Data breach management: 5 tips for the self-employed

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Data breaches can have devastating impacts on businesses and their data subjects. Whether you run a one-person company or a global organisation, breaches can cause many issues such as operational disruption, reputation damage, loss of customer trust, and regulatory consequences.

In this blog, we explore data breach management best practices for independent professionals and the self-employed, with 5 tips for an effective response. Developing a long-term data breach framework and security strategy is key for self-employed individuals to remain proactive and help mitigate the devastating consequences of a data breach.               


Cyber vs non-cyber breaches: What's the difference?   

Some of the biggest personal data breaches in recent history have involved cyber-attacks by malicious third parties. A significant example is Yahoo’s breach, which involved 3 billion user accounts, and was reportedly initiated by a spear-phishing email.

A survey by Markel Direct revealed that 51% of small businesses, including self-employed individuals, had been the victim of a cyber-attack. Of these, over two-thirds reported the cost of the breach was up to £5,000. 

According to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), non-cyber incidents account for the highest number of reported breaches in total.

A non-cyber breach is also known as a physical or offline breach. These happen through physical means and usually involve human error. Between October and December 2022, 75% of reported UK personal data breaches were classified as non-cyber, with “data emailed to the wrong recipient” cited as the leading cause, accounting for 19% of the incidents.


Data breach management best practices

If you are a self-employed individual or independent professional, you will need to take proactive steps to prevent a data breach. As well as avoiding data breach penalties, a robust plan helps you to respond swiftly to incidents and provides the following important advantages:

  • Builds customer trust
  • Preserves your professional reputation
  • Strengthens partnerships
  • Mitigates business disruption
  • Brings peace of mind

In today’s digital world, data breaches are an unfortunate reality. By having a comprehensive plan, you can minimise the impact of potential attacks, and demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding your customers’ information.


DPO advice

Larger organisations usually have dedicated breach teams and support for ongoing data security training. But smaller businesses, especially self-employed individuals, can face unique challenges due to a lack of resources.

Pippa Scotcher, Data Protection Officer from The DPO Centre has conducted many compliance audits. She offers this helpful advice for self-employed and independent professionals:

Self-employed individuals must ensure they have a tried and tested breach response procedure in place to mitigate against the potentially significant effects of both cyber and non-cyber data breaches. Doing so enables them to act quickly to contain and remediate a breach, which ultimately reduces the likely damage caused to both their business as well as affected individuals.

Pippa Scotcher, Data Protection Officer
The DPO Centre

5 tips for an effective data breach response

Tip 1: Establish a data breach response manager

For independent professionals and the self-employed, a data breach response manager can either be yourself or an outsourced team who manages security incidents. 

Time is of the essence when responding to a breach. Having a dedicated response manager will play a vital role in minimising any impact, whilst safeguarding sensitive information. Ideally, this person should have a solid understanding of the data protection considerations alongside any immediate technical mitigation.


Tip 2: Review your data processing activities

Regular reviews should be part of your overall plan. It is important to understand how and where you process data, and what your existing security measures are. Once you have identified any weaknesses and risks, you can make informed decisions on how best to allocate resources to strengthen your data protection efforts.

The most efficient way to approach this is to create an Information Asset Register, conduct data mapping exercises, and building a Record of Processing Activities (RoPA) can all help with this process. In addition, undertaking Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) on high-risk processing activities ensures particular focus on processes where the impact of a data breach is likely to be more significant. 


Tip 3: Develop a data breach response plan

As detailed in the previous section, a data breach response plan is essential. A risk assessment will identify areas of weakness, but a robust data breach response plan ensures you are well-prepared if a breach does occur.

The specific details of a plan will vary depending on your role, industry sector and specific data handling practices. In general, data breach response plans should include:

  • Details of the data breach response manager (you or an outsourced provider)
  • Breach identification and internal reporting and logging procedures
  • Legal and regulatory procedures
  • Breach containment and mitigation
  • External support resources
  • Breach risk assessment framework
  • Post-breach review procedures
  • Training and awareness requirements


Tip 4: Monitor for suspicious activity and anomalies

This is an important ongoing strategy for identifying any potential breaches. Early intervention can reduce the damage caused by cyber-attacks or personal data security incidents. Regularly reviewing your processes based on any emerging threats and best practices is ideal. Here are some measures to consider:

  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)
  • Analyse web application logs for suspicious activities such as multiple login failures
  • Conduct regular data protection security audits
  • Complete regular data protection refresher courses 


Tip 5: Build a data protection culture

Prevention is always better than cure, and this is never truer than for data breaches. Data protection awareness and knowledge is perhaps one of the key factors in preventing a data breach. As the ICO figures show, the highest number of breaches are non-cyber, and of those, sending an email to the wrong recipient is the most probable cause of a data breach. Ongoing awareness and training are crucial for building a strong data protection ethos.



Data breaches are an unfortunate reality in today's digital world. However, by having a comprehensive data breach management plan in place, self-employed individuals can minimise the impacts of potential attacks and demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding information.

By following these five tips and implementing a step-by-step plan, independent professionals can protect personal information, strengthen data security, and ensure the trust and confidence of stakeholders and customers alike. Proactive measures and timely repsonses are the key for effective data breach management.

For more advice or to discuss a specific data protection requirement, please contact us and we will be in touch.


Meet the author

The DPO Centre
A leading Data Protection Officer resource centre, delivering expert data protection and privacy advice, and access to skilled and experience resources whenever and wherever it is needed.