South Africa: Incident Response Plans: What To Do When Data Breaches Or Cyber-Attacks Occur In South Africa

Last Updated: 15 September 2017
Article by Rob Scott, Helen Bourne and Nicole Gabryk

What is abundantly clear from recent media reports is that organisations of all sizes and across all industry sectors are becoming targets of cyber criminals. Attacks are also becoming more frequent, more sophisticated, and the consequences more dire for organisations. Given the increased frequency, and wave nature of attacks and data losses, the focus can no longer be purely preventative. Organisations must now also focus efforts on the mitigation of the consequences of inevitable breaches and cyber-attacks, specifically by putting in place an incident response plan.

In putting together an incident response plan in South Africa, it is important to bear in mind the implications of the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill which was introduced to parliament in February 2017, and which aims to consolidate offences relating to cybercrimes, as well as to create new cybercrimes and offences to bring South Africa in line with relevant international conventions and model laws.

Specifically, the bill introduces a reporting and preservation of evidence obligation for electronic communications service providers (as defined in the Electronic Communications Act 36 of 2005), as well as financial institutions (as defined in the Financial Services Board Act 97 of 1990).

The bill provides that an electronic service provider or financial institution, which is or becomes aware that its computer systems are involved in the commission of any offence (as set out in Chapter 2 of the bill), "must without undue delay ... and not later than 72 hours after having become aware of the offence", report it in the prescribed form and manner to the South African Police Service, and preserve any information that may be of assistance to the investigation. Failure to comply with these provisions of the bill may result in a fine of R50 000. Organisations should take note of these requirements when responding to incidents, and ensure compliance once the Bill comes into effect in the near future.

In assessing risks, two questions should be asked – firstly, what security protocol or programme is in place and, secondly, what incident response plan is in place. The primary objectives of an incident response plan is to mitigate and manage potential cyber security breaches (both in relation to the organisation and to its clients and customers), to increase confidence of clients and customers and reduce any liability for the organisation. Incident response plans can take a variety of forms and there are no mandated requirements. Each organisation requires an incident response plan tailor-made to meet the needs and resources of that organisation. Below is a non-exhaustive list of considerations organisations should bear in mind in putting together an incident response plan:

Evaluate and prevent

  • Conduct an IT risk assessment by data and network mapping to determine what data, intangible assets and devices your business holds and the value of these. It is also important to gather threat intelligence on a regular basis. Any gaps in protection, IT or otherwise, should be remedied as necessary.
  • If not already in place, consider the need for the development of internal cyber security policies and procedures addressing, amongst other things, key security controls, the process for reporting breaches, remote rules, controls around using personal devices and social media use.
  • Understand your data protection and other legal obligations.


  • Engage with the board and seek authorisation for the development of cyber security protocols, necessary resourcing and a budget for implementation.
  • Set up an incident response team (with back-ups) formed of members across the business functions. Ideally the team would consist of members from IT, legal, PR, HR and the Board. Increasingly, companies are looking to specifically appoint a Chief Information Security Officer who will, as part of their responsibilities, act as the team leader in the event of a breach.
  • Draft a clear data breach incident response plan which will be initiated on the occurrence of a breach, whereby the pre-approved incident response team will be alerted and follow clear protocols to remedy the breach, minimise loss and preserve evidence.


  • It is vital to scenario test the incident response plan at the outset and at regular intervals, ideally by having security drills where the plan is put into action as if a breach was happening. Any flaws with the plan can then be identified and remedied.
  • Distribute company policies on cyber security and response to all personnel.
  • Regularly update all documents as necessary.


  • Mandatory training to personnel should be given at regular intervals, updated to reflect changes in any company policies or the incident response plan.
  • Clear employee reporting channels should be set up and communicated.


  • Many organisations are global organisations and/or have multiple office locations and fail to integrate incident response plans across all business units and locations. Also, incident response plans do not always take into account the most effective ways to manage incidents across the whole business. Incident response plans should accordingly not be developed in silos, and best practices and knowledge should be shared across all organisation locations.
  • Incident response plans easily become outdated and are often too generic. Organisations should ensure that incident response plans are constantly evaluated, tested and updated. Specific guidelines for identifying events, categorising events, and the suggested actions for identified events should be included in incident response plans.
  • The decision making for how to respond to an incident is often left to one or two key people in an organisation – this can result in a failure to implement and make decisions timeously if the responsible person is unavailable or lacks capacity to deal with the incident immediately. Decision making and escalation should accordingly be spread across the whole business to ensure prompt responses to incidents.

A data breach, whether from a cyber intrusion or the loss of a device, can be a challenge for any organisation to deal with. However, in tandem with adequate IT security, the best defence is to be prepared for a breach so that the response can be quick and effective.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions