What Is Incident Response?

Incident response (IR) is also referred to as a security incident, computer incident, or IT incident. It is a systematic method of dealing with and managing the consequences of a cyberattack or security breach. The objective is to approach the scenario in a manner that minimizes harm, lessens recovery time, and lowers expenses.

Incident Response Plan (IRP)

An incident response plan is a written guideline outlining the organization’s response to security incidents, network events, and verified data breaches. IRP includes the following information:

  • How incident response bolsters the organization’s principal objectives
  • The organization’s strategy for incident response operations, including roles and duties for carrying out IR tasks
  • Communication channels between the organization and its IR team
  • Metrics to evaluate the potential of its IR capabilities.

An IR plan is valuable even after a cybersecurity incident has been resolved. It is helpful as legal evidence, as documentation for auditors, and as a source of information to assess risks and enhance the incident response process.

Importance of Incident Response (IR) and IRP

Most firms’ activities rely on mission-critical computing systems and retain sensitive data. Cyberattacks can target any network or technology within a company. Security issues may have both immediate and long-term effects on an organization. Hence, incident response and efficient IRP are essential to businesses.

A security breach can impair business operations and services, result in data leaks, harm an organization’s integrity, and create regulatory issues (fines and penalties).

Organizations also need the resources to incur data recovery costs and the expertise necessary to react swiftly and efficiently to threats that manage to bypass defenses. Ineffective incident response also results in customer dissatisfaction.

Complete elimination of security incidents by an organization is impossible. However, incident response helps reduce their frequency. Although attackers will always be on task, organizations must concentrate on getting ready for a security incident’s effects with an efficient approach.

An efficient IRP enables organizations to prepare for known and unknown threats, determine security incidents instantly, and identify effective strategies to stop incursions before they cause damage.

Incident Response Challenges

Unfortunately, most firms still use ad hoc procedures to investigate simple cyber issues, including staff phishing attacks. Cyber Resilience Study reveals that Incident Response Plans and Security Automation Set High Performers Apart, only 26% of firms have an enterprise-wide incident response plan.

Additionally, firms with the necessary tools and technology may have trouble locating sufficient resources to effectively handle the flood of incidents due to the skills gap.

Opportunities to orchestrate responses in a sophisticated fashion increase when organizations add integrated data and threat intelligence sources to their incident response operations, beginning with automating low-level and repetitive processes. Three main obstacles to overcome are:

Incident Volume

Cybersecurity incidents are frequent. Security experts claim that the number of security events has grown over the past two years. They previously claimed that their company ignores a sizable amount of security alerts because they cannot handle the volume.

Skills Gap

Teams in charge of security have trouble filling vacancies. By 2020, the cybersecurity sector will still have 500,000 open positions.

Tool Complexity

Incident response teams use a bewildering array of disjointed tools to manage a complex security environment. ESG reports that for security analytics and security operations, 35% of enterprises utilize 26 or more diverse technologies from as many as 13 suppliers (ESG Global, SOAPA: Unifying SIEM, and SOAR with IBM Security QRadar and IBM Security Resilient).

Organizations might address their challenges through:

  • Creating quantifiable, repeatable, and consistent incident response systems instead of ad hoc ones.
  • Making collaboration, coordination, and communication top priorities across the board.
  • Utilizing technology to expedite and improve the work of the response team.

Cybersecurity Incidents And Their Types

Illegal access to a company’s security procedures or data infrastructure by third parties results in security incidents that put data in danger.

Attackers are the main cause of attempts, whether inside or outside. Organizations are at risk from cyber-attacks because they can use a variety of approaches at any time to exploit any infrastructure vulnerability.

Security incidents vary from organization to organization and can be divided into several categories. Frequent detrimental occurrences include:

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

DDOS is an assault on vital cloud services.

Phishing Attacks

A potential phishing attack compromises customers’ personally identifiable information (PII).

Insider Threats

Users with authorized access to a company’s resources who intentionally or unintentionally misuse them are considered insider threats. Regardless of whether or not they have malicious intent, insiders often have elevated degrees of access and know where sensitive data for a business is kept.

Malware And Ransomware

Malware harms, interfere, or obtains unauthorized access to a client, computer, server, or computer network. Ransomware threatens to delete or block access to a victim’s data or files, and ransom is demanded for the decryption of the information.

Security incidents are regarded as both urgent and important. They affect critical systems, information, or business areas. Hence, they demand the implementation of formal incident response processes. Identifying the difference between threats and vulnerabilities is another crucial component of understanding security incident response.

Threat Vs. Vulnerability

A hacker or dishonest employee attempting to take advantage of a vulnerability for malevolent or monetary gain is an example of a threat.

