What is Incident Response? Important things you need to know about Incident Response and more

Cyberattacks have significantly increased both in scale and frequency in recent years due to rapid global digitalization. Threats and vulnerabilities are constantly evolving    and have become more sophisticated than ever, causing both operational damage and substantial financial loss. As such, an attack is no longer a matter of if, but when it will affect your business — and all businesses should take steps to prepare.    


To prepare for a cyberattack and mitigate damage, firms should adopt an incident response strategy and plan — proactively shaping the difference between a minor disruption and a major business disaster.

What is incident response?

Incident response (IR) is the organized and systemic approach to managing a cyber security incident, including digital forensics, crisis management, as well as legal and public relations support (as needed). The ultimate goal of incident response is to limit damage and identify the root cause of the incident to better manage future risks. Effective incident response allows you to remediate faster, protecting customer data, company reputation, and revenue streams.    

What makes up an Incident Response Team?

Planning and preparing for the unexpected compromise include designating a team that handles the attack head-on. Based on the guidelines from the SANS Institute, IR efforts should primarily be led by the organization’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) This team is composed of members from the top management like the Chief Information Officer or Chief Information Security Officer, the IT department, the Information Security team, IT auditors, general IT and physical security staff. Ideally, the team is also supported by representatives from the Human Resources, Legal Department, and PR and Communication Department.


The IR Team acts as first responders who provide on-call professional support for cyber emergencies to businesses. The IR Team follows the organization’s established Incident Response Plan (IRP), which is a formally documented set of guidelines and standard operating procedures that determine the chain of command and actions in a cybersecurity incident.


When companies lack these particular roles or expertise in-house, they may turn to third-party cyber incident response firms, like Blackpanda, to conduct digital forensic investigations, provide crisis management support, and coordinate efforts with legal, PR, or law enforcement agencies (as required).

Digital forensics in the corporate world

Having an incident response strategy is an important part of incident response, irrespective of industry or size, as it allows a company to plan out the most effective response before an attack occurs. Without a plan, you risk further loss by wasting valuable time and resources on inefficient reactive efforts.


Instead of just being an IT concern, your incident response strategy should be an important part of your overall business strategy to ensure that immediate decisions can be made based on verified information, affecting the rest of business operations as little as possible.


A well-designed incident response plan lays out the procedures and protocols to be taken, as well as contingencies across a range of attack types, whether a data breach, denial of service/distributed denial of service attack, network intrusion, malware outbreak, or even insider threat. Your plan should cover how to detect, respond to, and reduce the damages of an incident. Putting this plan in place helps a company gain the confidence of all stakeholders, including its customers.


Further, as a result of planning, companies are better able to identify and keep records of critical assets, networks, systems, and security issues, if any. Similarly, updates  should be regularly noted and reflected in the incident response plan to complement the changes both in your company and the threat landscape. These regular updates must also include lessons learned from previous experience alongside best practices from others, preparing your company to deal with any unprecedented attacks that do not follow the blueprint.


Likewise, specific roles and responsibilities of particular individuals must be detailed in the incident response plan for accountability check and management. Tools, technologies, and other resources that are needed in all processes must also be identified and enumerated.


SANS Institute delineates six phases that must be included in an incident response plan. These are:


  1. Preparation.Involves training and equipping the IR team and all involved individuals to manage cybersecurity incidents when they arise.

  2. Identification. Concerned with determining and qualifying whether a particular event can be considered a security incident

  3. Containment. Aimed at containing the incident and limiting the damage to prevent further loss and destruction of evidence, which may be needed later on.

  4. Eradication. Identifying the root cause of the attack and removing the affected systems are top priorities.

  5. Recovery. Following the removal of corrupted elements, this phase ensures that affected systems are safely brought back to the operational environment      and no threat remains.

  6. Lessons Learned. The last but most critical phase includes completing all documentation requirements from all actions taken during the incident, conducting analysis and assessment of the response efforts to provide recommendations for the future.               

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