Home ยป How to Build an Incident Response Plan

Publication date: July 25, 2023

How to Build an Incident Response Plan

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Written by Angela Polania

Angela Polania, CPA, CISM, CISA, CRISC, HITRUST, CMMC RP. Angela is the Managing Principal at Elevate and board member, and treasurer at the CIO Council of South Florida.

In this how-to article, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to create a robust and effective incident response plan. Whether you’re a seasoned cybersecurity expert or just dipping your toes into this field, having a solid incident response plan is crucial to keep your organization protected against cyber threats.

Step 1: Assemble Your A-Team

Every successful mission starts with a stellar team, and your incident response plan is no different. Gather key players from various departments, such as IT, security, legal, and management. Each member should bring a unique skill set to the table, ensuring a comprehensive response to any incident that might arise.

Step 2: Identify and Prioritize Assets

Now that you have your A-team, it’s time to identify and prioritize your critical assets. These might include sensitive data, customer information, intellectual property, or key infrastructure components. Rank them based on their importance to your organization and the potential impact of an incident on your operations.

Step 3: Assess Potential Threats and Vulnerabilities

With your assets identified, it’s time to assess potential threats and vulnerabilities. Conduct a thorough risk assessment to understand the various cyber threats your organization might face. This will help you tailor your response plan to tackle specific risks head-on.

Step 4: Develop an Incident Response Strategy

Now that you have a clear understanding of your assets and risks, you need to craft your incident response strategy. Outline the step-by-step procedures for different types of incidents, such as malware infections, data breaches, or denial-of-service attacks. Ensure that each team member knows their role and responsibilities during an incident.

Step 5: Establish Communication Channels

Communication is the glue that holds your incident response plan together. Set up a clear and efficient communication channel within your A-team to ensure everyone stays informed during an incident. This might include establishing a dedicated chat platform, email group, or even old-school phone trees.

Step 6: Train, Train, Train!

Your incident response plan won’t be effective unless your team is well-prepared. Regularly conduct training sessions and mock drills to keep everyone sharp and ready to respond swiftly in a real-life situation. Simulate different scenarios to test the effectiveness of your plan and make necessary improvements.

Step 7: Review and Update Regularly

Cyber threats are ever-evolving, and so should be your incident response plan. Schedule periodic reviews of your plan to identify any weaknesses and address new risks. Ensure that your plan complies with the latest industry standards and regulations.

Step 8: Collaborate with External Partners

Sometimes incidents can go beyond your organization’s expertise. Forge relationships with external partners, such as cybersecurity firms or law enforcement, to get the necessary support when needed. Having these connections in place can be invaluable during a crisis.

Step 9: Maintain a Positive Company Culture

Last but not least, foster a positive cybersecurity culture within your organization. Encourage employees to report any suspicious activities promptly and reward good cybersecurity practices. Remember, a proactive workforce is your first line of defense against cyber threats.

For more in-depth instruction, standardization, and guidelines for creating your incident response plan, visit https://csrc.nist.gov/pubs/sp/800/61/r2/final.

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