A vulnerability is an easily exploitable weakness in a computer system, business procedure, or user.

Threats take advantage of vulnerabilities, which increases business risk. Identity theft, illegal access to critical information assets, the shutdown of systems, and legal and compliance issues are just a few consequences.

Incident Response Steps

Each time a security incident occurs, an incident response lifecycle is initiated. The six effective incident response steps include:

1. Preparation

This crucial stage of incident response involves planning for unavoidable security breaches. Policy, response plan/strategy, communication, documentation, identifying the CIRT members, access control, tools, and training should all be included in the preparation. It aids organizations in deciding how well their CIRT will be able to respond to an incident.

2. Identification

It is the process through which incidents are found, ideally without delay. The earlier the identification, the better the incident response. It allows for quick action, resulting in cost-cutting and minimal losses.

To detect incidents and ascertain their breadth, IT personnel accumulate events from log files, monitoring tools, error messages, intrusion detection systems, and firewalls.

3. Containment

When an event is discovered or recognized, its containment becomes a primary concern. The primary goal here is to contain the harm and stop it from getting worse.

It is crucial to follow all the containment phase recommendations to avoid the loss of any evidence that may be needed in future legal proceedings. Subphases of containment are:

Short-Term Containment 

Existing threats are contained temporarily. For instance, isolating an attacker’s current location on your network. Another option is to shut down an infected server and direct traffic to a failover.

Long-Term Containment

It refers to system backup. Additional access constraints are implemented on unaffected systems to ensure long-term containment. Concurrently, updated and patched versions of resources and systems are developed and set for the recovery stage.

1. Eradication

A good incident response aims to eliminate the danger and return affected systems to their pre-incident state, ideally with the least possible data loss. The major eradication activities are:

      • Ensuring that the steps are followed correctly up to this point
      • Including measures that eliminate the malicious content and guarantee complete cleaning of the afflicted systems.

2. Recovery

This incident response step involves testing, monitoring, and validating systems while bringing them back into production to ensure they are not re-infected or hacked.

Making decisions about whether to resume normal operations, testing and verifying the compromised systems, keeping an eye out for unusual behaviors, and using tools for testing, monitoring, and validating system behavior are all part of this phase.

3. Lesson learned

It is an important stage of incident response since it aids in educating and enhancing future incident response efforts. In this step, organizations can add details to their incident response plans that might be overlooked during the occurrence and comprehensive documentation to help with future attacks.

Lesson-learned reports provide an in-depth analysis of the entire incident and can be utilized as training materials for new CSIRT members, benchmarks for comparison, or at recap sessions.

Incident Response Frameworks

Above mentioned six incident response steps are presented by the SANS Institute (SysAdmin, Auditing, Networking, and Security) as an incident response framework to assist enterprises in standardized incident response planning.

Another big organization, the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), with extensive security experience, has created a 4-step incident response framework. The condensed NIST incident response framework steps are as follows:

  1. Preparation
  2. Detection and analysis
  3. Containment, eradication, and recovery
  4. Post-incident activity

Incident Response Plan Templates

It can be challenging to create an incident response plan. The following templates offer structure and guidance:

  • National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) Planning Guide
  • Sysnet’s Incident Response Template
  • International Legal Technology Association (IltaNet)
  • California Government Department of Technology
  • TechTarget / Paul Kirvan
  • Thycotic
  • Incidentresponse.com
  • I-Sight

Incident Response Team

The incident response activities are managed by an organization’s computer security incident response team (CSIRT). It is also known as a computer emergency response team (CERT) or a cyber incident response team (CIRT). The pre-selected team includes:

  • Information security experts
  • IT professionals
  • C-suite level members
  • Representatives from the human resources, public relations, and law departments.

The incident response team executes and adheres to the organization’s incident response plan (IRP). The primary incident response team members are:

Incident Response Manager

They oversee the entire incident response procedure and prioritize tasks during the detection, analysis, containment, and recovery phases.

Security Analysts

They restore the compromised network. They are of two types – triage analysts and forensic incident responders.

Triage Analysts search for potential security threats and weed out false positives. Meanwhile, Forensics Incident Responders collect forensic evidence to examine the incident effectively.

Threat Researchers

They provide context for the occurrence and threat intelligence services.

Incident Response Team Models

The NIST framework provides three CSIRT models for organizations:


The team is composed of a centralized entity that oversees IR for the entire organization.


Various incident response teams work together as necessary. Each team often oversees a particular area of the IT infrastructure, physical location, or division.


A central team acts as a command center or knowledge base for remote teams. Central incident response teams frequently handle system monitoring. They can also notify and support remote teams when necessary.

