Cyber Security Incident Response Flow Explained

PMP vs. the CISSP

Threat actors will have several opportunities to undertake sophisticated cyber attacks in 2020, thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic and enterprises’ fast transition to remote operations. According to research, remote employees have caused security breaches in 20% of firms since the pandemic began, with ransomware assaults accounting for more than one-third of cyber incident response instances in 2020. According to another forecast, 2020 will be the “worst year on record,” with around 3000 publicly publicised data breaches exposing 44+ billion records.

Incidents involving cybersecurity are unavoidable. However, how companies respond to an incident can have a significant impact on its long-term consequences. Organizations must take necessary actions to limit their susceptibility in order to mitigate the impact of an event on their data, and ultimately on their revenues and reputations. This is where Incident Response (IR) may make a huge difference in terms of planning and safeguarding enterprises against future threats. When contemplating Incident Response Plans, we must ask four questions:

  1. What exactly is incident response, and why is it so crucial?
  2. What are the four steps in the incident response process?
  3. What are the five steps to responding to an incident?

We’ll go over all of these important points in detail in this comprehensive tutorial. We’ll also look at incident response plans for small firms and show you some flow charts.

Let us begin with the most fundamental question: What is Incident Response?

What Is Incident Response And How Does It Work?

More than just responding to a security event is what “Incident Response” (IR) entails. IR is a method for preparing for, detecting, mitigating, and recovering from cybersecurity incidents that is methodical, proactive, reactive, and preemptive. It entails both planning and execution, and it enables businesses to respond to an incident in a timely and efficient manner, minimising the impact and safeguarding their assets, financial health, and reputation.

An incident response programme can enhance an organization’s ongoing risk assessment and incident response process. It also facilitates information sharing and documentation, as well as litigation by assisting legal teams in understanding the applicable data breach reporting and notification obligations.

What Is The Importance Of Incident Response?

Failure to implement an IR Plan (IRP) might result in severe results. It erodes an organization’s security posture and makes them more vulnerable to the business, financial, and legal ramifications of an attack. Their insurance claims could be denied, affecting their bottom line, business continuity, and long-term viability.

Unfortunately, most businesses do not have a formal IRP. In fact, IBM discovered that, despite the fact that firms who use an IRP have less business disruption and improved cyber resilience, 51% of them only have a haphazard or ad hoc plan. The good news is that companies who have an IRP spend around $1.2 million less on data breaches than those that do not.

Many cybersecurity threats aren’t recognised until it’s too late (on average 280 days), posing severe operational issues for businesses. A structured IRP with specific metrics can assist eliminate these issues rapidly and/or limit their impact due to its emphasis on anticipating, adaption, agility, and speed.

Incident response should not be viewed as a single event. For incident response to be effective, all teams must take a coordinated and well-organized approach to each incident. To effectively respond to the many security incidents that companies may experience, there are five steps that every response plan should include.

1. Preparation

Effective incident response requires preparation. Without predetermined guidelines, even the most experienced incident response team can’t effectively respond to an incident. To support your team, you must have a solid plan. These features are essential to ensure security events are addressed successfully.

  • Create and Document IR Policies. Establish policies and procedures for incident response management.
  • Establish Communication Guidelines: Develop communication standards and guidelines that will allow seamless communication after and during an incident.
  • Incorporate Threat Information Feeds: Continued collection, analysis and synchronization your threat intelligence feeds.
  • Conduct Cyber Hunting Exercises Use operational threat hunting exercises in order to identify incidents within your environment. This will allow for a more proactive response to incidents.
  • Assess Your Threat Discovery Capability: Evaluate your threat detection capabilities and update risk assessments and improvement programs.

These resources can help you create a plan that suits your company’s needs.

2. Detection And Reporting

This phase focuses on security events and alerts in order to report on security incidents.

  • Monitor: Track security events in your environment with firewalls, intrusion prevention system, and data loss prevention.
  • Detect: Corresponding alerts in a SIEM solution can help you detect potential security issues
  • Alert: Analysts create a ticket for an incident, document initial findings and assign an initial incident class.
  • Report You should consider accommodating regulatory reporting escalations in your reporting process.

