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Data Breach and C-Suite: Who Should Be Involved and How?

Published on May 29 2023

While companies generally aim for the best, they must prepare for the worst when it comes to cybersecurity. Preparation is key to minimizing damage during a cyberattack. Even though the entire C-suite is affected by a breach of unprotected data, many companies place sole responsibility on cybersecurity teams.

Even though no two businesses are exactly alike, there are standard procedures that the C-site should adhere to when responding to data breaches. The article explains the various responsibilities of C-suite executives and what should be done in the event of a security breach. 

Key Roles Of C-Suites in Case Of Data Breaches 

CEO Role 

Many CEOs have learned the hard way that, in a data breach, they must act as an “Incident Manager,” rolling up their sleeves and shouldering the burden of responsibility. The chief executive officer is responsible for overseeing and directing the incident response 

  1. Gather the emergency response team; this includes C-level IT executives, lawyers, and public relations experts. 
  2. Share information with peers and communicate with competitors who have experienced similar data breaches to save time and learn from others. 
  3. Ensure the response procedures are followed and directed according to a predetermined plan. The CEO is responsible for ensuring the company’s mitigation efforts are successful. 
  4. Engage an external cybersecurity team that has dealt with similar crises or the same cybercriminal to report on the incident and conduct technical analysis. This applies only when the cybersecurity individuals lack experience or have never faced a similar cyberattack 
  5. Stay in touch with the media and collaborate with PR and legal teams because the CEOs will be in the spotlight after a data breach. 

CIO Role 

Chief information officers (CIOs) typically serve as IT teams’ leaders, so it is incumbent upon them to steer the technical team through the incident and to orchestrate the speedy restoration of affected systems and services. 

  1. Take immediate action to contain the attack, and work with the cybersecurity team to isolate the affected systems and prevent the attack from spreading further 
  2. Inform the board members and CEO when a data breach is discovered. In addition, coordinate with the public relations (PR) department to notify the appropriate parties of a data breach to avoid compliance issues 
  3. Coordinate with the IT and security teams, and work closely with them to investigate the attack, identify the root cause, and develop a remediation plan 
  4. Manage the incident response process, ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to mitigate the impact of the attack and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future 
  5. Report to regulatory and compliance bodies, including reporting the incident to the relevant authorities if necessary 
  6. Keep customers and partners informed about the attack and the steps being taken to address it, as well as any potential impact on their data or services 

CISO Role 

CISOs are the ones to initiate the emergency response plan. In most businesses, the line between the CIO and CISO tends to blur in terms of responsibilities. However, the CISO typically reports to the CIO, and once a data breach has been confirmed, the CISO should take the following steps: 

  1. Assess the damage caused by the intrusion, identify and remove the responsible cybercriminals, and stop any lateral movement through the network using standard emergency response procedures like shutting down 
  2. Make a preliminary assessment and report it to higher-ups at the C-site 
  3. Understand how much data has been compromised. Can it be put to use? Does it fall under any oversight? For whom does this have consequences? 
  4. Implement remedial measures to fix the problem and reduce the harm to the company from the breach 
  5. Determine what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how to stop it from happening again through root-cause analysis 

Legal Team Role 

Since data breaches can result in serious legal complications, the legal department should be integrated into the incident response team. One of the most important and urgent legal considerations is who must be notified of a breach. 

  1. Prove legal advice to guide the technical and executive teams on matters such as compliance, privacy, and liability 
  2. Assess legal risks associated with the attack, including potential regulatory or legal actions that may be taken against the company 
  3. Evaluate contractual obligations to identify any obligations the company may have to stakeholders affected by the attack 
  4. Coordinate with law enforcement to report the attack, assist with the investigation, and comply with any legal requirements 
  5. Manage data breach notifications to customers, partners, or regulatory authorities 

PR /Communication Team Role 

If sensitive information is compromised, it could result in a loss of trust from customers and, in turn, revenue. The best way to deal with the media attention that will inevitably follow a data breach is to leave it to the professionals on the public relations team. 

  1. Manage external communication with senior executives to develop and communicate a consistent message to the public, customers, partners, and other stakeholders about the attack and the company’s response 
  2. Coordinate media outreach, including press releases, media statements, and interviews 
  3. Address customer concerns, including setting up a customer hotline and providing regular updates on the status of the attack and the company’s response 
  4. Manage social media, and provide a full plan over all platforms to deliver the right message to the right audience without affecting the company’s reputation 


Data breaches have become a critical concern for businesses of all sizes, and the involvement of the C-suite is crucial in managing and mitigating the potential damages. Every member of the C-suite has a role to play in preventing data breaches, responding to them effectively when they occur, and ensuring that the company complies with relevant regulations. 


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