Selecting A Suitable Incident Response Team Model

Deciding on the most appropriate team model for your company is difficult. The NIST recommendations help organizations consider the following factors:

  • Incident response team availability (Onsite or remote, 24/7, etc.)
  • Incident response team staffing level (Part-time or full-time)
  • Incident response team expertise level (In-house or external experts)
  • The incident response team’s budget

Incident Response Services

Managed services, a.k.a, incident response services, can be used in place of or in addition to internal teams. These services often have a set range of services, a monthly fee, and work on a retainer.

These services have the advantage of frequently providing a better degree of expertise than is accessible internally and of being able to provide 24/7 monitoring and reaction. A service level agreement (SLA) that guarantees confidentiality and response is typically part of this service.

Additional advantages include:

  • Incident response preparation and planning services help analyze IT systems and create IRPs that are tailored according to needs.
  • Incident triage and classification services help monitor and identify real security incidents and categorize cyber threats.
  • Initial response services help perform incident response procedures or provide on-site assistance to internal responders.
  • Post-breach assessment services can assist teams in performing root-cause analysis and providing assessments of the effectiveness of response initiatives.

Incident Response Automation

Teams that swiftly identify risks and launch IRPs are essential for effective incident response, which is time sensitive. Unfortunately, most teams can’t evaluate all warnings in real time to decide if they become incidents. It may cause occurrences to go completely unnoticed or only be discovered after major damage.

Automation can help you prevent this oversight or delay in your incident response. It is utilized for:

  • Triage notifications and incidents as soon as possible
  • Collecting and organizing pertinent information for incident investigations.
  • Executing incident response procedures and duties, such as containing impacted regions and banning IP addresses.

Incident Response Playbooks

Playbooks are a frequent technique you can use to automate IR. Teams can respond to and resolve events quickly by following the stages and procedures of an incident response playbook.

Playbooks can also incorporate training and drills throughout the off-season to prepare the team for the next activity. Playbooks are crucial to incident management, cybersecurity, DevOps, and IT Ops.

Their organizational rules and procedures consistently respond to disasters and security concerns and aid responders in managing unplanned outages and restoring systems.

Playbooks are applied to:

  • Manual incident response procedures
  • Automated incident response processes

Putting Together A Playbook For Incident Response

A playbook for an incident response should include the following elements:

  • The playbook’s initiating condition is the circumstance that makes it run. For instance, an incident identification threshold, alert, etc.
  • Mandatory steps and procedures. For instance, removal, containment, analysis, and triage actions.
  • End state event for playbook termination. Your playbook aim serves as a guide for this. For instance, to reset permissions and passwords.

Employing Incident Response Tools: A Framework

Incident response tools are essential for anticipating and responding to security incidents, requesting administrative support, and adhering to a written incident response plan.

Some organizations use the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) cycle to suggest the right tools to use at the right time. The 4-step process for dealing with threats is as follows:

  • Visibility assessment of the operating system, applications, and network traffic.
  • Contextual information collection.
  • Forensic and real-time data collection.
  • Deal with the threat

Throughout the incident response process, the OODA cycle can direct the use of incident response tools.

Types of Incident Response Tools

Various incident response tools are:

Best Professional Incident Response Tools

  • CB Response
  • IBM QRadar
  • InsightIDR
  • LogRhythm
  • Sumo Logic

Difference Between Incident Response, Incident Handling, And Incident Management

Incident Response

It is a collection of technological actions taken to evaluate, discover, prevent, and respond to an incident. It is a step in the incident management and handling process. It frequently appears alongside the phrase “incident handling.”Incident Response Plan Templates

Incident Handling

The set processes and procedures to manage an incident are known as incident handling. It includes the planning and practice stage before, during, and after an incident is recognized.

Incident Management

Incident response and incident handling are closely associated. Incident management encompasses both incident response and incident handling. It creates a seamless process from reporting an issue to organizing and resolving it.

Difference Between Incident Response Plans And Business Continuity Plans

An incident response could be viewed as a step in the business continuity process with the objectives of preserving normal operations and reducing the effect of unanticipated future incidents.

Incident response should have the highest visibility levels throughout the organization, given the considerable risk and the various factors involved, such as people, technologies, and business processes.

An IRP is responsible for investigating security incidents and hacks that affect networks, computers, apps, databases, and related information assets.

Hence, most firms should manage the incident response plan in a separate document form but referenced in the business continuity plan. The incident response plan must be available to all team members so that they can use it when necessary.

Final Thoughts

An effective incident response depends on careful planning and preparedness. It is frequently too late to coordinate efficient response actions once a security data breach or assault has happened without a clear plan and path of action.

By allowing you to quickly restore control over your systems and data when an inevitable security breach occurs, creating a thorough incident response strategy can save your business extra time and money.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.
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