3. Triage And Analysis

This step is where the bulk of the work in properly scoping the security incident and understanding it takes place. To collect data from tools or systems, and identify signs of compromise, resources should be used. Individuals must have an in-depth understanding of digital forensics, live system responses, memory analysis, malware analysis, and digital forensics.

Analysts should be able to focus on three main areas when analyzing evidence.

  • Endpoint Analysis
    • Find out what tracks might have been left by the threat actor.
    • Collect the artifacts necessary to create a timeline.
    • Analyze bit-for-bit copies of systems from an investigative perspective. Capture RAM to analyze and identify key artifacts.
  • Binary Analysis
    • Examine malicious binaries and tools used by attackers. Document the functionality of those programs. This analysis can be done in two ways.
      1. Behavioral Analysis: To monitor the behavior of the malicious program, execute it in a VM
      2. Static Analysis: To scope out all functionality, reverse engineer the malicious program.
  • Enterprise Hunting
    • To determine the extent of compromise, analyze existing systems and log technologies.
    • Document all compromised accounts, machines, etc. So that effective containment can be done and neutralization can occur.

4. Containment & Neutralization

This is the most crucial stage of incident response. This phase is where the intelligence and indicators of compromise are collected. Normal operations can resume once the system has been restored and security has been verified.

  • Coordinated Shutdown After identifying all affected systems, shut down these devices. To ensure the proper timing, all members of the IR team must be notified.
  • Rebuild and Wipe: Wipe infected devices to clean them and rebuild the operating systems from scratch. Change the passwords for all compromised accounts.
  • Threat Mitigation requests: If domains or IP addresses have been identified as being used by threat actors to command and control, you can issue threat mitigation requests to stop communication from these domains.

5. Post-incident Activity

After the incident has been resolved, there is still much to do. You should keep all information relevant to the incident documented so that it can be prevented from occurring again.

  • Fill out an Incident Report. Documenting an incident will improve the response plan and increase security measures to prevent future security incidents.
  • Monitor for Activity Post-Incident. Be vigilant as threat actors may reappear after the incident. A security log hawk should be used to analyze SIEM data in order to identify indicators tripping. This could have been related with an earlier incident.
  • Update Threat Information: Update your organization’s threat intelligence feeds.
  • Identify preventative steps: Develop new security initiatives to avoid future incidents.
  • Get Cross-Functional Support: It is crucial to coordinate across an organization in order to implement new security initiatives.

Incident Response Plans Small Businesses

A small business’ incident response plan is essential, especially in a post COVID world. It can help them respond quickly and accurately to security incidents while minimising potential damage and cost.

These are the steps for creating an incident response plan in small businesses.

  • Identify potential security issues that could affect the business
  • How to respond to each incident
  • Identify the people responsible for handling incidents
  • Use internal and externe communication channels
  • Combine this information to make a complete plan
  • Practice incident response
  • As needed, adjust the plan

Incident Response Team

The main purpose of the IR team is to ensure that security incidents are handled appropriately. Each sub-team should have a job. These include:

  • Security Operations Center (SOC: First line defense for triaging security alerts
  • Incident Manager: To establish a plan of actions with all stakeholders and to determine the appropriate response to an incident
  • Computer Incident Response Team: To provide technical expertise
  • Threat Intelligence team: To continuously assess cyber threats and improve the security profile of the organization

Incident Response Plan Examples & Templates

You can save time and money by using a template instead of starting from scratch to build your IRP. California Department of Technology provides an example. This document outlines the steps needed to create an incident response plan and prevent it from ever happening again. A template from the Criminal Justice Information Center offers guidelines for how to create an incident response plan to address security incidents.

Automated Incident Reponse

Our Evolve security automation platform activates Automated Incident Response procedures as soon as suspicious activity has been identified. This ensures that the incident is contained quickly to minimize any negative effects on your company.


Once a threat is identified in a company’s environment, incident response starts. A detailed incident response plan will help an organization plan and prioritize actions, and minimize damage in the event that there is an incident. Over the next few decades, the threat landscape will only get worse. This scenario makes incident response as important for large businesses as for small ones. Not only is it crucial to regain control of systems and data but also to ensure business continuity in an uncertain world.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.