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5 Elements to Include in Your Incident Response Plan

Creating a well-structured incident response plan is critical, but also complex.

When the unexpected happens, an incident response plan propels your team into action – but do you have a plan that addresses everything it should?

Whether your organization’s workforce is made up of three or three thousand people, your business is worth protecting, and that means being prepared with protocol for incident response. Without a plan in place, virtually everything is at risk: your employee and customer data, productivity, profits, and even your brand’s reputation.

While many organizations understand the importance of incident response, their existing plan often falls short of the mark. Here at Quest, we’ve had countless clients present plans modeled from free online templates for incident response – and while that can certainly be a good starting point, it’s not what you want serving as your final cyber defense strategy.

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Take a moment to ask yourself what’s at stake for your business… odds are, your answer will be enough to prompt you to take a second look at your incident response plan. And when you do, here are the five elements we recommend you make sure are present and accounted for:

  1. A designated Incident Response Team
    When an incident occurs, which individuals are in charge? Ideally, a trained team of staff will be responsible for implementing the plan, and their names, contact information, and responsibilities should be included in the document. There should be a singular leader to manage the gathering of information and cross-communication to all organizational teams.
  2. A clear description of what constitutes an “incident”
    Knowing when to actually invoke the plan is vital to its success, and considering a broad range of potential incidents makes the response that much more versatile. Common examples of security incidents include ransomware, data breaches, power outages, cyberattacks, natural disasters, theft, and violations of security policies.
  3. A plan and processes for communication
    Like many aspects of your business, incident response cannot be effective without communication. During the construction of your incident response plan, a detailed communication plan (and related processes) should be outlined. Processes should utilize external platforms (internal systems are often compromised during an incident) to connect senior management, recovery teams, expert resources, partners, vendors, employers, and emergency services as needed.
  4. Step-by-step checklists and details for documentation
    Take a closer look at the controls that you have in place for detecting and containing security attacks or breaches, and document them within the plan for reference. Include clear processes for containing and eradicating threats, breaking them down into simple-to-follow steps. Also, outline procedures for controlling the threat in question, touching on considerations such as data handling, chain of custody, and others. Finally, break down the steps for recovery from backup or immutable (protected) storage. Each of these individual checklists and guides should include processes for escalation as well as the roles and responsibilities of each.
  5. Required post-incident activities
    Once the incident has been resolved, the work is not done. During the response, all activities should be closely documented. Depending on your preferred process, you might opt to use Root Cause Analysis (RCA) forms or a help desk ticketing system to capture these details. After a resolution has been reached, there should be a collaborative review of the overall response: discuss both the areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.
Putting Your Plan into Practice

Of course, even a carefully-constructed incident response plan can quickly become useless without a commitment to consistent testing and maintenance. Think of the plan as a playbook of sorts: unless you’re regularly practicing, you’ll be woefully underprepared come game day. Also, as your key players change, so should the plan.

Prepare for the Worst with Help from the Best: Quest Technology Management

Nobody wants to imagine their business encountering an incident of disastrous proportions – but in today’s digital world, proper preparation is a vital step in every cybersecurity strategy. Quest Technology Management provides comprehensive solutions to address all your cyber defense needs, including incident response, disaster recovery services, and more.

Additionally, we are proud to serve as a trusted source of IT education, facilitating workshops and authoring resources that address a myriad of key topics. From a private workshop on cybersecurity to content that covers cybersecurity basics and why your organization needs an incident response plan, Quest puts a stronger strategy for security within your reach.

Thank you for trusting us to help with your cybersecurity needs.

Contact us any time—we’re always happy to help.

Shawn

 

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VP Enterprise Risk Management
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