Seven Incident Response Best Practices

Aaron Goldstein
July 11, 2023

Businesses face a growing number of cyber threats and incidents that can significantly impact their operations and security. With the severity and volume of cyberattacks today, it’s not a matter of if your company will be a target, but when. With an incident response plan in place, damage is minimized, and recovery efforts are swift and effective.

This blog outlines everything your organization needs to know about an effective incident response strategy, including what it is, why it’s important and seven steps to building out your own response program.

What is incident response?

Incident response involves a set of predefined procedures, practices, and actions aimed at identifying, containing, mitigating, and recovering from security incidents to minimize damage and restore normal operations. Incidents can range from cybersecurity breaches, unauthorized access, malware infections, data breaches, system compromises, insider threats, or any other event that poses a risk to an organization's information systems, data, or infrastructure.

The goal of incident response is to handle security incidents promptly, limit their impact, and restore normal business operations as quickly as possible.

Why is incident response important?

A cyber incident can cause irreparable damage to your business, which is why a proper incident response plan is so important. Some of the benefits of an incident response plan include:

  1. Minimizing damage: Prompt and effective incident response helps organizations prevent further compromise of systems and data, limiting the impact on operations, finances, and reputation.
  2. Timely recovery: By having a well-defined plan in place, teams can efficiently restore systems, applications, and data to their normal functioning state, reducing downtime and ensuring business continuity.
  3. Protecting data and assets: Incidents often involve unauthorized access, data breaches, or theft of sensitive information. Incident response helps organizations safeguard their valuable data and intellectual property, and mitigate the risk of data loss or exposure, which protects the privacy and trust of customers, partners, and stakeholders.
  4. Preserving reputation: Public perception and trust are vital for any organization. Fast and effective incident response demonstrates a commitment to security and customer protection. By handling incidents transparently, organizations can maintain their reputation and mitigate any potential damage to their brand.
  5. Legal and regulatory compliance: Many industries are subject to legal and regulatory requirements regarding incident response and data breach reporting. Implementing a robust incident response plan ensures compliance with applicable laws and regulations. It also helps organizations demonstrate due diligence and adherence to security standards, reducing legal and financial liabilities.

Who handles incident response?

The roles and responsibilities on an incident response team will vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization, but it commonly includes both a core and extended incident response team.

Core team:

  • Incident response manager or team lead
  • Incident analysts/investigators
  • IT/security operations teams

Extended team:

  • Legal and compliance teams
  • Communications or PR teams

It's important to note that incident response can also involve collaboration with external parties, such as law enforcement agencies, incident response service providers, or cybersecurity consultants, depending on the severity and complexity of the incident.

The specific responsibilities and roles within an incident response team can vary based on the organization's structure, industry, and incident response maturity level. Ultimately, the goal is to have a well-coordinated team that can effectively detect, respond to, and recover from security incidents to protect the organization's assets and mitigate potential damage.

Seven steps to developing a successful incident response plan

Effective incident response plans will vary depending on a variety of factors like a business’s size, industry, and resources available. Incident response plans are not one size fits all, but here are seven steps that will help you get started:

  1. Define roles and responsibilities: Assign clear roles to individuals involved in incident response, including team leads, investigators, communicators, and decision-makers.
  2. Document procedures: Create a detailed incident response plan that outlines step-by-step processes for identifying, containing, mitigating, and recovering from incidents.
  3. Establish effective communication channels: Both internal and external communication channels need to be clear for successful incident response. Internally, establish dedicated channels for incident reporting and escalation so that all stakeholders are promptly notified during an incident. For external communications, designate spokespersons to handle any necessary tasks, such as media inquiries or customer notifications. Prepare predefined templates and messages to ensure consistent and accurate communication.
  4. Implement robust incident detection and monitoring: Deploy endpoint detection and response (EDR) and security information and event management (SIEM) tools. These technologies provide real-time visibility into network activities, alerting the incident response team to potential threats or anomalies. Regularly review system logs, network traffic data, and security event logs to identify suspicious activities or indicators of compromise.
  5. Preserve evidence and document findings: Maintain proper chain of custody for digital evidence, ensuring it remains intact and admissible for legal purposes. Teams also need to keep detailed records of incident investigations, including timelines, actions taken, and lessons learned. This information helps improve future incident response efforts.
  6. Emphasize continuous learning: Foster a culture of learning by sharing incident details, lessons learned, and best practices within the organization. Encourage collaboration and feedback from team members. After each major incident, conduct a comprehensive review to evaluate the effectiveness of the incident response process. Identify areas for improvement and update the incident response plan accordingly.
  7. Conduct tabletop exercises: Beyond sharing notes and learning from real-life incidents, it’s also crucial that teams practice simulated incident responses with tabletop exercises. Tabletop exercises test a team’s response capabilities so you can make improvements before an actual incident occurs.

Using Todyl to avert incidents altogether

Implementing these seven incident response best practices will enable organizations to build a proactive and resilient cybersecurity posture. By preparing in advance, organizations can mitigate risks, minimize the impact of incidents, and protect their valuable assets and reputation in today's digital world.

Todyl helps businesses prevent and detect attacks before IR procedures are necessary. Our SIEM module provides crucial visibility into what’s happening in your environments, while our EDR module blocks any malicious activity before it can escalate. In case an event does occur, Todyl’s Managed eXtended Detection and Response (MXDR) can help identify critical events which might require IR intervention. Todyl has established relationships with industry-leading IR consulting firms and can provide referrals to these services if needed.  

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Additional reading

Why I joined Todyl: Mike Hanauer
How to increase trust with cyber insurance carriers
Why MDR platform breadth and depth matters

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