How to Create a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan?

How to Create a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan?

Cybersecurity incidents are becoming an almost everyday occurrence. No entity is immune. Small, medium, and large businesses have all fallen victim to some type of cyber incident in recent times.  

According to cybersecurity statistics, during the first quarter of 2023, more than six million data records were exposed worldwide through data breaches. Since the first quarter of 2020, the highest number of exposed data records was detected in the fourth quarter of 2020, nearly 125 million data sets.  

These startling statistics from the past three years alone only underlines the importance of remaining cyber vigilant and protecting your business against cybersecurity incidents. The best way to achieve this goal is by creating a cybersecurity incident response plan (CSIRP). Let’s take a closer look. 

What is a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan? 

A cybersecurity incident response plan is a documented plan with six distinct phases that helps IT professionals and staff recognise and deal with a cybersecurity incident. The plan provides security teams with instructions on how to respond to a serious cybersecurity incident, such as a data leak, data breach, loss of sensitive information or ransomware attack.  

The widely used NIST framework for cybersecurity incident response comprises four stages: preparation and prevention; detection and analysis; containment, eradication, and recovery; and post-incident activity. Along with encompassing the forementioned NIST objectives, the six stages to focus on within a cybersecurity incident response plan include: preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery and, finally, the lessons learned. These will be explored in more detail later on. 

Why Does Your Business Need a Cyber Attack Response Plan? 

Time is of the essence when it comes to minimising the damage caused by a cyber incident. Not only is it important to respond quickly to save any sensitive data but also to get back on track as fast as possible with the least amount of damage caused. If an organisation fails to have an incident response plan in place, the process of dealing with a cyber incident can become even more problematic and end up costing a business money and its reputation

A cyberattack response plan ensures organisations react in a timely and organised manner. 

Seeing as there are a number of ways in which hackers can gain entry into your network or system to steal sensitive data or cause widespread damage, cybersecurity incident response plans are important for ensuring that you cover many different types of cyberattacks that can occur. The cybersecurity incident response plan you have in place will indicate what steps to take in case of an insider threat, a data breach, a ransomware attack, or a social engineering attack. The source of the breach will have a different outcome which is all dependent on the type of attack. It’s also important to identify your main cybersecurity risks within your response plan so that the team can react quickly and minimize risk.  

How do You Create Your Cyber Attack Response Plan 

As the methods used by hackers are becoming more sophisticated in nature, so are the strategies used to prevent them. One of the main issues facing organisations today is that they are using out of date CSIRPs. Businesses that rely upon outdated cybersecurity incident response plans are finding that they aren’t adequately equipped to address today’s advanced cyberattack tactics. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how best to create a cyber attack response plan: 

Assemble Your Incident Response Team 

A cybersecurity incident doesn’t only affect your IT infrastructure, it can have a far wider impact on your entire company. That’s why it’s fundamentally important to assemble an incident response team from within all areas of the business. Pinpoint one person from each department who is able to step in quickly and play their part in implementing your organisation’s incident response plan once an attack has taken place.  

The IT security department should lead the charge by assigning those responsible for discovering the source of an attack and containing it. They must also instruct other employees about what actions should be taken. If your organisation does not have an internal cybersecurity team, make sure you have an account manager at an outsourced cybersecurity agency who is able to take on a similar role for your business. 

Cyberattacks not only cause huge financial and reputational damage but they can also trigger distress amongst employees, especially if their own data or that of their clients has been stolen. A designated HR associate should be assigned to deal with all internal communications and worker concerns. The customer service team should take on the task of informing clients or customers of any issues and how the situation will be remedied.  

Legal and PR professionals should also be on hand to deal with any external processes and to implement a crisis management plan following an incident.  

Identify Vulnerabilities and Specify Critical Assets 

You can have the best cybersecurity measures in the world, but there’s still the possibility of cybercriminals being able to infiltrate your network. Your biggest vulnerability might be your employees, so in that case document their failings and improve education and training. Educate staff about social engineering attacks and ensure they follow the company’s password policy. 

Identifying your organisation’s most critical assets will allow the incident response team to prioritise their efforts should an attack take place. Once your team knows where your most vulnerable assets are and which ones are deemed critical, they should be able to act quickly to contain the attack and limit the damage. 

Identify Data Backup Resources and External Cybersecurity Experts 

Even if you have your own internal cybersecurity team, it makes sense to use the services of an external security expert to help audit and remedy any negative situation. It’s extremely important to do your due diligence to find the right external cybersecurity team that can add value to your business alongside strengthening its cybersecurity measures and providing you with a healthy incident response plan. 

Data backup resources are also important as well as purchasing enough space for all your data, key documents, and important information. It’s important to set up automatic backups and designate a person or team to take charge of this process. Responsibility is a very important part of the process; making sure that everyone within your organisation and outside knows what they are responsible for and exactly what they should be doing if an incident were to occur.  

Create a Detailed Response Plan Checklist 

According to cybersecurity education experts the SANS Institute, a six point incident response plan checklist should be adhered to when devising any cybersecurity incident response plan. Let’s take a closer look at the six stages:  

  • Preparation: Make sure your employees are properly trained regarding their incident response roles and responsibilities in the event of a data breach. 
  • Identification: Identify the source of the breach. 
  • Containment: Contain what was attacked and isolate the threat. 
  • Eradication: Remove all threats from your network and devices. 
  • Recovery: Restore your network and system to their pre-incident state. 
  • Lessons Learned: Understand what mistakes were made and what steps need to be taken to thwart any future attacks. 

Each of the above-mentioned phases consists of a few overlapping elements, but it is important that all of them are covered thoroughly. 

