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Data Breach Notification

What Is a Data Breach Notification?

A data breach notification is a formal communication issued by organizations to individuals, businesses, or regulatory authorities informing them of a security breach that has compromised their personal or sensitive information. 

The purpose of data breach notifications is to promptly notify those affected by a breach so they can take appropriate actions to mitigate potential privacy risks and protect their information.

Breach notifications usually include:

  • Description of the breach. This includes details about how the breach happened and what information was compromised. 
  • Timing of the breach. Notifications should include a timeframe showing when the breach occurred, making it easier for affected individuals and organizations to understand when their information may have been exposed.
  • Steps taken to address the breach. Organizations often outline the immediate actions they are taking to investigate the breach’s cause and mitigate further damage that could come from it. They might also describe additional security measures they plan to introduce to prevent similar incidents in the future.
  • Recommendations for affected individuals. Breach notifications typically include steps affected parties can take to protect themselves, such as changing passwords, monitoring financial accounts, or enrolling in credit monitoring services.
  • Contact information for assistance. Organizations may provide contact information for individuals to reach out to with questions or concerns related to the breach, as well as resources for obtaining further support.

Breach notifications are an essential component of breach response and are often required by law in many jurisdictions, particularly when the breach involves the compromise of personal or sensitive information. 

Third-party definition 

A communication sent by the data controller to the Data Protection Authority, and in specific cases to the data subject, in clear and plain language, about the nature of a data breach that has occurred, and of the security measures employed to prevent any harm towards the data subject. – Clym

Why Data Breach Notifications Are Crucial for Privacy

Data breach notifications provide consumers with essential information about the nature and scope of the breach that impacted them. 

This allows consumers to make informed decisions about the security of their data, the measures they could take to minimize further exposure or damage, and whether they want to continue engaging with the affected organization.

What to Do After You Receive a Data Breach Notification

While every breach is unique, there are common steps you can follow to reduce potential risks and protect your personal information effectively. 

These are:

  • Understand the breach: When you get a breach notification, carefully review the details provided to understand the extent of the incident. Pay close attention to the kind of data compromised and the potential impact on you. Take advantage of free tools like Have I Been Pwned? to verify if your information was affected.
  • Read between the lines. In an article on TechCrunch, Zack Whittaker explains how to read data breach notifications. Spoiler alert: “There is no evidence data was taken” does not mean it hasn’t happened. And “A small percentage of our customers was affected” might not be as small as you think. 
  • Change passwords: Regardless of whether your login credentials were compromised, you should change passwords for all affected accounts. However, avoid common passwords like “123456” and “password” and passwords that use personal information like your spouse’s name, as this kind of data can be easily found online. 
  • Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security to your accounts. Use authentication apps or physical keys for added protection, avoiding SMS-based methods whenever possible, as they can be bypassed through SIM-swapping attacks
  • Monitor financial accounts: If the breach compromised your financial information, notify your bank of potential fraud and monitor account statements for suspicious activity.
  • Check credit reports: allows you to request free credit reports from major credit bureaus and monitor for fraudulent activity. Consider placing a credit freeze to prevent unauthorized accounts from being opened in your name.
  • Practice good digital hygiene: Adopt good digital hygiene practices, such as regularly updating passwords, monitoring account activity, and deleting unused accounts. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can minimize the impact of breaches and protect your privacy online.
  • Reduce your digital footprint. Criminals often merge information from different breaches and other sources, like social media profiles and data brokers, to get a better idea of individuals. Make it harder for attackers to build out a picture of your life by keeping your personal information to a minimum online. Opt out of data brokers, make your social media profiles private, and don’t reuse the same usernames across accounts.