Often, when we consider creating incident response plans, we have cyber incidents in mind. This is not surprising, given the ever-increasing frequency of cyber attacks and the sophistication of the cybercriminals and their tools. However, an incident can refer to any unplanned outages that could impact your IT environment and that can be caused by natural disasters, cyber attacks, or even major system failures. It’s about creating resilience within your business so your organization can be prepared to effectively mitigate threats and the associated risks, plus, be able to recover quickly.
Regardless of what caused the unplanned outage, in order to prepare a solid and effective incident response plan that can be deployed quickly and confidently, organizations need to do some work to gather information that will inform and help with the creation of the plan.
Here are some of the considerations required before creating the plan.
Perform a Risk Assessment
The purpose of performing a risk assessment is to collect pertinent information that will form your incident response plan. A risk assessment will identify all your assets and analyze the likelihood that they would be compromised. In addition, the risk assessment will also determine the impact of a compromise on these assets.
With the assets and impacts of a compromise analyzed and identified, an organization can properly prioritize a response.
Here are a few of the questions that need to be answered during a risk assessment:
- What data does your organization have that is valuable?
- Which areas of your business handle confidential or sensitive data?
- What controls do you have in place to mitigate risks?
Develop a Policy
The activities that will be included in the incident response plan need to be aligned with the organization’s incident response policy and any compliance requirements.
Formulate an incident response policy that establishes the authorities, roles, and responsibilities for the incident response activities, procedures, and processes.
Institute the Response Team
The incident response team has important responsibilities. They will be responsible to assess, document, respond to an incident, restore systems, recover data, and reduce the risks of the incident happening again.
The team should include employees with various qualifications and needs to have access to support from other business areas to ensure maximum collaboration and coordination.
Some of the roles that should be considered for the team are:
- Incident manager
- Technical lead
- HR lead
- Communications expert or advisor
- Data analyst
Some of these roles may include people outside your organizations. The important part is that they are identified. It is also important to ensure that there are backups for these roles just in case the original designated person is unavailable at the time of an incident.
Build a Communications Plan
Communications will be critical to the success of the response to an incident. It is important to ensure it is created in advance and contains all the detail required for internal (such as employees) and external (such as clients) communications. The communications plan should include details on how, when and with whom the team communicates with.
The incident response plan should be communicated to all employees to avoid any missteps, miscommunications, or misunderstandings. In addition, the plan should be re-visited on a regular basis to ensure it is still relevant to the current state of your organization. Particular attention should be considered when an employee leaves the business, making sure that a replacement is not only named but trained on their responsibilities. The plan should also be recommunicated to employees regularly to ensure everyone is up to date on the current incident response activities, processes, and procedures.
Lastly, the plan should be tested regularly to ensure that it is working as expected. Everyone in the organization needs to be confident that the plan will work during an incident.
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