The best way to handle any emergency is to be prepared. When it comes to data breaches incident response plans are the first step organizations take to prepare. Furthermore, many organizations are required to maintain one. For example, any organization that accepts payment cards is most likely contractually required to adopt an incident response plan.

A good incident response plan does not attempt to predict every type of breach that may occur. Rather the fundamental components of an incident response plan is that it establishes the framework for who within an organization is responsible for investigating a security incident, what resources that person has at their disposal (inside and outside of the organization), and when a situation should be elevated to others within the organization. They can also provide a reference guide for the type of actions common to most security investigations. The following provides a snapshot of information regarding incident response plans.


Proportion of companies in one study that reported a breach over the course of a year.1


Percentage of companies that do not have privacy/data protection training for employees.2


Percentage of companies with a plan that have no scheduled review or have never reviewed the plan.3


Percentage of companies that are not sure if their plan is effective or think that it is ineffective.4

What are organization’s top concerns when it comes to incident response plans?

  1. The plan has little relationship to how the organization actually handles security incidents.
  2. The plan has never been tested.
  3. The plan does not cover all of the issues that arise in a data security incident.

Checklist for drafting an effective incident response plan:

  1. The plan assigns a specific person or group to lead an investigation.
  2. The plan provides a clear plan for escalating information about an incident.
  3. The plan discusses the need for preserving evidence.
  4. The plan incorporates legal where appropriate to preserve attorney-client privilege.
  5. The plan discusses how the organization will communicate externally concerning an incident.
  6. The plan includes contact information for internal resources.
  7. The plan includes contact information for pre-approved external resources.
  8. The plan is reviewed annually.
  9. The plan is tested.