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Incident Response Team: Types, Functions, and 5 Key Considerations

incident response team

What Is an Incident Response Team? 

An incident response team (IRT) is a specialized group that prepares for and responds to various types of cyber security incidents. The team’s objective is to manage incidents efficiently to minimize damage, recovery time, and costs. An IRT is typically composed of IT professionals with expertise in cybersecurity and risk management, which play a critical role in preventing potential cybersecurity disasters by proactively addressing threats and vulnerabilities.

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An IRT’s work involves identifying security events that might escalate into security incidents. Upon detection, they assess the incidents, containing the threat, eradicating the risk, recovering systems and services, and conducting a thorough analysis to prevent future occurrences. This cycle ensures continuous improvement in security posture and resilience against attacks.

Types of Incident Response Team 

Security Operations Center (SOC)

A Security Operations Center (SOC) functions as a centralized unit that continuously monitors, assesses, and defends against cybersecurity threats for a specific organization. SOC teams work continuously to detect, analyze, and respond to potential security events in real-time. This proactive monitoring is vital in identifying potential threats before they escalate into serious incidents.

SOCs are equipped with tools and technologies that allow for efficient surveillance and managing vast amounts of data. These capabilities enable them to perform advanced incident analysis, including forensic investigation to understand attack vectors and perpetrator tactics. Effective SOCs are crucial for maintaining ongoing operational security and for rapid response and recovery during security incidents.

Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)

A Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) is an independent unit specifically responsible for receiving, reviewing, and responding to computer security incidents. Its role includes analysis of suspicious activity, coordination with other entities, and advising constituents regarding threats. Each CSIRT might serve a specific organization, a group of organizations, an industry, or an entire region, typically focusing on a particular type of incident.

CSIRTs are vital in providing the necessary expertise to handle complex security challenges. They also create and maintain trusted relationships with other CSIRTs (for example, a CSIRT serving a certain industry will cooperate with a CSIRT governing the entire state or country on the same topic), as well as law enforcement agencies, to facilitate information sharing and incident coordination.

Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)

A Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) primarily focuses on large-scale incidents that have broader implications, such as national security risks or critical infrastructure disruptions. Like CSIRTs, CERTs analyze and respond to incidents but often on a larger scale including governmental or multinational levels. They help to coordinate crisis management efforts and mitigation strategies across various sectors by leveraging substantial resources and broader authority.

CERTs also play a crucial role in developing security protocols and standards used nationally or internationally. Their strategic functions include conducting risk analyses, providing cybersecurity forecasts, and engaging in outreach to educate on cybersecurity awareness and practices. Their proactive measures significantly contribute to national and international cybersecurity health.

Incident Response Team Functions and Responsibilities 

Leadership

Leadership within an incident response team provides strategic direction and ensures that all response activities align with organizational goals. This role involves decision-making under pressure, prioritizing incident handling, and allocating resources effectively to manage cybersecurity threats. Leaders are also responsible for engaging with top management to communicate incident impacts and necessary responses.

Investigation

The investigation function of incident response teams deals with analyzing the specifics of each security incident to determine the source, method, and impact of the attack. This role requires deep technical expertise to trace and understand advanced persistent threats and to uncover vulnerabilities exploited by attackers. Investigators also work closely with forensics experts to gather evidence crucial for legal proceedings or to develop better defensive strategies.

Communications

Effective communication within an incident response team and with external stakeholders is crucial during and after a cybersecurity incident. This role includes managing communication channels, crafting clear updates, and ensuring that all parties are informed about the incident’s status and recovery processes. During high-pressure situations, designated staff on the incident response team keep internal teams aligned and external parties appropriately informed.

Documentation

Cybersecurity documentation involves keeping detailed records of incidents from detection through to resolution. This includes chronicling the incident’s timeline, actions taken, and resources involved. Good documentation not only aids in regulatory compliance and legal considerations but also serves as a vital resource for incident review and process refinement. They are also important for compliance audits and as evidence for legal proceedings.

Vulnerability Remediation

Vulnerability remediation is an essential function within an incident response team, tasked with identifying, assessing, and mitigating security vulnerabilities to minimize the risk of attacks. This process begins with the use of scanners and manual testing to detect vulnerabilities, followed by a thorough risk assessment to prioritize issues based on their severity and potential impact. 

Remediation actions include applying patches, making configuration changes, or employing other mitigative steps when immediate updates are not feasible. After remediation, the team verifies and tests systems to ensure vulnerabilities are properly addressed and no new security risks have emerged.

Legal Representation

Legal representation is critical in managing the aftermath of cybersecurity incidents. This includes ensuring compliance with data breach notification laws, liaising with law enforcement, and handling legal inquiries from affected parties. Legal experts help to minimize the risks associated with incidents and guide the recovery process to align with regulatory requirements.

Related content: Read our guide to incident response process

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Considerations for Creating an Incident Response Team 

1. Centralized Monitoring and Logging

Centralizing monitoring and logging systems consolidates security data, making it easier to detect anomalies and trends that can indicate potential security incidents. This centralization allows for quicker correlation of security events, enhancing the team’s ability to identify and respond to incidents swiftly. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems are often used in SOCs to enable centralized monitoring log analysis.

