If an incident occurs, security team members need to know what to do and who is responsible for specific tasks. They need to know who to contact and the proper steps to follow. The aftermath and how an incident is managed are often referred to as incident response.

For efficient incident response, companies need to have clear incident response plans. These plans stipulate how cybersecurity incidents should be handled. Read on to learn more about incident response, when it is needed, and how to implement a good incident response plan.

What Is Incident Response in Relation to Cybersecurity?

Incident response refers to the processes and procedures that a company will follow in the event of a data breach, security breach, or cyberattack. It stipulates how an incident needs to be handled to limit the damage in terms of money, time, and the company's reputation.

What Are the Types of Network Security Attacks?

There are various different types of network security attacks. Threat actors use these attacks to either destroy or gain confidential information from a personal device, information system, or computer network. Here are a few of the most common types of network security attacks.


A malware attack is one of the most common types of cyberattacks. The term malware is short for malicious software viruses. These include worms, adware, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware.

The Internet automatically installs malware when a user clicks on a dangerous link, downloads an infected email attachment, or uses an infected USB drive. Once downloaded, malware quickly spreads and can infect all computers linked to the network.


Phishing attacks are often called social engineering attacks. In a phishing attack, the attacker usually impersonates someone to earn the trust of a user. The user then opens an email and clicks on a malicious link or opens an attachment. This way, the attacker can install malware on the user's device.

Alternatively, the threat actor manipulates the victim into providing them with their personal information like bank card information, usernames, and passwords for Internet banking accounts and other digital account information like social media platform login details.

Attackers who engage in phishing usually deceive users by frightening, threatening, or seducing them to get the information they want.


A Man-in-the-Middle attack is also sometimes called an eavesdropping attack. In these attacks, the attacker intercepts information between two parties. They can then either use this information or change it before sending it on to the intended receiver.

Denial-of-Service Attack

In a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack, the great actor targets systems, networks, or servers. Companies are usually the targets of a Denial-of-Service attack. During these attacks, the attacker would flood the networks, servers, or systems with traffic and take up all its resources and bandwidth.

When this happens, the victim is either unable to access its systems or the systems become extremely slow. Legitimate service requests are left unattended.

When attackers use multiple compromised systems to launch this type of attack, it is known as a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack.

There are three common types of denial-of-service attacks:

  • Bandwidth flooding
  • Connection flooding
  • Vulnerability attacks

What Is a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan?

Since each company and its cybersecurity requirements differs, an incident response plan should define what an incident is for the company.

A company's incident response plan lays out the step-by-step process that needs to be followed in the event of a data breach or cyberattack. It may also include the names and contact details of the specific employees or teams responsible for certain tasks or steps of the incident response plan.

What Are Common Incident Response Mistakes?

Incident response is a vital part of keeping an organization, its systems, and its data safe. KPMG has identified ten common cyber incident response mistakes and gives advice on how to address them.

Having generic plans

A generic plan often provides extensive details of the steps that need to be taken during a cyber incident's investigation and identification stage. These may be overcomplicated, and some of the information might be irrelevant to your organization. These off-the-shelf plans could be outdated and less effective against newer threats and changing technology.

Instead, create a plan with policies, processes, and procedures tailored to your business. This plan should take into consideration the culture and environment of your business, your individual response personnel, and your business objectives. Keep documentation short and precise and update it regularly to include evolving threats, technology, trends, and any changes in your business objectives.

Not testing your incident response plan

Your organization's cyber incident response plan needs to be tested before an actual event occurs. Sometimes the plans that look based on paper fail at the first step when used during a cyber incident.

Remember that plants need to evolve. It needs to adapt and adjust along with the changes in threats, technology, and business objectives. It also needs to be updated to include the Greek processes and procedures, tools come on people, and to change or adjust outdated or outdated steps of order.

Ideally, you need to test your plan regularly before an actual cyber incident occurs. This will ensure that everyone involved will know what to do, accelerate your incident response time, and eliminate any confusion.

Having complicated communication procedures

It may not always be clear who needs to contact who in the event of an incident. Emails may be flying all over the place, filling up inboxes. This could lead to emails being missed because inboxes and recipients are overwhelmed.

You could consider using a centralized communication point like a dashboard where all communication regarding the incident can take place. This will ensure that the entire teamworking in cyber incident response has access to critical information and know what is happening at any given moment. Users can be added or removed as required, ensuring critical people have access to the information needed to manage the incident.

