There are several layers to a strong cyber security plan. Avoiding being the victim of cybercrime is always worth the effort. But despite many companies’ best efforts, security breaches still take place.
Cyber attacks can be confusing, frustrating, and costly. That’s why many businesses of all sizes are now establishing incident response plans to proactively deal with this growing threat.
What is an incident response plan?
An incident response plan is a preventative measure that ensures you are equipped to handle a security breach. Every incident response plan will include several steps to follow.
Every incident response plan should ensure that your business has the personnel and structure for investigation in place to quickly deal with an incident. It should include detailed steps for mitigation and a targeted response to remove the threat.
The data security industry is dynamic and full of evolving challenges. For any business, cybersecurity threats can be daunting. Every threat will require you to make a well-thought-out series of decisions. The orchestration of a security incident response plan will determine whether you can return to the normal operation of your business. Then, there’s the question of how long it will take to return to normal operations.
Making an incident response plan (more on that below) involves creating a list of instructions for IT staff. The instructions are tailored to each stage of a breach. This enables staff to pre-emptively prepare for, respond to, and clean up after cyber security incidents.
Why do you need an incident response plan?
Cyber security incidents can take place for one of many reasons. Cyber attacks, scam attempts, and accidents by employees can easily leave your data vulnerable. An incident response policy can mitigate these issues by providing an effective framework for preparation, response, and recovery.
No matter how confident you currently feel, there are always cyber security threats that present risks to your business. The last few years and the COVID-19 pandemic have only seen these threats increasing.
Furthermore, there are no businesses that are “too small” to become the target of phishing, hacking, and other attacks. Cybercriminals know that small businesses typically lack the security infrastructure that large corporations employ. Research shows that this makes small and mid-sized businesses popular targets.
You may have not yet been targeted for an attack. Hopefully, you won’t be in the future. However, the trends currently paint a picture of increasing risk and a necessity for more thorough cyber security practices.
When you’re faced with a security breach, you need to avoid being caught unaware and unprepared. Oversights can cost you enormously, both financially and reputationally. This is especially true for businesses that store customer data. Nothing can do more damage to a business’s reputation than losing customer data to cybercriminals.
An incident response plan will tackle all these problems, from before an attack takes place until it’s resolved. Furthermore, having a robust cyber incident response plan in place can protect your business from liability. Preparing a response is more necessary than ever, as certain laws, especially in Europe, necessitate a fast response to data breaches. For example, the GDPR requires you to report security incidents within 72 hours of discovery.
Ultimately, an incident response plan is necessary to ensure that when an incident takes place:
- The right cyber security staff is mobilized quickly
- The source of the threat is discovered early
- The damage the threat can cause is minimized and contained
- The recovery from any damage that takes place is expedited
- Everyone understands their role during an incident
- Business as usual can continue at the earliest opportunity
How to create an incident response plan
An incident response plan will have several major components. First, there is preparation. The preparation phase includes standard procedures that minimize risk and maximize your ability to respond to incidents. It’s often the most crucial phase in responding to risks, and usually covers employee training, live-fire security exercises, and software. A perfect example of good preparation is backing up all your data regularly. That way you have a backup if important data becomes compromised during a cyber security incident.
After preparation, an incident response plan will require you to have a process for identifying threats. An incident may originate from one of many sources, and for this reason the identification process requires thorough recording of how an incident was discovered, what impact it’s having, the scope of compromised data (if any), and the entry point.
Once you’ve prepared a cyber security incident response plan and identified the source of the incident, you need to contain the intended damage. Rash responses, such as the deletion of compromised data, can have long-lasting consequences. However, some measures will need to be taken, such as the potential disconnection of your internet.
Mitigating the damage an incident causes won’t end the problem; an incident response procedure must include elimination of the threat.
There are many potential sources you may need to eliminate. For example, if the incident resulted from malware, the malware must be securely removed. This often also necessitates security software updates and forensics. All traces of the threat must be removed, or your data may continue to be at risk. Your security incident response plan should include a procedure you can execute to remove any liabilities. This is a step that is often outsourced to a third party provider of managed security services, but many businesses create the necessary infrastructure in-house.
The last step of a cyber security incident response plan is recovery. Ideally, the other steps have been thorough enough to minimize the damage caused by the security breach. However, this isn’t always the case. During this stage, you need to ensure all your affected systems return to their normal functionality.
Incident response plan templates
Fortunately, you don’t need to prepare an entire plan from scratch. One of the best ways for a business to start planning an incident response is by using a template.
Incident response plan templates will have all the necessary steps covered. You will just need to adjust the template to your business's unique threats. You will also have to assign the necessary roles to the right people.
Consider these templates for your own incident response plan:
- Thycotic’s incident response plan template. Download template here
- TechTarget’s incident response plan template. Download template here
- California Government Department of Technology incident response plan template. Download template here
- Sysnet’s incident response plan template. Download template here
If you'd like guidance on developing a robust incident response plan from those who have been through it countless times before, get in touch with the Vertikal6 team for a free consultation.