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The Importance of Developing an Incident Response Plan


Whether it be for the purpose of strengthening your security posture, preparing for potential data breaches, or applying for cyber insurance coverage, the importance of developing an incident response plan can’t be overstated.

Today, the ethical hacking team at Packetlabs outlines what an incident response plan is, the common pitfalls of creating an incident response plan, and what you can do to ensure that you and your organization are protected from cyber threats in 2023 and beyond.

What is an Incident Response Plan?

An incident response plan is defined as a “documentation of a predetermined set of instructions or procedures to detect, respond to, and limit consequences of malicious cyberattacks against an organization’s information systems.”

When done right, an incident response plan will include the necessary processes, procedures, and documentation needed to detect, respond to, and recover from cyber-related incidents. The action steps outlined in an IRP will cover how an organization and its cybersecurity team respond to the following:

  • Cyber threats (both active and passive)

  • Natural disasters

  • Unplanned Internet or general connectivity outages

Assets accounted for by an IRP are your organization’s network, systems, and all related devices.

The Importance of an Incident Response Plan

With notable organizations such as, but not included to, Indigo, Uber, NATO, and MSI reporting significant data breaches, businesses of all sizes should note the importance of an incident response plan… and either A) get one in place, or B) refine any pre-existing IRPs that may have already been drafted.

A thorough IRP process gives your organization instructions regarding how to effectively minimize losses, remedy exploitable vulnerabilities in your cyber infrastructure, restore all impacted systems and devices, and shut down the attack vector that was used to guarantee that no similar attack will succeed in the future.

IRPs are integral to preventing cyber-related incidents, protecting sensitive data, pinpointing the root causes of security breaches, and how to recover in the worst-case scenario. They cement the best practices for cybersecurity incident handling and outline a step-by-step breakdown of how your organization should notify law enforcement, employees, staff, and any impacted clients.

The top benefits of an iron-clad IRP are:

  • Minimizing the duration of security breaches: The average lifecycle of a security breach is up to 287 days, with organizations taking 212 days on average to identify a breach and 75 days to completely contain it. 

  • Rolling back the damage done by threat actors: With 68 records lost or stolen every second, the average data breach costing organizations $4.35 million, and the number of cyberattacks skyrocketing by the year, the damage done through just one data breach can be borderline insurmountable if not dealt with ASAP.

  • Streamlining the digital forensics process: What data has been compromised, and what are your attackers likely to try to do with it? Digital forensics is the science of identifying, processing, analyzing, and reporting on electronically-stored data–with an emphasis on how that data can be used for potentially criminal purposes. Common criminal uses of data include ransom or fraud.

  • Bolstering your organization’s recovery time: Recovery time for business can be slow, regardless of the type of data breach at hand. Having an IRP in place maximizes your response times and guarantees that every member of your organization knows what part they can play to get your systems back up and running.

  • Mitigating negative publicity in the wake of a breach: A hit to one’s reputation, trust, or client base are all common drawbacks of experiencing a cyberattack. By showcasing to your client base that you are targeting the problem at hand and prioritizing the safety of their personal information, you can keep reputational loss to a minimum.

Who is Responsible for Incident Response Planning?

Does your organization have a computer security incident response team (CSIRT) established yet?

If not, take this as your sign to prioritize the formation of one.

The typical roles held in a CSIRT are:

  • The Incident Response Manager, who oversees actions during the detection, counter, and recovery of a cyberattack

  • The Security Analyst, who implements operational controls during all phases

  • The Threat Intelligence, who utilizes threat intelligence to understand prior, existing, and potential future threats to the organization’s cybersecurity

There are generally multiples of each role in CSIRTs for medium-to-large organizations. Because most SMBs don’t have the capacity to hire internal staff to act as Threat Intelligence, that role is often outsourced to third-party pentesting vendors like the team here at Packetlabs who can monitor an organization’s infrastructure for leaked credentials, provide recommendations on how to strengthen security posture, and analyze existing and future threats.

Ideally, a CSIRT will be composed of staff from a business’s legal, human resources, IT, public relations, and leadership vectors to become fully cross-functional if (and when) an emergency strikes. 

What Can An IRP Prevent?

IRPs cover common security threats. The types of cyberattacks and related incidents that generally fall under the umbrella of an organization’s IRP include, but are not limited to:

Regardless of the type of cyberattack at play, an IRP will work to prevent and recover from both internal breaches and data breaches suffered by any third-party or fourth-party vendors the organization may be partnered with.

Key IRP Metrics

As an organization, what metrics should your incident response be measured against in order to determine how effective it is–as well as what about it can be improved?

Here is our comprehensive list of key performance indicators for IRPs:

  • An organization’s security rating

  • The security rating of major competitors 

  • The number of third-party or fourth-party vendors

  • The average security rating of these vendors

  • Which vendors are lowest-rated for security

  • Which vendors have least-improved their security year-after-year

  • Which vendors are highest-rated for security

  • Which vendors have most improved their security year-after-year

  • The number of incidents detected in a year

  • The number of incidents not detected in a year

  • The number of incidents that required action in a year

  • The number of repeated or similar incidents in a year

  • The average incident remediation time

  • The number of data breaches in a year

Other crucial elements are the number of stakeholders involved in incident response planning, general cybersecurity awareness training within the organization, and what measures have been taken to strengthen security posture.

How an Incident Response Plan Helps With Cyber Insurance Renewals

Alongside the numerous financial, reputational, and security-related benefits an IRP provides, it also has the added bonus of helping your organization successfully renew (or apply) for cyber insurance.

In order to qualify for cybersecurity insurance, organizations need to display tangible proof that they are being proactive in protecting themselves from cyberattacks. The best way to do this? Through a comprehensive IRP.

In addition, organizations should strongly consider providing up-to-date cybersecurity training for staff, teaching cybercrime-related “fire drills” to test employees on their emergency knowledge, using a virtual private network (VPN) to protect from Wi-Fi related vulnerabilities, and ensuring that all stakeholders are briefed on any updates to the organization’s IRP.

How Do You Write an Incident Response Plan?

When partnering with a third-party vendor to write your organization’s incident response plan, they should be SOC 2-certified, have a firm information security and vendor management policy in place, and be equipped to run cybersecurity risk assessments on behalf of your organization.

Luckily, the team of ethical hackers at Packetlabs checks all those boxes–and more. Go beyond the checkbox for your IRP by choosing us as your IRP pentesting vendor. 

Have Questions? Need a Quote?

Contact our team today to see how we can help improve your security posture. Get a no-obligation quote and a copy of our sample report to help you get started.