Having inefficient or incorrectly staffed teams

Companies do not always have the correct employees on their cyber incident response teams. It is vital that you ensure the persons on your incident response team have the right skills and qualifications and the capacity to participate in an incident's effective and efficient management.

Security team members should be able to address any system related issues while also considering how decisions would impact the business. Businesses may need to provide employees with additional training or recruit individuals specifically with an eye on incident management.

It is critical that a cyber incident response team has strong leadership. This individual or individuals should be able to understand the systems as well as have a grasp on the organization's business goals. They also need to be able to lead their team and communicate effectively and efficiently with team members and other stakeholders.

Not protecting critical evidence

Sometimes incidents may initially be mistaken for issues that could be addressed and rectified through a company's help desk. Any efforts by help desk employees to fix the issues, like running antivirus or using cleaning tools, could corrupt important evidence that should be preserved.

Help desk employees should be made aware of indicators that could indicate a data breach or cyberattack. They should be trained to preserve any information that could be used as evidence by the incident response team.

Memory images should be taken of the system before any changes are made if suspicious activity is suspected. More than that, help desk team members should document all their activities in the event their activities form part of an investigation.

Poor and improper use of incident response tools

Not using available tools correctly or failing to use them all together will significantly affect the effectiveness and efficiency with which a cyber incident response team manage an incident.

To avoid this, a company should keep an inventory of available tools in a location where each relevant team member can access it. Processes should be put in place to ensure that licenses are up to date and all tools are functioning optimally.

More than that, team members and incident responders should be trained to use all available tools. Their skills should be refreshed and updated regularly. Tools should be evaluated from time to time to make sure that they focus on the most current threats.

Having insufficient data

Incident response teams' efforts could be hindered if the data available is insufficient, incomplete, or incorrect. Not having enough information—or even having incorrect information—could make it difficult for incident response teams to detect, identify, analyze, and manage an incident.

It is vital for an organization to know where its data comes from, which data they are harvesting, and how this data is managed. This will make it easier for an incident response team to manage potential incidents. Incident response teams should identify, collect, store, and analyze any data that could provide insight into potential, existing, and future incidents.

Having unhelpful threat intelligence

Threat intelligence data is not helpful if the relevant persons are not given context on how this data could affect the organization and its cybersecurity. Evaluating which data should be included in accident response management efforts is essential.

Not giving incident response teams enough authority

Incident response teams are usually not given the authority to make business decisions to protect an organization from threat actors. Although it may not be possible to give these teams the required authority, key stakeholders who are able to make specific business decisions should be invested in the success of the incident response team.

Stakeholders and individuals who make business decisions should understand that the incident response team is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the organization. These individuals should actively encourage other employees to support and, where possible, participate in any incident response efforts.

Not educating individuals against cybersecurity threats

Threat actors often infiltrate organizations through vulnerable users. It is critical that users are educated about common exploitation practices and the role of information security within an organization. They need to understand the importance of cybersecurity. Educating employees on the importance of cybersecurity could encourage them to actively participate in these efforts.

When employees are educated about cybersecurity, they will know what to do in the evening of an incident and who to report any suspicious activity or information to. More than that, they will be more likely to refer the problem to the relevant people instead of installing untrusted tools that may cause more problems across the network.

Why Do You Need an Incident Response Plan?

Even seemingly minor cybersecurity incidents could quickly become big problems if they lead to incidents like data breaches, cybersecurity breaches, or loss of data. They could not only negatively affect a business's reputation but disrupt its operation, costing the business in resources and customers.

An incident response plan stipulates the processes and procedures that need to be followed in order to minimize the duration of an incident. This will hopefully limit the damage caused by shortening the time it takes to identify and manage the incident.

A good incident response plan will identify key stakeholders, assist with digital forensics, and reduce any negative publicity that the incident might cause. In turn, this could help an organization keep its customers despite having experienced a cybersecurity incident.

What Are the 6 Steps in Incident Response?

Incident response plans could vary, but they all generally include the following 6 steps:

1. Preparation

The preparation phase involves reviewing existing security measures and policies to see whether they are effective. A thorough risk assessment will establish current vulnerabilities. You can then prioritize responses for different incident types. During this step, you can also reconfigure systems in order to cover vulnerabilities and focus protection on assets that have higher priority.

