What is Incident Response? What are the Incident Response Steps & Strategies?


The term “incident response” is commonly used to refer to the actions taken by an organization in the aftermath of a data breach or cyberattack. The ultimate objective is to manage the incident so that the impact is minimized in terms of both direct costs and losses and indirect costs, such as those associated with the damage to the brand’s reputation—Incident Response Strategies one of the critical steps for organization success and reliablity.

At the very least, businesses should have a well-defined procedure for handling incidents. When an incident occurs, employees can refer to this document to clarify what constitutes an incident and what steps must be taken. It’s also a good idea to name the groups, individuals, or supervisors overseeing the incident response initiative and executing the plan’s various steps.

Who Coordinates Response To Incidents?

A computer incident response team (CIRT), sometimes called a cyber incident response team, handles incidents in an organization. Security and IT personnel and HR, PR, and Legal representatives comprise most of a typical CIRT’s personnel. A Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) is “responsible for responding to security breaches, viruses, as well as other potentially severe events in companies that face significant security risks,” as Gartner defines. Experts who can advise enterprise executives on proper communication in the wake of such incidents and technical professionals capable of dealing with the specific threat should be included.

In Case Of An Incident

Follow these six steps! When responding to an incident, follow these six steps from the SANS Institute.

The foremost step in incident handling is preparing for the inevitable security breach. Organizations can assess their CIRT’s responsiveness by establishing policies, crafting response plans, setting up communication channels, documenting procedures, selecting team members, securing resources, and training personnel.

Upon incident occurrence, swift identification is essential to mitigate damage and costs. Gathering events from log files, remote monitoring, process failures, intrusion detection, and firewalls is vital for effective incident response, enabling IT personnel to detect and assess incident scopes.

The initial and crucial step in incident handling is preparing for the inevitable security breach. Organizations can assess their CIRT’s responsiveness by proactively establishing a policy, formulating a response plan, setting up communication channels, documenting procedures, selecting team members, securing resources, and training personnel.

Upon occurrence of an incident, prompt identification is essential for taking appropriate measures to mitigate damage and costs. Effective incident response relies on gathering events from log files, remote monitoring, process failures, intrusion detection, and firewalls, enabling IT personnel to detect and determine the scope of incidents.

When an incident is discovered or identified, its containment becomes a top priority. The primary goal of damage containment is to keep the damage from spreading (as noted in step number two, the earlier incidents are detected, the sooner they can be contained to minimize damage). For the containment phase to be successful, all of SANS’s suggestions must be implemented, especially those that aim to prevent the loss of any evidence that may be added later for prosecution.” This plan includes short-term containment, system backup, and long-term containment.

Eradication is the final stage of an effective incident response, and it involves eliminating the source of the problem and restoring the compromised systems to regular operation, ideally with as little data loss as possible. The primary activities associated with eradication are confirming that all necessary steps have been taken, including those that not only delete the malicious links but also restore the integrity of the compromised systems.

Recovery – The primary goals of this phase of incident response are to test, monitor, and validate systems as they are returned to production to ensure that they have not been reinfected or compromised. Time and date decisions for resuming operations, testing and verifying the compromised systems, monitoring for abnormal behaviors, and employing tools for testing, monitoring, and validating system behavior all fall under this category.

The phase of incident response known as “lessons learned” is crucial because it serves to enlighten and help future incident response efforts. This phase allows businesses to revise their incident response strategies in light of lessons learned and new information gleaned after the fact. Reports on what was learned provide a concise summary of the incident and can be used in debriefing sessions by the Incident Response Team (IRT) to instruct recruits or as a basis for future comparisons.

A successful response to an incident requires careful planning and practice. It is frequently too late to coordinate effective response attempts after a breach or attack has occurred if there is no well-defined plan and course of action in place. In the event of a data breach, developing a thorough incident response plan can assist your company in recovering quickly and at a reduced cost.

What Is an Incident Response Plan (IRP)?

An incident response plan (IRP) is a written guide outlining what must be done at each stage of an incident. This document should include standardized response protocols, communication plans, and guidelines for assigned roles.

Avoid ambiguous language and define any unfamiliar terms within your IRP. Event, notify, and incident are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. Limiting the following uses of these words in your strategy:

A system event is any configuration, state, or data transmission change. Server requests, permissions updates, and data deletions are all good examples. An “alert” is an “event-triggered notification.” Alerts can be set up to notify you of suspicious events and routine occurrences warranting your attention. Consider the trade-off between reusing a dormant port and replenishing depleted storage space, for instance.
Incident: a situation in which your system is compromised. For instance, credentials could be stolen, or malware could be installed.

