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June 4, 2024

How to Create a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan: Examples of What to Include

Protecting your business from cyber threats is no longer optional. With the rise in cyberattacks and the potential for devastating consequences, it’s crucial to have a solid cybersecurity incident response plan in place. More than just an incident response plan, you’ll need to create a cybersecurity culture that keeps employees educated about their role in the plan, prepare necessary documents and select the right cybersecurity-focused managed services partner. By taking proactive measures now, you can minimize the costs and disruptions caused by a cyberattack.

Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan Steps

Establishing an effective cybersecurity incident response plan is crucial for businesses to protect their sensitive data and mitigate potential damage in the event of a cybersecurity breach or incident. You should first research the most industry-recommended incident response framework by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The NIST plan, detailed in the Computer Security Incident Handling Guide, combines the containment, eradication and recovery steps into one out of the belief that you shouldn’t wait until all threats are contained to begin eradicating them. The steps of an incident response plan are as follows:

Preparation

The preparation stage of a cybersecurity response plan involves proactive measures businesses take to mitigate risks and prepare for potential cyber incidents. Before a cyberattack occurs, you must identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities that hackers could potentially exploit, form an incident response team and establish communication protocols.

Roles should be clearly defined. Who will lead the response and manage internal communications? Who will serve as the subject matter expert, consulting with both internal teams and external technical experts? Who will interact with reporters, post updates and communicate with external stakeholders? Once these roles are decided, build in incident response scenarios into your IT team’s calendar to help your team prepare. This is also the time when you should determine whether or not you’d like to invest in a cybersecurity insurance policy.

Detection and Analysis

The identification stage of a cybersecurity response plan involves detecting and recognizing potential security incidents or breaches within an organization’s network or systems. This stage focuses on proactive measures to identify vulnerabilities, threats and risks that could compromise your company’s data and systems. The goal is to identify any unusual or suspicious activities that may indicate an ongoing or potential cybersecurity incident. Early detection is vital in minimizing the damage and recovery time from an incident. 

Containment, Eradication and Recovery

During the containment stage, the primary objective is to halt the attacker’s progress and prevent them from causing additional harm. It involves isolating the affected systems or networks, preventing further damage or unauthorized access and ensuring the incident does not spread to other parts of the organization’s infrastructure. 

In the eradication phase of the cybersecurity response plan, your organization takes actions to remove the identified threat or malware from your systems and networks. This stage is crucial in preventing further damage and ensuring that the threat is fully removed. 

During the recovery stage of a cybersecurity response plan, the top priority is repairing the damage caused by a cyberattack or breach and swiftly restoring regular business operations. Your efforts should be centered on recovering critical systems, data and infrastructure while also guaranteeing the security and integrity of your organization’s network.

Post-Incident Activity

The lessons learned stage of a cybersecurity response plan is a critical part of the overall incident response process. It involves analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness of the response to a cyber incident and identifying areas for improvement. Take this time to fully document the incident, including detailed reports about the type of attack, point of entry, incident response activities and the effectiveness of the controls and countermeasures your team implemented. 

Once a business has established an effective cybersecurity incident response plan, it is crucial to consider proactive rather than reactive measures to enhance your plan’s success. While incident response plans provide a structured approach to handle cybersecurity incidents, being proactive allows businesses to stay one step ahead of potential threats. This ensures your business is well-prepared to effectively respond to any cybersecurity incidents that may arise.

Educate and Train Your Workforce

Educating employees about their role in the incident response plan is equally vital. Employees are often the first line of defense against cyber threats, and their actions can significantly impact the outcome of an incident. It is essential to educate employees about their responsibilities during a cybersecurity incident, such as reporting suspicious activities, following established procedures and maintaining good cyber hygiene practices.

Training sessions should cover topics like recognizing phishing emails, using strong passwords, avoiding clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown files and understanding the protocols for reporting incidents. By ensuring that all employees are knowledgeable about their role in the incident response plan, you can create a culture of cybersecurity awareness at every level within your organization.

Prepare Vital Documents and Contact Information

Preparing necessary documents and contact lists ahead of time is another critical aspect of your incident response plan. When a breach occurs, the attackers may cut off your access to documents or communication channels that had previously been accessible to all. These documents, which should be printed out in case of technological disruptions, should include detailed instructions on how to respond to different types of cyber incidents, contact information for key personnel and stakeholders, and any other relevant information that will aid in the response efforts. It is essential to keep these documents up to date and easily accessible to all individuals involved in the incident response process.

Maintaining a printed list of trusted contacts, such as relevant law enforcement agencies, cybersecurity experts, legal counsel and insurance providers, can help hasten your response. These contacts can provide valuable assistance during an incident and help mitigate the impact on your business, which is why it’s vital to get them involved in the process as soon as possible. Make sure to regularly review and update this contact list to ensure its accuracy.

Identify a Technology Managed Services Partner

Cybersecurity incidents often require specialized expertise to identify the root cause of the incident, assess the extent of the damage, and implement necessary remediation measures.  Often, the specialized expertise will be provided by your cybersecurity insurance provider.  When selecting a managed services partner, look for one that has a good, long track record of cybersecurity themselves as well as their offerings.  Consider their expertise in handling cyber incidents and successfully resolving incidents and their ability to provide timely, effective support. Most often, when a cybersecurity insurance claim is made the entire team provided to you is remote.  Your managed service provider, if local to you, may be the only boots on the ground you receive in the event of an incident that help to get a business back to normal operations.  It is reasonable to ask a managed service provider how they could help in the event of a cyberattack even with the help that comes along with cyber insurance.  Look for firms that offer preventative services such as malware detection and removal, application whitelisting, and vulnerability management.

Additionally, check that the technology managed services firm aligns with your organization’s overall values and goals. They should have a clear understanding of your business operations and be able to tailor their services to meet your specific needs. Make sure to establish clear communication channels and expectations with your managed services partner to ensure a smooth collaboration during an incident.

Anders Technology advisors provide IT security audits, compliance consulting and breach management services for businesses to ensure holistic protection of your network and data. Request a meeting with an Anders advisor below to learn more about our range of services and the associated costs. 

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