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Incident Response Management: Key Elements and Best Practices

April 8, 2021
Last Updated: November 16, 2023
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What is Incident Response Management?

Incident response management is a systematic strategy that allows an organization to address cybersecurity incidents and security breaches. The goal of incident response is to identify real security incidents, get the situation under control, limit the damage caused by an attacker, and reduce the time and costs of recovery.

Incident response management typically includes formal documentation describing incident response procedures. These procedures should cover the entire incident response process, including preparation, detection, analysis, containment, and post-incident cleanup. By following these procedures, organizations can limit damage, prevent further losses, and comply with applicable compliance regulations.

Get our Ultimate Template for

Incident Response Plan

  • A comprehensive checklist of IR action items
  • A detailed roles & responsibilities matrix
  • A robust framework to customize for your needs

Key Elements of Incident Response Management

Following are the primary elements of an incident response management program: an incident response plan, a team responsible for incident response, and tools used to facilitate and automate stages of the process.

Incident Response Plan

Incident response planning should specify in detail how your team should perform the following incident response stages, who is responsible for what, and what documentation and notifications are necessary:

  • Respond to threats
  • Triage incidents to determine severity
  • Mitigate a threat to prevent further damage
  • Eradicate the threat by eliminating the root cause
  • Restoring production systems
  • Post-mortem and action items to prevent future attacks

Learn more in our detailed guide to incident response plan

Incident Response Team

Incident response teams typically include the following roles. Each role should be clearly informed of their responsibilities in the event of a security incident:

  • Incident response managers
  • Security analysts
  • IT and security engineers
  • Threat researchers
  • Legal and risk management
  • Corporate communications
  • Human resources management
  • External security forensics experts

Learn more in our detailed guide to incident response teams

Incident Response Tools

To be effective, modern security organizations use technological tools to detect and even automatically respond to security incidents. The following security tools can be leveraged by incident response teams if they are present in the organization’s environment:

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)—collects data and logs from applications, infrastructure, network security tools, firewalls, and so on. Correlates data from multiple sources, generates alerts to inform security teams of malicious activity, and enable further investigation.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)—typically deployed as agents on laptops, workstations, servers, and cloud endpoints. Can detect threats on these devices, enable real time investigation of breaches, and can perform automated mitigation such as isolating a device from a network or wiping and re-imaging it.
  • Network Traffic Analysis (NTA)—captures, records, and evaluates network data and communication patterns, looking for suspected malicious traffic. Enables detection and response to security incidents traversing the core network, operational networks, and cloud networks.

Related content: read our guide to incident response platforms

Incident Response Management Best Practices

Here are several best practices that can help you make your organization’s incident response management program more effective.

Get our Ultimate Template for

Incident Response Plan

  • A comprehensive checklist of IR action items
  • A detailed roles & responsibilities matrix
  • A robust framework to customize for your needs

Manage Incidents Throughout their Lifecycle

According to the NIST framework, the cybersecurity lifecycle includes five areas: identification, protection, detection, response and recovery. An effective incident response management program must coordinate and automate the entire process—from initial detection of an incident to communication, damage control, and lessons learned after an incident has been contained.

Clear, Comprehensive Operating Procedures

Robust incident response management helps security teams stay calm and take the necessary action while the organization is under attack. An important advantage of an organized incident response management process is that it is immediately clear what needs to be done in the early stages of a crisis. Incident response procedures clarify who is responsible for coordinating all resources in the most effective way possible to mitigate the threat.

In addition to technical personnel, the plan should include clear risk management and communication procedures. It should be clear who can speak on behalf of the organization and what they should communicate. There should be procedures for informing lawyers, insurance companies and other relevant internal or external stakeholders.

Automate Communication and Escalation

When a security breach occurs, the organization’s reputation can be seriously affected. It is very important to instruct employees how to communicate in a crisis situation. Automated communication tools allow teams to focus on solving high-priority problems without wasting valuable time during the crisis.

For example, automated communication can take the form of an automated email system that sends templated messages to all relevant parties, based on incident information provided by the response team. Another direction for automation is event escalation—depending on the severity of an event, it can be communicated to higher analyst tiers in the security organization, and if necessary, to other departments and senior management.

Postmortem Documentation and KPIs Monitoring

Postmortem analysis and documentation, after a security incident has ended, is an important part of effective incident response management. It allows employees to turn crisis events into an organization-wide learning experience.

Periodically, the incident response team should perform an analysis of incident response activities and record metrics like the number of incidents per month, mean time to detection (MTTD) and mean time to resolution (MTTR), and downtime rates for affected systems. Tracking these and other relevant metrics over time can indicate the success of the incident response process.

Incident Response Management Q&A

What is the Incident Response Process (IRP)?

An incident response process covers the entire incident investigation lifecycle, including the following stages:

  1. Preparation
  2. Detection
  3. Analysis
  4. Containment
  5. Post-incident cleanup

Learn more in our detailed guide to the incident response process

What is the Role of the Incident Response Team / Cyber Incident Response Team (CSIRT)?

An Incident Response Team, also known as the Cyber Incident Response Team (CSIRT), is a group that can include dedicated full-time staff, part-time staff, and third-party vendors. The team is responsible for:

  • Proactive incident response planning
  • Testing and resolving system vulnerabilities
  • Maintaining strong security best practices
  • Handling security incidents from detection to closure and recovery
  • Analyzing previous incidents and implementing lessons learned

Who is Responsible for Incident Response?

To properly prepare and respond to incidents across your business, your organization must have an incident response team, or an outsourced incident response team from a managed security service provider (MSSP) or managed detection and response (MDR) provider.

Whether in-house, outsourced, or a mix of both, incident response teams include security analysts, engineers, threat researchers, and an incident response manager who is ultimately responsible for managing severe incidents. They work closely with other departments including communications, legal, and human resources.

Automated Incident Response With Cynet 360

Incident Response Automation

Cynet provides a holistic solution for cybersecurity, including Cynet Response Orchestration which can automate your incident response policy. Users can define automated playbooks, with pre-set or custom remediation actions for multiple attack scenarios.

Cynet Response Orchestration can address any threat that involves infected endpoints, malicious processes or files, attacker-controlled network traffic, or compromised user accounts.

Learn more about Cynet Response Orchestration

Incident Response Services

Cynet provides Incident Response (IR) services that add deep security experience to its world-class incident response platform. Cynet’s proactive 24/7 security team acts as your extended team, identifying incidents, leading any required analysis, and responding on your behalf. Our incident response services provide:

  • Best of breed tech – delivers alerts and insights from endpoints, users and networks. Since everything is automated, we respond faster.
  • Fast and scalable IR setup – no need for open source or manual tools. Our platform is easy to deploy, allowing for speed and scale across endpoints.
  • Transparent incident response – dedicated IR project manager and point of contact.
  • Customized reports – from executive summaries to detailed IoCs that can be exported to CSV for consumption by other systems.

Learn more about Cynet Incident Response Services

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