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Why You Need to Create an Incident Response Plan

Michael Otey

|
Security

To effectively handle various types of security break-ins, many organizations have created an incident response (IR) plan. In this article, I’ll explain what is an incident response plan, how it differs from a disaster recovery plan, and what steps you need to follow to create an effective IR plan for your organization.

While most businesses have some type of disaster recovery plan in place to handle potential downtimes, organizations are rarely prepared for cyberattacks or other security breaches. These may or may not cause downtime, which is why they don’t exactly fit within the scope of a typical DR plan.

What is an incident response plan?

While an incident response plan is similar to a disaster recovery (DR) plan, they have very different purposes:

  • A DR plan is intended to get the business up and running again in the event of unexpected downtime.
  • In contrast, an IR plan is intended to halt unauthorized security breaches.

In many cases, there might not be any downtime associated with a security breach. However, it still must be responded to immediately to prevent data loss, further exposure, or the possible disruption of services.

Like a DR plan, an IR plan is essentially a checklist of the actions and assigned roles and responsibilities that the organization should take in the event of security exposure. If you can catch a security breach in a timely fashion and respond to it appropriately, you can prevent or at least reduce the damages and possibly prevent future attacks.

Without an IR plan, an organization’s responses to a security breach can be haphazard and poorly thought out. This can lengthen the time to secure the organization’s assets and even lead to greater exposure. An IR plan ensures that you have an effective and well-thought-out response to a variety of potential security breaches.

An incident response plan is intended to halt unauthorized security breaches.
An incident response plan is intended to halt unauthorized security breaches.

How to create an effective incident response plan

To create an effective IR plan, you first need to understand the impact of the different types of security breaches. Then you’ll be able to create plans to contain the exposure and reduce any damages.

The following steps can help you toward creating your own IR plan.

Determine the scope of the IR strategy

The first step in your incident response strategy is to determine its scope. It might be to protect an entire multi-site corporation, or it might be for a single location. In any case, getting this first step right is critical.

Create a single master IR plan

While it’s possible to create multiple IR plans for either different threats or even different business segments, creating a single master IR plan increases the likelihood that the plan will be used and that the organization will take the appropriate actions in responding to various threats.

Identify threat scenarios and responses

This is the core of the IR plan. Different types of security incidents require different responses and resolution times based on the incident severity level. For instance, the response to a ransomware attack would be quite different from the response to an insider threat or an exposed password. You should define a response and resolution time based on the incident type and severity level.

Identify the personnel who are responsible for carrying out the IR plan actions

Next, you need to determine the members of the response team and their key roles to eliminate any confusion about who does what, who is the point of contact, and who are the backup contacts. You should record their titles and contact information.

Periodically review the IR plan

Lastly, you should periodically review your IR plan. As threats and their responses continue to change and evolve, your IR plan needs to be kept current. Many organizations recommend reviewing their plans at least quarterly.

Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel and come up with your IR plan from scratch. There are many prebuilt IR plan templates that you might want to check out including:

Conclusion

I hope this article will help you understand the differences between a disaster recovery plan and an incident response plan. Creating an IR plan is a vital component in protecting and securing your IT infrastructure. An effective IR plan can definitely help to prevent potential downtimes and possibly stop a security breach from becoming a disaster.

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