In the preparation phase, you work on existing processes, policies, and procedures and add new ones if needed. These procedures need to include a communication plan and assign specific incident-related roles and responsibilities to certain individuals.

2. Detection, identification, and analysis

During this phase, any suspicious activity is detected and identified. This is usually done by using the tools, processes, policies, and procedures laid out in the preparation phase.

As soon as an incident is detected, the nature of the attack needs to be identified. The source and reason for the attack should also be identified.

Any and all evidence uncovered during this step should be protected and saved. This will be analyzed later. Each person involved in managing the incident should keep thorough notes and include as many details as possible. They also need to document all the steps taken in managing the incident.

The evidence gathered could be used in case of prosecution, and to adapt the company's cybersecurity efforts.

Once an incident has been confirmed, a communication plan or plans should be initiated. These communication plans inform all relevant parties (including stakeholders, authorities, legal counsel, security members, and users) about the incident and what steps have been and should be taken.

3. Containment

As soon as an incident is identified, teams need to establish how they can best contain it. They then need to put these steps into action.

Ideally, teams would get to this stage as quickly as possible in order to limit the amount of damage caused.

Short-term containment involves isolating any immediate threats. Long-term containment adds additional access controls to unaffected systems while preparing other versions of systems and resources for the recovery phase.

4. Eradication or elimination of threats

The eradication or elimination phase removes all traces of the attack. During this phase, teams should get a view of the full extent of the attack. Once it is clear which systems and resources are affected, attackers and malware can be removed. This might mean that some systems need to be taken offline in order to be replaced with clean versions during the recovery phase.

5. Recovery and restoration

The recovery and restoration phase involves bringing clean replacement systems online. In the best cases, these systems can be restored without any data being lost. However, this is not always possible.

In situations where a loss of data is unavoidable, you should determine when the last copy of clean data was created. You will then have to restore your systems from there.

The recovery phase can last longer than the other phases as this phase involves the monitoring of systems. This monitoring needs to be done for a relatively significant amount of time after an incident has occurred to ensure that attackers don't return.

6. Review, feedback, and refinement

During the review phase, your team will review which steps were taken during the response to an incident. This is an opportunity to establish what worked and what didn't and to discuss improvements for managing future incidents. Any incomplete data, information, or documentation should be completed during this phase.

What Is the Most Important Step in Incident Response?

Although all the steps in incident response are important, it is vital that cybersecurity incident gets detected. Undetected incidents or incidents that are identified too late could cost a company dearly. Organizations that do not timeously identify an incident could lose their reputation, customers, and money.

What Are Network Security Techniques?

Organizations can implement different network security techniques depending on their needs. While some are recommended for all companies, others are developed to address very specific requirements. Here are a few types of network security protections that companies could use. Read more about each type of defense in depth here.

Firewall protection

Firewalls manage the traffic on networks. It allows traffic to go out and acceptable and approved traffic to go in while blocking any perceived unfriendly traffic. Next Generation Firewalls also block malware and application-layer attacks. The traffic that is allowed in is controlled by rules set out by the company.

Remote access Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Remote access VPN gives individual hosts, employees, or clients remote access to a company network. This connection is secured via endpoint compliance scanning, multi-factor authentication, and encryption which blocks third parties from gaining the data that is shared.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

A Zero Trust Network Access model gives users only the permissions and access to the network that they need to perform their duties. Zero trust network access is also sometimes called a software-defined perimeter (SDP).

Email security

Email security encompasses efforts to make email accounts and content safer and more secure. Most companies have additional email security on top of that provided by email service providers.

Businesses need robust incident response protocols, including a thorough incident response plan. These plans will help employees know what to do in the event of a data breach or cyberattack.

Incident response plans should be tailored to a specific business and tested before an incident occurs. Incident response tools and data should be sufficient and helpful without overwhelming the team members and incident responders who need to rely on them when an incident occurs.

Most importantly, incident response teams should be supported and given authority or enough weight to influence business decisions to ensure a company's cybersecurity.

Your incident response team and plan will greatly affect the outcome in the event of a cybersecurity incident. RiskRecon, a Mastercard company, can help you ensure you have everything in place for the most effective and efficient response to an incident. Contact us today and take our free 30-day trial for a drive.