Such systems also support better compliance with data governance standards and simplify the management of logs, which is critical during forensic analysis and incident review processes. Effective centralized systems are foundationally important for effective incident detection and response.

2. 24/7 Availability

Maintaining 24/7 availability is crucial for an incident response team, as cybersecurity threats can occur at any time, often outside of regular business hours. Continuous monitoring and immediate response capabilities are vital in handling incidents promptly to minimize damage.

This availability can be achieved through staffing strategies, such as shifts, on-call rotations, or leveraging international teams that work across different time zones. Ensuring constant readiness allows organizations to deal with threats proactively and mitigate potential disruptions effectively.

3. Virtual or On-Call Team Members

In today’s global and often remote workforce, having virtual or on-call members in an incident response team allows for flexibility and scalability. Virtual team members can provide round-the-clock coverage and expertise regardless of geographical boundaries. This supports a timely response to incidents impacting global operations.

Furthermore, on-call arrangements ensure that specialized skills are available when needed without the overhead of full-time positions. These members can be mobilized quickly to address specific aspects of an incident, providing agility in the team’s responses.

4. Technically Diverse Teams

Having a technically diverse team ensures that a broad range of skills and perspectives contribute to effective incident handling. Specialists in network security, application security, malware analysis, and forensics, among others, bring essential expertise that no single individual could provide.

Diverse technical skills enable the team to address various aspects of cybersecurity, from initial detection through to recovery and post-incident analysis. This diversity is critical in developing robust defenses, thorough investigations, and comprehensive recovery strategies.

5. Team Communication and Morale

Effective team communication is critical for swift incident response. Regular updates, briefings, and open channels for feedback ensure all team members are aligned and informed. Tools like secure chat, collaborative platforms, and incident management software enable streamlined communication and task tracking.

Keeping team morale high is equally important, especially in high-stress environments like cybersecurity incident response. Regular training, clear role definitions, and recognition programs help maintain engagement and motivation among team members, ensuring preparedness and efficient incident handling.

Should You Build an In-House Incident Response Team or Use an External Service?

Pros and Cons of In-House Incident Response

An in-house incident response team is a dedicated group within an organization that handles all aspects of cybersecurity incidents, from detection to remediation. This team includes employees or long-term contractors who are familiar with the company’s infrastructure, culture, and internal processes. An in-house team works on-site and is integrated into the daily operations of the organization, allowing them to manage and maintain the security posture on a continuous basis.

Pros of in-house incident response:

  • Control and customization: In-house incident response teams offer greater control over security strategies and responses. Organizations can tailor their security measures to fit specific business needs and internal policies.
  • Faster response times: Being on-site and integrated into the company’s infrastructure allows in-house teams to respond more swiftly to some types of incidents.
  • Deep knowledge of the organization: In-house teams have an in-depth understanding of their organization’s systems, networks, and processes, which can significantly aid in detecting anomalies and responding to incidents effectively.
  • Consistent focus: An in-house team is entirely dedicated to one organization, ensuring that all efforts are focused on protecting specific assets without the distraction of external clients.

Cons of in-house incident response:

  • High costs: Establishing and maintaining an in-house team can be expensive. Costs include salaries, ongoing training, and investments in advanced security tools and technologies.
  • Resource intensive: Smaller organizations may find it challenging to allocate sufficient resources to manage a competent in-house team, including all the required tools and technologies and the need for continuous professional development.
  • Recruitment challenges: Finding and retaining skilled cybersecurity professionals can be difficult, especially in regions with a competitive job market for tech talent.
  • Potential for skill gaps: In-house teams may have gaps in expertise that are specific to certain types of cyber threats, which can leave the organization vulnerable in those areas.

Pros and Cons of Incident Response Services

Incident response services are provided by external vendors that specialize in cybersecurity. These services are typically utilized on a contract basis, and the team is not a permanent part of the organization it serves. Such services offer a range of expertise from monitoring and detection to response and recovery after security breaches. The external team operates independently of the organization’s daily operations but collaborates closely during incidents. 

Pros of incident response services:

  • Access to expertise: External services often have a diverse team of specialists with extensive experience in handling a wide range of security incidents. This broad expertise can be beneficial for effectively addressing complex threats.
  • Access to the latest technologies: Incident Response services are constantly updating their technologies to stay on top of the latest attack types and strategies, such as the use of GenAI.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Using an external service can be more cost-effective than maintaining an in-house team, especially for smaller organizations. It eliminates the overhead associated with salaries and training.
  • 24/7 availability: External services typically offer round-the-clock monitoring and response capabilities, which can be crucial for early detection and response to incidents, minimizing potential damage.
  • Scalability: External services can scale up quickly in response to an incident or as the organization grows, providing flexibility that might be difficult for an in-house team to replicate.

