What Is an Incident Response Plan?

An incident response (IR) plan guides your business’ response to a cyber security incident. IR details both technical and business processes, enabling all business and IT leaders to handle emerging threats efficiently and effectively. 

IR is very important to your business’ security. It helps your business increase responsiveness at every stage of an attack, from detection to response and clean-up, helping your business mitigate damage — both in terms of data and customer trust.

Over the next 600 words, this document will help you understand what a good IR plan will achieve, as well as how to start taking the right steps to put yours together.

Cyber Security Incidents Are More Commonplace than Network Breaches

IR plans consider a range of possibilities that lead to sensitive information getting in the wrong hands. In many cases, especially these days, this ultimate breach in confidentiality occurs because someone external to the organization plans and executes a cyberattack. However, IR plans also cover cases where employees might accidentally send customer data to the wrong endpoint. Possibly a consultant has access to a folder, or the employee misclicks, and suddenly there is a leak. 

These less nefarious scenarios are also covered by IR planning, helping the organization stay on a firm foundation — with themselves and their stakeholders.

What Are the Main Benefits of Incident Response Plans?

So far we’ve discussed some of the more abstract benefits of IR plans, like security and responsiveness. But what does IR actually do when you confront an incident? 

IR gives you definitive, easy-to-follow steps that help you address the incident quickly and effectively. Many plans break these steps up into 6 phases: 

  1. Preparation

The most commonly practiced phase of the IR plan, preparation assigns regular practices in place to maintain preparedness. Employees and leaders need to stay trained on what to do in case of an incident, as well as how to reduce the organization’s exposure to threat. Some organizations also conduct regular drills and tests to ensure the business stays fit against emerging threats.

  1. Identification

Many ransomware attacks entail months of planning as attackers nest themselves deeper into sensitive areas. This often gives defenders a period in which identification can substantially mitigate any damages. The identification phase sets processes into place that help employees and systems report strange activity. It also arms technical leads with the tools and processes they need to track down claims, identify, explore, and gauge threats.

  1. Containment

The third phase of an IR plan, containment, can seem counter-intuitive at first. The gut instinct tends to be, “Let’s purge the system of the threat.” However, this action limits defenders and litigators by destroying valuable evidence and information. Most IR plans set practical containment measures into place, as well as systems, like hardened authentication, backups, and more, allowing the business to get back up and running quickly in the event of a successful breach.

  1. Eradication

Once the threat is contained, then you can proceed with finding and eradicating the root cause. This step sets processes and technologies in place to help remove and ensure permanent removal of malware.

  1. Recovery

Recovery plans begin with determining the factors involved in deciding that it is safe to proceed with recovery. They continue with full recovery, either from backups or other tools to bring business data and systems back online. Recovery is also where attack analysis begins, and professionals can start to analyze Techniques, Tactics and Procedures (TTP) more thoroughly, deducing how defenses might need to adapt in the future. 

  1. Lessons Learned

After the business comes back online with full functionality, the business holds an after-Incident meeting to analyze the incident and make decisions about how to address possible incidents in the future. 

  1. Business Leaders and Communications

In each of these phases, business leaders also have a role in communicating with employees and customers. Thanks to the IR plan, there is a tangible, thoughtful response plan to present to the community. For a deeper look at effective communication from IR plans, look at how businesses like Kaseya were able to handle their cybersecurity incidents deftly and effectively to preserve corporate trust in a worst-case scenario. 

Although each phase of the IR plan presents unique benefits, communications is one of the most impactful, helping businesses to retain the trust and respect of their networks during and after an incident.

Finding the Incident Response Right Frameworks

There are a number of IR frameworks being used today. These are partly voluntary, but may also be determined by regulations governing your business category. 

Getting Help with Your Incident Response Plan

IR plans help to substantially lessen the chance of an incident, while also reducing probable damages. While it is not an easy process for many businesses, but considering the number of cybersecurity incidents occurring in 2022, it is one of the best things businesses can do to ensure longevity in the Information Age.

If you have any questions about your IR plan, please contact david@platteriver.com

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