better managed and monitored. With an MFT system, audit logs are automatically kept of each data exchange, and files and emails can be encrypted and secured to ease worries that they might be sent to the wrong people.

The bottom line

Given the multitude of data files that need to be moved in and out of your organization, and the need to create efficient workflows that allow employees to do their jobs while maintaining strict vigilance about data security, few facets of your business are more important than controlling your data flow.  Getting information in the right hands and keeping sensitive data shielded from non-authorized access is an ongoing challenge, but education and the right tools are the keys to success.

Data Breach Remains a Hot Topic for Media

During the past few years, the media has highlighted a variety of examples of the loss of private information by large companies either by theft or misuse.

One of the reasons for the increased media attention is the renewed focus on establishing and enforcing data breach notification laws which apply to companies that own, lease or store private, personally identifiable information. If that data is exposed to unauthorized use either by accident, cyber attack, employee misconduct, or other causes, most states require companies responsible for protecting that data to announce the data breach and individually notify everyone affected. Some states require that credit agencies are also notified.

data breach, managed file transferFor clarification, private data means any information that can be used to identify an individual, including sensitive information such as a credit card number, social security number, or health related data. T

here are a few exceptions to having to report the data breach. If the compromised files were encrypted while in transit across the Internet or stored on stolen backup tapes, for example, it is unlikely that the files could be unencrypted, so the individuals' privacy isn't as likely to be compromised.

A company that finds itself dealing with a data breach learns quickly that the process is not just embarrassing and costly (sending notifications, providing free credit reports, etc.), it can also damage the company's hard-earned reputation resulting in the loss of customers. The point is that companies are responsible - and legally liable -- for the information that is in their hands.

Securing File Transfers

Most companies use FTP (file transfer protocol) to send data files back and forth to their trading partners, vendors, remote employees, etc. Most often, FTP is used to send files that are too large to email.

However, file transfers like these are captured and compromised by data thieves on the Internet every day -- unless security procedures have been put into place to safeguard the files' data.

Companies need to implement procedures that secure both an in-motion process (files in transit over the Internet) and an at-rest process (files stored on servers or backup tapes). SFTP and FTPS protocols both secure the file while in motion by encrypting the communication link between two systems during the file transfer. PGP encrypts the file itself, protecting it while at rest on the server or backup tapes.

When addressing the challenge of sending ad-hoc files that are too big to email, finding a managed file transfer solution that includes a secure mail feature can mean the difference between an accidental data breach and a successfully delivered file.

Implementing these security procedures is a significant step organizations can take to greatly reduce their risk of data breach, and therefore their exposure to the financial liability and the loss of confidence of their customers and trading partners.