Create a Communications Strategy 

Following the aftermath of a cyberattack, communication is critical. It’s the part of the attack that will be visible to the public and your clients, one that will forever be associated with your company so it’s important to do it well. When creating your crisis communications strategy, there are a few things to bear in mind: 

  • Make sure it’s clear of who needs to be notified.  
  • Ensure the correct government institutions or governing bodies are contacted. 
  • Make sure that you meet your deadline to report the incident. 
  • Carefully analyse any relevant data breach laws to ensure that you don’t miss any important steps when reporting the incident. 
  • Ensure that you notify your partners, customers, clients, vendors, and anyone else affected by the cyberattack in a timely manner.  

A public statement is imperative if the breach is major news across television, online, print, and social media. If the situation is not handled properly it can lead to huge financial losses and severe reputational damage. Hiring the services of a high profile PR agency makes sense in this scenario to limit the damage and provide you with PR strategy for moving forward.  

Regularly Update and Test Your Response Plan 

Although it’s impossible to test the effectiveness of your response plan before an incident has taken place, it can be tested in a controlled environment to measure its expected effectiveness. This will allow your response team to pinpoint any shortcomings or discrepancies, and fix and rewrite your plan to ensure its effectiveness.  

Revisiting the plan on a bi-annual basis makes sense seeing as regulatory changes and changes inside your company can happen regularly. It’s also important to regularly update your security measures and keep on top of industry best practices and expert recommendations. Once a cyber incident has occurred it’s extremely important to devise a detailed report so that your team can learn from any mistakes and help to strengthen cybersecurity measures against any future cyberattack.  

A Cyber Incident Response Plan’s Key Elements 

Cyber incident response plans can vary depending on the industry and size of the organisation. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the key elements a comprehensive incident response plan should include: 

Identifying the source of the breach 

Once your system has been breached, the first thing you must do is pinpoint exactly where the attack has come from. You must then conduct a thorough investigation to identify exactly where the attack originated, whether that be on a device or network. RiskXchange Platform can help identify the source of the cyber threat, even if it comes from you third parties, to prevent the costly data breach.

Containing the breach and limiting damage 

Viruses can spread very quickly so your cybersecurity experts should be able to isolate any infected devices and limit the damage as much as possible.  

Assessing the scope of damage 

Once the breach is under control, the next step is to analyse the entire system to ensure that the issue is under control. The true extent of the damage should create a clearer picture of exactly what’s needed and how severe the problem is. 

Consulting your legal team 

The next step is consulting your legal team and reporting the incident to the appropriate agencies, officials, or regulatory bodies. Follow the advice of your legal team to make sure you are keeping within the cyber law and are reporting the incident to the relevant bodies on time.  

Informing your insurer about the incident 

If you have a cyber insurance policy in place, ensure that you contact your insurer immediately. A comprehensive cyber liability policy should cover your costs related to a cyber incident. A third-party policy will cover the damages suffered by any other parties. If you do not have cyber insurance policy, it’s advisable to get one as soon as possible. They may seem a costly addition but could save your business millions in the long run.  

Notifying all affected parties 

Once you identify those whose data has been compromised, ensure that they are notified straight away. If you are not 100% sure who was directly affected by a breach, notify all those who could have possibly fallen victim to an attack. 

Issuing a public statement  

Controlling a potential PR fallout by issuing a public statement is key to minimizing the damage. Keeping on top of the issues so that you can control the narrative is extremely important. It will limit the damage to your organisation’s wallet and reputation.   

Cleaning up your systems 

Once you have taken all the necessary steps to minimise the damage, you can clean your systems of any infection or viruses. It’s important to start first with the quarantined devices and work outwards to the outer depths of your network or system. A professional cybersecurity team will know the best course of action to ensure all bases are covered.  

Restoring lost data 

Retracing the source of the attack can reveal the compromised data and indicate the date and time of the attack. This will provide you with a date in which you can use to apply an unaffected backup to restore lost data. 

Strengthening cybersecurity protocols 

The final stage is the learning process. Learning from the breach and strengthen cybersecurity protocols to prevent future attacks is key. The knowledge gained during the recovery period can be used to further educate your staff and strengthen your policies. It would also be advisable at this stage to update your incident response plan accordingly. Your cybersecurity incident response plan should be a document that can be updated and edited on a regular basis. 

See How RiskXchange Supports an Incident Response Plan 

Don’t underestimate the power of digital risk protection. RiskXchange can help your business refine its cybersecurity reporting process and, in effect, improve its ability to remediate threats faster and prevent more serious cyberattacks going forward. We support incident response plans by providing everything needed to thwart an attack and bolster cybersecurity measures. 

Whether you are looking for industry-specific advice, support to set up your cybersecurity programs, want to become cybersecurity essentials compliant or need help in developing your cybersecurity strategy, RiskXchange is here to help you! Our cybersecurity experts become an extension of your in-house IT teams to make sure you are and remain cyber secure. 

Incident Response Plan Frequently Asked Questions 

What should be included in an incident response plan? 

An incident response plan often includes a number of different elements. This can include a list of roles and responsibilities for the cyber incident response team to follow; a business continuity plan; a summary of the technologies, tools and physical resources that should be in place; a list of critical network and data recovery processes; and finally, both internal and external communications.  

What is the NIST incident response phase? 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) incident response phase breaks cybersecurity incident response down into four main categories: Preparation; Detection and Analysis; Containment, Eradication, and Recovery; and Post-Event Activity. 

Get in touch with RiskXchange to find out more about how to create a successful cybersecurity incident response plan.