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What Is Incident Response? Complete Guide for Enterprises 
Incident response refers to the actions taken by an organization to identify, assess, and respond to a cyber security incident. This typically involves identifying the source of the incident, determining the extent of the damage, and implementing measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
Incident response can also involve working with law enforcement agencies to investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice. It is an organized and systematic approach to addressing and managing a cyber security incident and its aftermath.
In this article:
- Why is a Cyber Security Incident Response Plan Important?
- Incident Response Processes and Steps
- What Is an Incident Response Team?
- What Is an Incident Response Playbook?
- Incident Response Templates and Policies
- What Are Incident Response Services and Tools?
- How to Make an Incident Response Plan Successful
Why is a Cyber Security Incident Response Plan Important?
A cyber security incident response plan is a document that outlines the steps an organization should take in the event of a cyber security incident. This plan typically includes a detailed description of the incident response process, including the roles and responsibilities of different team members, the types of incidents that should be reported, and the steps that should be taken to respond to and recover from an incident.
Having a cyber security incident response plan in place is important because it helps ensure that an organization can quickly and effectively respond to a cyber security incident. It allows organizations to minimize the potential damage caused by an incident, such as data loss or financial losses. A well-developed incident response plan can also help an organization to quickly return to normal operations after an incident.
Incident Response Processes and Steps
NIST Incident Response Framework
The NIST Incident Response Framework is a set of guidelines and best practices for responding to cyber security incidents. It is published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The framework is designed to help organizations of all sizes and industries to develop and implement effective incident response plans. It consists of four phases: preparation, detection and analysis, containment, eradication and recovery, and post-incident activity.
- Preparation—Involves developing and implementing an incident response plan, as well as training staff on how to use it. This phase also involves identifying the resources that will be needed to respond to an incident, such as specialized equipment and personnel.
- Detection and analysis—The organization monitors its systems for signs of a security incident and gathers information about the nature and scope of the incident. This phase requires analyzing the data and evidence collected to determine the source of the incident and the extent of the damage.
- Containment, eradication, and recovery—In this phase, the organization takes steps to contain the incident and prevent it from spreading. This may involve disconnecting affected systems from the network, implementing temporary fixes, and restoring backups. After restoring normal operations, the incident response team takes steps to completely eradicate the threat from the environment and prevent it from recurring.
- Post-incident activity—This final phase involves conducting a thorough review of the incident to identify lessons learned and make improvements to the incident response plan. It may involve updating the plan, conducting additional training, and implementing new technologies or processes to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
For example, after an initial round of containment and recovery, the organization may need to repeat these steps if the incident reoccurs or if new information about the incident becomes available. The iterative nature of the NIST Incident Response Framework allows organizations to adapt to the unique challenges posed by each incident and to take the most effective steps to resolve it.
SANS Incident Response Framework
The SANS Incident Response Framework is a set of guidelines and best practices for responding to cyber security incidents. It is published by the SANS Institute, a leading provider of cyber security training and certification. This framework consists of the following six phases:
- Preparation: Involves developing and implementing an incident response plan, as well as training staff on how to use it. This phase also requires identifying the resources that will be needed to respond to an incident, such as specialized equipment and personnel.
- Identification: The organization monitors its systems for signs of a security incident and gathers information about the nature and scope of the incident. This phase involves analyzing the data and evidence collected to determine the root cause of the incident and the extent of the damage.
- Containment: Involves taking steps to contain the incident and prevent it from spreading. For example, the organization might need to disconnect affected systems from the network, implement temporary fixes, and restore backups. The goal of this phase is to prevent further damage and to limit the impact of the incident.
- Eradication: The organization works to remove the cause of the incident and to restore the affected systems to a secure state. This may involve cleaning infected systems, applying patches or updates, and implementing permanent fixes.
- Recovery: Involves restoring normal operations and returning to business as usual. This may involve bringing affected systems back online, conducting user and data recovery, and implementing measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
- Lessons learned: This thorough review of the incident helps identify any lessons learned and make improvements to the organization’s incident response plan. Common tasks include conducting a debriefing session with the incident response team, documenting the incident, a post-incident analysis, updating the incident response plan, and conducting additional training for staff.
What Is an Incident Response Team?
An incident response team is a group of individuals who are responsible for managing and coordinating an organization’s response to a major incident or crisis. This could include a natural disaster, a cyber attack, or any other significant event that disrupts the normal operations of the organization. The primary goal of an IRT is to minimize the impact of the incident and restore normal operations as quickly as possible.
A Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)
This group of individuals are responsible for managing and coordinating an organization’s response to a major cyber security incident. This could include a data breach, a network intrusion, or any other type of cyber attack that threatens the security of the organization’s systems and data. The primary goal of a CSIRT is to quickly identify the source of the incident and take steps to prevent further damage and restore normal operations.
A Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)
A CERT is a government-operated organization that provides support and assistance to individuals and organizations in the event of a major cyber security incident. CERTs often work closely with CSIRTs to provide additional resources and expertise in the response to a cyber attack.
A Security Operations Center (SOC)
A SOC is a dedicated team or department that is responsible for continuously monitoring the organization’s network and systems for potential security threats. The primary goal of a SOC is to identify and respond to potential cyber security incidents before they can cause significant damage. This typically involves the use of specialized tools and technologies to detect and analyze security threats in real-time.