View The Example of an Incident Response Plan

In an emergency, take a cue from these successful companies’ incident response strategies.
Seeing real-world examples of other organizations’ incident plans is helpful when developing your own. Although not all examples will be directly transferrable to the incident scenarios that may arise in your field of work, they should still serve as a source of motivation.

Effective Incident Response Plan

To what extent do these factors play a role in incident response?
All of the following must be present in an incident response plan for it to be effective:

Support from upper management – With the backing of upper management, you can assemble a well-trained response team and set up communication channels that will prove invaluable in an emergency.

Regular testing — A paper plan for handling an incident is useless, so putting yours through its paces regularly is essential. Validating the team’s preparedness for an actual incident can be achieved mainly through executing a planned (or, preferably, unplanned) security drill, during which the plan is run through and weak points are identified.

Maintain a balance between specificity and adaptability in your planning. Your team must be able to implement the plan’s steps in an emergency quickly. However, if you try to make everything a rigid process, you end up with complexity and a lack of flexibility. Build a comprehensive strategy while leaving room for adaptation to accommodate a variety of emergencies. If you review the plan every six months or so, you can adapt it to new security issues and attacks that could affect your industry.

Make it clear how the incident team will contact one another, what information will be shared, and through what channels. The importance of this step in the incident response strategies step is often underestimated. Information technology (IT) management, upper management, affected departments, affected customers, and the press, to name a few, should all follow a set of rules regarding the level of detail they receive.

Get to know your stakeholders — who are the key people and departments within your organization that should be concerned and involved in the event of a security breach? These may need to be adjusted depending on the nature of the incident and the organization’s resources that are under attack. Managers of individual departments, upper management, business partners, customers, and legal are all examples of possible stakeholders.

Do as little as possible — Keep it simple, stupid” (KISS) is a well-known management principle that should be applied to response plans. Even if thoroughly deliberated, it’s unlikely that a complex plan will be carried out without error in practice. Minimize the number of instructions, steps, and details the team needs to know before entering the “fog of war” and dealing with the incident.

Quick Sum-Up

Building incident response strategies is the proactive and systematic approach to handling cybersecurity incidents, ensuring swift and effective actions to minimize damage and recover from breaches. Understanding the incident response steps and employing strategic measures like preparation, detection, containment, eradication, recovery, and lessons learned are crucial in fortifying a robust cybersecurity posture. By implementing these strategies and continuously refining them, organizations can better safeguard their systems, mitigate risks, and promptly respond to ever-evolving cyber threats, ultimately bolstering resilience in the face of potential attacks.


1. How can organizations ensure effective communication and coordination between departments and stakeholders during an incident response?

Effective communication and coordination during incident response are vital for a swift and coordinated response. Organizations can achieve this by establishing clear communication channels and protocols outlined in the incident response plan. It’s essential to designate critical individuals or teams responsible for disseminating information and coordinating actions across departments and stakeholders. Regular training and tabletop exercises can also help familiarize personnel with their roles and responsibilities during an incident, fostering a culture of collaboration and preparedness.

2. What role does regular testing and updating incident response plans play in ensuring effectiveness?

Regular testing and updating incident response plans are critical for ensuring their effectiveness in real-world scenarios. Testing allows organizations to identify gaps, weaknesses, and areas for improvement in their response procedures. By conducting tabletop exercises, simulations, or live drills, teams can validate the plan’s effectiveness, refine response procedures, and enhance stakeholder coordination. Additionally, regularly updating the incident response plan ensures it remains relevant and aligned with the organization’s evolving risk landscape, technologies, and regulatory requirements.

3. Are there any industry-specific considerations that organizations should incorporate into their incident response plans?

Yes, organizations should consider industry-specific factors when developing their incident response plans. Industries such as healthcare, finance, and critical infrastructure may face unique regulatory requirements, compliance standards, and operational challenges. Therefore, incident response plans should consider specific threats, vulnerabilities, and business continuity requirements relevant to the industry. Additionally, organizations operating in highly regulated sectors may need to comply with industry-specific incident reporting and notification requirements, which should be addressed in the plan.

4. How can organizations balance the need for specificity in incident response procedures with the requirement for flexibility to adapt to evolving threats and circumstances?

Balancing specificity and flexibility in incident response procedures requires careful planning and consideration. Organizations can achieve this by developing a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines specific procedures and protocols for different incidents while allowing for flexibility and adaptation to unforeseen circumstances. It’s essential to establish clear decision-making criteria and escalation procedures to guide response efforts effectively. Additionally, incorporating feedback mechanisms and post-incident reviews allows organizations to continuously evaluate and refine their incident response strategies based on lessons learned and emerging threats.