What is a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan & Why Do You Need It?

Date: 2 September 2022

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Do you know what connects CISCO, Colonial Pipeline, SolarWinds, Marriott and Nvidia? Apart from the fact that they’re all giants of their industries, they are also all recent victims of cyber-attacks and in many cases serious data breaches. 

The only reason to bring up the names of recent victims is to highlight the fact that anyone and we mean ANYONE can be the next victim of a security incident. Even the largest of organisations with the best cyber security infrastructure and strongest security operations can be compromised. 

Therefore, smaller organisations who may not have that scale of resources at their disposal might be easier targets for malicious actors. 

So what’s the point here? 

It is simply to reiterate the fact that every organisation, regardless of its size, scale and industry can be and probably will be attacked in its lifetime.

There’s no way to prevent attacks targeting your business. The only thing you can do is to have a proper strategy for responding to these attacks when they do occur so you can control the damage to your business operations, bottomline and most importantly, your brand reputation.  

A Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan is the cornerstone of an effective cybersecurity response strategy and one that you need to start building today! 

What Is a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan?

A Cyber Incident Response Plan is essentially a guide or a set of steps that your business will follow in the event of a cyberattack. It is a document that spells out the actions that need to be taken to minimise the damage and protect your business data during the attack.

The idea behind having a plan is to eliminate poor decisions or even worse, no decisions, in the midst of chaos. If the management and the Incident Response teams have worked out an ideal and effective Cyber Incident Response Plan in advance, you greatly increase your chances of controlling the damage that a malicious software or data breach could cause to your business.   

You have already made decisions around what to do in a calmer environment and these decisions will reflect in your Cyber Incident Response Plan. All you’ll have to do during the crisis is put the plan into action through your muscle memory (more on that later). 

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Why Is a Cyber Incident Response Plan Important?

Remember the adage, “If you fail to plan, then plan to fail”? The importance of the Cyber Incident Response Plan is pretty much encapsulated in that statement. 

If as a business you’re well-aware that sooner or later you could become the victim of a ransomware attack, a denial of service ddos attack etc. and yet you do nothing to plan for it, it’s plain reckless. 

A Cyber Incident Response Plan is important because it helps the business to: 

  1. Identify the breach correctly. 
  2. Contain the attack, control the damage and perhaps thwart the cyber criminals in their attempt to steal data.
  3. Protect customer data and other sensitive information as far as possible.
  4. Patch the vulnerabilities that allowed the attack to happen in the first place. 
  5. Recover from the attack with minimal damage and/or regulatory implications.
  6. Assess the lessons learned and implement them to enhance/improve the Cyber Incident Response Plan further. 

What Does a Cyber Incident Response Plan Include?

A cyber incident response plan example should outline (amongst other things depending on the organisational context) the key steps your company will take in the event of a cyberattack. Your plan should include the following:

  •     A description of your company's incident response team and their roles and responsibilities.
  •     An overview of the company's incident response process.
  •     The steps that will be taken to contain the attack and prevent it from spreading.
  •     How information will be shared within the company and with external parties.
  •     The procedures for restoring systems and data.
  •     The contact information for key personnel.

To look professional, the Cyber Incident Response Plan should have a logical structure and be flawless in grammar and syntax. You can use our Cyber Incident Response Plan template as an example and if you need assistance in filling the cybersecurity incident response plan template out, you can use Top Writing Reviews, which offers writing assistance and can assist you in filling in the gaps.

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Why & How to Test a Cyber Incident Response Plan?

Remember, we spoke of muscle memory earlier? Well, testing Incident Response Plans regularly helps to build that muscle memory so that the response during the attack is much better, more efficient and as accurate as possible. 

While it’s obvious to many that Incident Response Plans should be tested for efficacy, several businesses don’t understand exactly how to go about it. 

This is where attack simulations by way of Cyber Crisis Tabletop Exercises come into the picture. During these exercises, a highly seasoned cybersecurity expert creates a simulated attack scenario for the participants from your business. 

These participants should include key decision-makers during a cyber incident such as the IT and Incident Response teams, as well as business executives and board members. 

It involves simulating an attack on your system and seeing how your team responds. During this simulation, you get your team together and you respond to the hypothetical scenario based on the steps mentioned in your cyber incident response plans. 

This way every important stakeholder in the incident response process understands their roles and responsibility better and practises the incident response plan as well. Incident Response Tabletop Scenario Exercises are also a great method to identify any gaps in your plan and make sure that everyone is aware of what to do in the event of an attack.

Conclusion

Every business must have a cyber incident response plan to operate successfully. It is a documented process that your organisation should follow in the event of a cyberattack. It  outlines the steps you will take to protect your data, minimise damage, and restore operations. Most importantly, this plan should be brief, fluff-free, to-the-point and easy for all to understand. 

In today’s digital world, it is more important than ever to have a thoroughly developed Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan in place. A cyber incident can have a devastating impact on your business that may cost you time, money, and customers. So, do not wait until it is too late. Get started on creating your cyber incident response plan today so that when the inevitable does happen, you can respond effectively and control the damage as far as is possible. 

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