CSIRT vs. CERT vs. SOC
The key difference between these three types of teams is their focus and scope. CSIRTs are focused on responding to major incidents that have already occurred, while CERTs are focused on providing support and assistance to organizations in the event of a cyber attack. SOCs, on the other hand, are focused on continuously monitoring an organization’s systems for potential security threats and taking proactive measures to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place.
What Is an Incident Response Playbook?
An incident response playbook is designed to provide a systematic and organized approach to handling security incidents. The playbook typically outlines the steps to be taken in the event of an incident, along with the specific actions to be performed by different teams or individuals within the organization.
Typically, an incident response playbook will include the following elements:
- A description of the types of incidents that the playbook covers, including specific scenarios and potential triggers for the incident.
- A list of the key stakeholders and decision makers who will be involved in responding to the incident, along with their roles and responsibilities.
- A set of procedures and protocols for identifying, assessing, and responding to the incident, including steps for triaging and escalating the incident, as well as procedures for communicating with relevant parties and coordinating the response.
- A description of the tools, resources, and processes that will be used to manage the incident, including information on how to access and use these resources.
- A plan for restoring normal operations and recovering from the incident, including steps for mitigating the impact of the incident and preventing future occurrences.
The incident response playbook should be kept up to date and readily accessible to all relevant parties in the organization, so that it can be quickly and easily consulted in the event of an incident. It should also be regularly reviewed and tested to ensure that it remains effective and relevant.
Manual vs. automated incident response playbooks
A manual incident response playbook is a document that outlines the steps to be taken and the actions to be performed by an organization in the event of a security incident. The response process is carried out manually by the organization’s staff, following the procedures and protocols described in the playbook.
In contrast, an automated incident response playbook is one that is executed by a computer program or system. In this case, the response process is carried out automatically, without the need for human intervention. Automated incident response playbooks are typically based on predefined rules and triggers, which dictate how the system should respond to different types of incidents.
The choice between a manual and automated incident response playbook will depend on the specific needs and requirements of the organization. Manual playbooks may be more suitable for organizations that have a small IT staff and limited resources, while automated playbooks may be more appropriate for larger organizations with complex IT environments.
Incident Response Templates and Policies
Incident response templates and policies are documents that provide guidance and direction to an organization on how to handle security incidents.
Incident response templates are standardized documents that outline the steps and actions to be taken in the event of a specific type of incident. These templates can be used by organizations as a starting point for developing their own incident response plans, and can help to ensure that the plans are comprehensive and effective.
Incident response policies, on the other hand, are high-level documents that outline the overall approach and philosophy of the organization when it comes to handling security incidents. These policies typically include general principles and guidelines for responding to incidents, as well as information on the roles and responsibilities of different teams and individuals within the organization.
Together, incident response templates and policies can help to provide a solid foundation for an organization’s incident response efforts, and can help to ensure that the organization is prepared to handle security incidents in a timely and effective manner.
What Are Incident Response Services and Tools?
Incident response services are specialized products or services that are provided by external vendors or providers. These services are typically delivered as part of a contract or agreement between the organization and the service provider, and may include a range of capabilities, such as incident detection, analysis, containment, and reporting.
In contrast, incident response tools are software products or applications that are designed to help organizations handle security incidents. These tools are typically installed and run on the organization’s own systems and infrastructure, and may be purchased or licensed from a vendor. Incident response tools can provide many of the same capabilities as incident response services, but are typically more focused on a specific aspect of the incident response process.
How to Make an Incident Response Plan Successful
There are several key considerations and best practices that can help to make an incident response plan successful. Some of the most important factors to consider include:
Clear roles and responsibilities
It is essential that the roles and responsibilities of different teams and individuals within the organization are clearly defined and understood. This will help to ensure that the incident response process is carried out in a coordinated and effective manner, and that all relevant parties are aware of their responsibilities.
Regular testing and review
The incident response plan should be regularly tested and reviewed to ensure that it remains relevant and effective. This can be done through simulation exercises and other methods, and should involve all relevant teams and stakeholders.
Communication and collaboration
Effective communication and collaboration is essential for a successful incident response plan. The plan should include procedures for communicating with relevant parties and coordinating the response, and should be designed to facilitate collaboration between different teams and individuals.
Flexibility and adaptability
The incident response plan should be flexible and adaptable, and should be able to be modified and updated as needed. This will help to ensure that the plan remains effective and relevant, even as the organization’s environment and risk profile changes over time.
Integration with other security measures
The incident response plan should be integrated with the organization’s other security measures and controls, and should be designed to work in concert with these measures. This will help to ensure that the incident response plan is effective and comprehensive, and that it does not create any unnecessary gaps or overlaps in the organization’s overall security posture.
Incident Response with Perception Point
Perception Point offers Prevention-as-a-Service. You receive a free of charge set of value-added services that are an integral part of the offering to help you better intercept, analyze, remediate and understand any attack across your email, web browser and cloud collaboration apps. No long admin guide books, no integration downtime, and no fuss for an unparalleled advanced threat protection solution with the best ROI in the market.
With Perception Point’s Incident Response service, a team of cybersecurity experts act as an extension of your organization’s SOC team. Our team handles all of your ongoing activities — managing incidents and reporting — saving your internal SOC team up to 75% of their resources.