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Incident Response Best Practices for Crafting a Plan

Employees Working for IT

Cyber Incident Response (CIR) gives organisations direct support when they become victims of cyberattack.  

Having a well-planned incident response plan (IRP) is crucial to minimise the impact of cyber threats on your business. Whether it’s data loss, financial damage, or reputational harm, the consequences of a cyberattack can be severe. 

Understanding Cybersecurity Incident Response 

A single cyberattack can cause data loss, financial damage, and reputational harm that can take years to recover from. Without a cyber incident response plan, businesses may struggle to identify and contain cyber threats. This can lead to significant downtime, lost revenue, and damage to customer relationships. Additionally, businesses may face legal and regulatory penalties for failing to protect sensitive data. Businesses with a well-designed cyber incident response plan in place are better equipped to handle cyber threats. Having established protocols and procedures allows them to act rapidly and effectively during an attack. 

Best Practices for Incident Response 

Develop an incident response plan – The plan should outline the steps the incident response team should follow in the event of an incident; this will help teams improve response and recovery times to restore business operations quickly and effectively. 

Use an incident response framework – Incident response plans are often based on incident response frameworks that outline how to best structure incident response operations.  

Establish Regular IRP Communication – Perhaps one of the most important things to know about incident response plans is the necessity of their evolution and adaptation. Organisations should conduct a regular review of its IRP to identify any needed changes, as well as to implement strategies to scale the plan if necessary. 

Key Components of an Effective Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan 

An incident response plan is a documented series of procedures that break down the steps that will be taken throughout the process of incident response. This process enables an organisation to enact a timely and effective response to cybersecurity events, allowing for successful containment as well as the development of a strategy to ensure the incident will not happen again. 

  1. Identify goals and prepare – A robust critical incident response plan should be founded on a set of high-level goals to achieve maximum efficacy.

  2. Identify Stakeholders – An IRP should document the roles and responsibilities of your incident response team during an attack. Specific individuals should be given ownership of crucial tasks, and the documentation in this section of the IRP should include:
    – Incident response managers: Approve the final plan and coordinate action when an incident takes place Security analysts: Review security alerts, pinpoint potential incidents, and investigate an attack to better grasp its scope.
    – Threat researchers: Obtain contextual information relevant to a given threat, gathering details from the web, security data, threat intelligence feeds, and other trusted sources.
    – Additional stakeholders: Can include senior management, human resources staff, public relations staff, and/or senior security employees.
    – Third parties: Can include cybersecurity service providers, legal counsel, and/or law enforcement.

  3. Identify Critical Assets – Technical teams should not be left to identify critical assets, it requires strong collaboration between business and technology functions, and a thorough understanding of the assets themselves as well as the core business objectives.

  4. Identify Threats – Your organisation will need to balance your acceptable level of risk, use of time and resources, and other aspects in order to differentiate between minor and major incidents. Determining an incident response threshold largely depends on your organisation’s needs, ability to invest resources, specific industry compliance requirements, and other factors.

  5. Establish Communication Protocols – Define a communication plan for delivering cyber incident information to stakeholders, senior management, affected parties, and law enforcement entities when necessary. This plan should include contact information for all incident response team members within and outside your organisation. An efficient communication plan will help you respond to cyber incidents faster, which could significantly reduce the damage costs of data breaches.

  6. Develop Procedures – There should also be a detailed process for detecting a potential incident which prioritises a quick and effective action and may include:
    Processes for analysing security alerts provided by various systems, including intrusion detection, security information/event management, etc.
    – P
    rocesses for users to report unusual activity and attack attempts
    – An escalation process that provides a clear pathway for the prioritisation of critical threats

    Although managing an incident is essential, equally important is having a plan to recover business operations and productivity. Therefore, your organisation will need to devote attention to preparing a strategy for testing affected systems, bringing systems back online, and announcing the closure of an incident.

  7. Implement Analysis & Investigation Protocols – Once an incident has concluded, your organisation can use the event to glean valuable knowledge. Learning from an incident empowers your organisation to prevent it from happening again, as well as improve your response to future issues. This IRP component includes plans for:
    – Evaluating the incident to pinpoint a root cause
    – Patching affected systems
    – A
    ssessing the efficacy of the response
    – Identifying lessons to be learned

  8. Test & Refine – An effective incident response plan is not a linear process, it requires continuous testing and evaluation to ensure it remains current and effective in the face of ever-evolving cyber threats. Regular testing and evaluation allow organisations to identify and address weaknesses in their incident response plan, ultimately improving their overall security posture.
    Strategies and tools for testing incident response plans include paper-based testing, tabletop exercises, parallel testing, simulations, and tool testing. By committing to ongoing testing and evaluation, organisations can stay one step ahead of cyber threats and ensure their incident response plan remains effective in the face of new risks and incidents. 

How We Can Help 

Many organisations have yet to full embrace incident response, however, it should be an integral component of any enterprise cybersecurity strategy. Drawing from our years of experience, we can advise you the best way forward to prevent and recover from a cyberattack. Contact us to find out more.