Cons of incident response services:

  • Less control: Relying on external services may result in less control over security measures and the response process. The alignment with company-specific policies and procedures might not be as tight as with an in-house team.
  • Potential for slower response times: Depending on the agreement and the location of the service provider, response times could be slower compared to an in-house team that is directly on-site.
  • Privacy concerns: There can be concerns about confidentiality and data privacy when external parties handle sensitive information during a security breach.
  • Dependency: Relying on external services can lead to dependency, which might hinder the development of internal capabilities and knowledge in cybersecurity.

Build Your Incident Response Process with Perception Point

The best way to get started with building your incident response process is to partner with a cybersecurity expert that offers a managed service as part of their overall offering that consists of the human element augmented with the use of GenAI. 

Perception Point offers a free of charge set of value-added Incident Response services 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. 

Perception Point’s incident response services integrate the use of GPThreat Hunter™, an autonomous IR analyst that leverages the power of OpenAI’s GPT-4 model to automatically resolve a vast amount of ambiguous security cases without human intervention and with unprecedented accuracy and speed. This new capability is able to detect and prevent malicious items (e.g. emails) x100 faster than the average analyst, further improve the solution’s detection engines, unveil new attack tactics, and most importantly secure more human expert time for hardcore investigations, research and threat hunting.

With Perception Point’s Incident Response service, a team of cybersecurity experts act as an extension of your organization’s SOC team, reducing your overhead by up to 75%. Our team handles all of your ongoing activities; managing incidents, reporting and SOC team updating. 

Contact Perception Point to learn more 

SOC team overloaded? Get a free, fully managed, 24x7 Incident Response  service, and save up to 75% of your SOC resources. Learn more.
What Is an Incident Response Team?

An incident response team (IRT) is a specialized group that prepares for and responds to various types of cyber security incidents. The team’s objective is to manage incidents efficiently to minimize damage, recovery time, and costs. An IRT is typically composed of IT professionals with expertise in cybersecurity and risk management, which play a critical role in preventing potential cybersecurity disasters by proactively addressing threats and vulnerabilities.

What are the Types of Incident Response Team?

There are 3 main types of incident response team:
1. Security Operations Center (SOC)
2. Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)
3. Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)

What are the Incident Response Team Functions and Responsibilities?

1. Leadership
2. Investigation
3. Communications
4. Documentation
5. Vulnerability Remediation
6. Legal Representation

What are the Considerations for Creating an Incident Response Team?

1. Centralized Monitoring and Logging
2. 24/7 Availability
3. Virtual or On-Call Team Members
4. Technically Diverse Teams
5. Team Communication and Morale

What are the Pros and Cons of In-House Incident Response?

Pros:
Control and customization: In-house incident response teams offer greater control over security strategies and responses. Organizations can tailor their security measures to fit specific business needs and internal policies.
Faster response times: Being on-site and integrated into the company’s infrastructure allows in-house teams to respond more swiftly to some types of incidents.
Deep knowledge of the organization: In-house teams have an in-depth understanding of their organization’s systems, networks, and processes, which can significantly aid in detecting anomalies and responding to incidents effectively.
Consistent focus: An in-house team is entirely dedicated to one organization, ensuring that all efforts are focused on protecting specific assets without the distraction of external clients.

Cons:
High costs: Establishing and maintaining an in-house team can be expensive. Costs include salaries, ongoing training, and investments in advanced security tools and technologies.
Resource intensive: Smaller organizations may find it challenging to allocate sufficient resources to manage a competent in-house team, including all the required tools and technologies and the need for continuous professional development.
Recruitment challenges: Finding and retaining skilled cybersecurity professionals can be difficult, especially in regions with a competitive job market for tech talent.
Potential for skill gaps: In-house teams may have gaps in expertise that are specific to certain types of cyber threats, which can leave the organization vulnerable in those areas.

What are the Pros and Cons of Incident Response Services?

Pros:
Access to expertise: External services often have a diverse team of specialists with extensive experience in handling a wide range of security incidents. This broad expertise can be beneficial for effectively addressing complex threats.
Access to the latest technologies: Incident Response services are constantly updating their technologies to stay on top of the latest attack types and strategies, such as the use of GenAI.
Cost-effectiveness: Using an external service can be more cost-effective than maintaining an in-house team, especially for smaller organizations. It eliminates the overhead associated with salaries and training.
24/7 availability: External services typically offer round-the-clock monitoring and response capabilities, which can be crucial for early detection and response to incidents, minimizing potential damage.
Scalability: External services can scale up quickly in response to an incident or as the organization grows, providing flexibility that might be difficult for an in-house team to replicate.

Cons:
Less control: Relying on external services may result in less control over security measures and the response process. The alignment with company-specific policies and procedures might not be as tight as with an in-house team.
Potential for slower response times: Depending on the agreement and the location of the service provider, response times could be slower compared to an in-house team that is directly on-site.
Privacy concerns: There can be concerns about confidentiality and data privacy when external parties handle sensitive information during a security breach.
Dependency: Relying on external services can lead to dependency, which might hinder the development of internal capabilities and knowledge in cybersecurity.