What is a cyber security incident report?

Cyber security incident report importance

A cyber security incident report is a document that captures the details of a cyber security incident, such as a data breach. A company’s IT and security teams can use the information within the report to remediate the immediate cyber threat, prevent future incidents of its kind, and, best of all, mitigate more significant cyber attacks down the line.  

Let’s take a closer look at cyber security incident reporting and why it’s so important to organisations.  

Why is it crucial to have a cyber security incident report? 

Here are three reasons why creating a cyber security report after an incident is vital. 

Helps improve risk and threat awareness  

The first reason to report on cybersecurity is its role in helping a company increase its awareness of its cyber threats and the extent of its risk profile. In detailing the cause of a cyber security incident, a company becomes more aware of its IT security gaps and how to mitigate them. Additionally, the data collected by a cyber security incident report can be used by security teams to build more accurate cyber security risk models that reveal the extent of a company’s attack surface.  

Mitigates major incidents 

The information collected during a cyber security incident can be used to prevent more dangerous cyber threats in the future. With an increased understanding of their IT security gaps, companies can implement the necessary processes and security controls to strengthen their cyber security posture. As a result, they reduce the chances of being struck with a more serious cyber attack.  

Similarly, the stark reality of a company’s vulnerabilities can cause the entire organisation to become more security-conscious and aware of how their actions can invite data breaches and other threats. More importantly, it can open key stakeholders to the realities of cyber threats, making them more receptive to their security team’s suggestions on bolstering their cyber security measures.  

Builds trust with clients and investors  

Having a process in place for creating cyber security incident reports shows that you’re serious about protecting your data, network, and digital assets. This helps show potential investors that you’re a viable investment or prospective clients that yours is a company that’s safe to conduct business with. Similarly, a cyber security reporting process proves to your partners and suppliers that you’re taking the appropriate steps to protect the systems and networks of theirs that you have access to.  

Typical security incidents to look out for  

Here are a few examples of cyber security incidents that commonly appear in cyber security reports. 

Emailing confidential information to the wrong person  

Human error can result in sensitive data being accidentally sent to parties without the appropriate level of access to receive it. The confidential information could be sent to the wrong person, or people, because the sender failed to see all the people copied into the email when hitting reply. Just as easily, they could hit “reply all” without thinking – or, worse still, in some cases, inadvertently send the message to everyone in the company by mistake! 

A cyber security incident report will identify instances of this happening and how frequently it occurs. Your company’s security team can devise the appropriate policies and processes to minimise its occurrence in the future.  

Downloading malicious attachments on work computers 

There are several ways in which malicious code can find its way onto your company’s devices. This includes your employees being tricked into clicking on phishing links in emails and on social media, accessing illegal streaming sites, and attempting to download free software. And, let’s not forget, this is before factoring in the cybercriminals trying to directly breach your network to install malware.  

This is worsened by the prevalence of “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, which see employees accessing company networks with their own computers. Under these conditions, caused by the rapid increase in remote working conditions during the pandemic, security teams don’t retain complete oversight and control over users’ devices, increasing the risk of malware infection.   

A cyber security incident report will determine the source of malware infections and provide the data that the company needs to remediate them accordingly.  

Unauthorised access to data 

Unauthorised access to data, as well as systems and other company assets, can happen as a result of the following: 

  • Weak passwords – or passwords being shared by users 
  • Social engineering attacks, i.e., phishing and pharming, which see cybercriminals tricking employees into divulging their access credentials 
  • Data breaches, i.e., malicious actors gaining direct access to your company’s network to steal, damage, or delete data 
  • A lack of security controls on third-party access 
  • Insider threats, i.e., corporate espionage, aggrieved employees, or even human error 

A cyber security incident report will reveal who gained unauthorised data and provide the audit trail for the security team to determine how it happened. They can then ensure users have the appropriate level of access for their role and privileged access rights are only granted for the required amount of time.  

Data breaches 

By breaching your company’s network, malicious actors can exfiltrate or destroy sensitive data, as well as commit theft or fraud for immediate financial gain. Worse, between the cost of mitigating the threat and the potential of fines to authoritative bodies and compensation to affected parties, the cost of a data breach can be considerable. Not to mention, the long-term costs associated with the damage to your company’s reputation. 

With all this in mind, cyber security incident reporting is very important, as it reveals the source and cause of data breaches, allowing security teams to implement the controls needed to prevent them better.  

Denial of service attack 

A denial of service attack, also commonly called a DoS attack, sees a malicious actor flood a machine or network with traffic, effectively it shutting down and rendering it inaccessible to its user base. A more dangerous variant of a DoS attack is a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) – often caused by a network of computers under the control of a cybercriminal, called a botnet. 

A detailed cyber security report can reveal the source of DoS or DDoS attacks and how and where a company is vulnerable to future incidents. Subsequently, the data from the cyber security incident report can help the IT department address the network’s transit capacity, i.e., the amount of bandwidth, and server capacity, i.e., how quickly you can scale up your computational resources in the event of a volumetric attack.   

Physical security incidents are also a threat 

While discussing cyber security threats, it’s important to remember that physical security threats are also always a concern. Physical security incidents can include: 

  • Unauthorised physical access: when a malicious actor gains access to an organisation’s premises, like an office or data centre. This opens the door for physical theft, vandalism and other damage, and access to company hardware that grants them access to company data.  
  • Theft: this could include physical documents or company hardware containing sensitive data. Reports from the pharma industry, for example, have shown that drug counterfeiting, due to leaked information, costs the industry $70 billion annually.  
  • Physical damage: a malicious actor could damage company property to achieve their ultimate goal of destroying data and digital assets. This could include a fire, which threatens the safety of company employees in addition to its IT infrastructure.  

Although they’re primarily designed to mitigate cyber security threats, the insights provided by a cyber security incident report can help a company improve their physical security and enhance its overall information security measures.  

What is the purpose of immediately reporting a suspected cyber security incident? 

Reporting a suspected cyber security incident as soon as possible gives security teams the best chance of mitigating the threat and preventing the company from suffering damage and financial losses. More importantly, it doesn’t leave malicious actors attempting to make their way through the networks with the time and opportunity to achieve their objectives. 

What is the process for reporting a cyber security incident? 

There is a three-step process for reporting a cyber security incident: record, remediate, and report 


Creating a cyber security incident report begins with accurately recording the event’s details. To this end, a company can use a cyber security incident report template to consistently capture the most critical aspects of an incident and remove any ambiguity.  


Once logged, the security team can analyse the incident, including its severity, whether it has happened before, if and how it’s affected other organisations, and potential mitigation strategies. Having assessed the threat, the company can determine how it fits into, or changes, its overall cyber security mitigation strategy and prioritise the remediation of the threat accordingly.  


Having assessed all the pertinent information related to the incident and decided on a remediation strategy, the company can create a cyber security incident report. It’s essential that the report on the cyber incident is presented in a way that IT and security teams can use and that non-technical management can also understand. The better security teams can convey the danger of cyber attacks and how they can impact the company’s bottom line to stakeholders, the more successful they’ll be at getting them to fund cyber security projects.  

Improve your cyber security incident reporting capabilities with RiskXchange 

We can help you refine your cyber security reporting process and, in effect, improve your ability to remediate threats faster and prevent more serious cyber attacks going forward. Contact us to start addressing your cyber security incident report needs with our free attack surface assessment.