How to Create an Incident Response Plan

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Having a detailed incident response plan in place before any real events occur is a critical part of your cybersecurity strategy. You need to establish your computer security incident response team (CSIRT) and give them clear instructions if you want to minimize the effects of an incident.

Being proactive is the best defense your organization has against today’s threat landscape. You need an informed incident response plan that’s flexible enough to adapt to emerging threats.” – Tab Bradshaw, Chief Operating Officer, Redpoint Cybersecurity

In some cases, you may need this plan in order to meet compliance requirements or qualify for cyber insurance. However, even if it’s not a requirement, every organization should create one. As cyber attacks increase in sophistication, a detailed plan of response becomes more necessary than ever.

If you’re not sure how to establish a cyber incident response plan for your organization, let this article be your guide. We’ll walk you through some of the basics and show you where to look to gain comprehensive advice to create a highly detailed strategy.


Key Elements That Every Incident Response Plan Needs

No matter your industry, there are a few key elements that every plan must include to allow you to effectively respond to an incident when needed. You can tailor these elements to your industry and unique business, but it’s vital that you have comprehensive documentation of them in some capacity.

Comprehensive Contact List

Your plan must include a detailed contact list of internal team members and external partners who will be critical if an incident occurs. This ensures you can quickly mobilize the right people, including legal, PR, cybersecurity experts, or law enforcement if necessary.

Clear Communication Channels

A collaborative strategy where multiple departments, such as IT, legal, and public relations, work together on containment, eradication, and recovery, is essential to address the incident comprehensively.

Therefore, you must establish predefined channels for secure and efficient communication during an incident. This is essential for coordinating response efforts and ensuring that all stakeholders are informed and aligned.

Roles and Responsibilities

Clearly define who takes the lead in critical steps, such as initial assessment and classification of the incident. For example, the Incident Coordinator guides the response, supported by the CISO and IT for technical insights.

A good way to clearly define who is responsible for what during which incident response steps is with a RACI chart. Here is an example of what that could look like from Gartner.


Incident Response Best Practices
Source: Gartner


Asset Inventory

Maintain an up-to-date inventory of all critical assets, including software, hardware, and data. Knowing what you need to protect helps prioritize response efforts and resources. You should also prioritize sensitive data and critical assets to coordinate response efforts accordingly.

Regulatory Requirements

Include a summary of legal and compliance obligations related to cybersecurity incidents. This guides your response to align with regulatory expectations and avoid legal complications. Even if you aren’t in a highly regulated industry, you likely still have data privacy regulation to consider, such as the CCPA if you work in California.

Incident Documentation Procedures

Implement procedures for documenting incident details and response actions. This documentation is crucial for post-incident analysis, regulatory compliance, and continuous improvement of your security posture to prevent future incidents.


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Steps of Creating Your Incident Response Plan

1. Risk Assessment

Begin by assessing your current IT systems and potential risks of a security event. Understand where your sensitive data resides and how it is protected. From there, you can evaluate possible threats based on likelihood, and prioritize risks based on potential impact.

2. Create Playbooks

With risks identified, craft detailed action plans for different scenarios. These playbooks should provide a framework for responding to various incidents such as ransomware, insider threats, or system outages. Each playbook should focus on strategies tailored to the unique aspects of each scenario. This ensures effective incident response during each possible event.

3. Identify Key Personnel

Outline a comprehensive team hierarchy, detailing who is responsible for what during an incident. Assign roles based on expertise and ensure that all team members have a clear understanding of their responsibilities.

4. Conduct Tabletop Exercises

Regularly train your team using tabletop exercises and simulated cyber attacks to reinforce their roles and test the effectiveness of your playbooks. This hands-on practice is vital for identifying gaps in your plan and improving team readiness before a real event.

5. Continuously Improve Procedures

After tabletop exercises or any real incident, perform a thorough review to identify what worked and what didn’t. Use these insights to refine your incident response plan and playbooks. Continuously adapting to evolving cyber threats and ensuring your response stays sharp and effective in the long-term.


Incident Response Best Practices to Take Into Consideration

Leverage Automated Response Tools

Automated tools won’t replace the expertise of a professional cybersecurity team, but they can help you cover more ground and respond to emerging threats in real-time. Specify when and how to use these tools in your incident response plan and be sure to use adaptable software such as NGAV.

Forensic Readiness

Establish protocols for digital forensics as part of your incident response. Ensure you have the capability to perform needed forensic investigations either in-house or from an established partner. Document when forensic investigation is needed after security incidents so your team knows when to deploy investigators.

Simplify & Clarify

While thoroughness is crucial, clarity and simplicity are just as important. Your incident response plan should be easily understandable to ensure that all employees can follow it during a stressful incident.

Proactive Intrusion Hunting

Don’t wait for an attack to find you. Engage in proactive threat hunting to identify potential compromises before they escalate into full-blown incidents. This involves using threat intelligence and advanced detection systems to monitor for suspicious activities. Include this procedure as part of your incident response strategy.

Thorough Analysis Before Containment

Before attempting to contain a threat, conduct a detailed analysis to understand the scope and scale. This allows you to make informed decisions about which affected systems to isolate or shut down, and helps ensure that all traces of the threat are removed during the eradication phase.

Proactive Disclosure Strategy

Develop a strategy for disclosing incidents that puts your organization in control of the narrative. Effective communication can protect your brand’s reputation by ensuring that you provide a transparent and responsible account of events.


Count on The Experts to Help You Plan & Implement The Right Incident Response Strategy

Effective incident handling requires careful planning and deep consideration. Using incident response plan templates and tailoring them to your organization is a fast track way of building the plan you need. However, you’ll benefit from a much more detailed plan with expert advice.

Redpoint Cybersecurity employs over 30 military-grade cyber experts who can help you craft a detailed plan. We also have extensive experience in highly regulated industries, which means we’re well-equipped to help you navigate strict standards.

After we’ve worked together to create a plan, our team will also gladly become key players during every phase of your incident response.

Reach out to us to learn more.

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