Why your business needs a cyber security Incident Response Plan

Is your business prepared to respond to a cyber security breach? It is a matter of when not if your business will experience a serious cyber security incident.

Why your business must have an Incident Response Plan in 2022

Cyber Security is a threat to all businesses

Predicting the future is risky business, especially in the current environment of large uncertainty.  But one thing we can be sure of is that cyber security incidents will continue to grow in sophistication and impact.   In fact cybercrime is up 600% due to the COVID pandemic. (1)

COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic has sped the adoption of digital technologies by several years and pushed companies over the technology tipping point, transforming businesses forever.

To stay competitive and cope with the new demands of remote working, new strategies and practices have been adopted.  Technology is now the number one strategically important critical component of a business, not just a source of cost efficiencies.

Businesses have adopted web-facing, interconnected IT systems, CRMs and others bringing their accounts online at a staggering pace.  Consumers have moved dramatically toward online channels and businesses have been forced to take a quantum leap to meet the demand.  It seems no one can live with out the internet which has presented a number of new challenges on a cyber security front with cyber hackers finding new and sophisticated methods to attack.

As a business owner its your responsibility to comply with legal responsibilities and to protect your customers, staff and clients sensitive data.  Cybercriminals have hit payday dirt turning their attention to smaller and unprepared businesses who have little to no defences making intrusion and attacking much less labour intensive.

It is a matter of when, not if your business will be attacked and having a cyber security Incident Response plan will ensure you have a process to follow in the event of an attack so you can respond quickly and effectively.  We also recommend a cyber risk management plan to mitigate the impact of a cyber attack which works alongside the Incident Response plan.


Increase in cyber breaches reported in the last 12 months



Cyber security is a priority for senior managers.


of business do not have an incident response plan


What is an Incident Response Plan?

An incident response plan is a guide to the procedures your business will follow in the event that a cyber attack occurs within your business.  An Incident Response plan should describe the types of incidents for which it will be used and outline actions that need to be taken to minimise the loss of life, property and data during and after an attack.

An Incident Response Plan should contain the following

An incident response plan (IRP) is a comprehensive strategy that outlines the steps an organization should take in the event of a cybersecurity incident or breach. The primary goal of an IRP is to minimize the damage, reduce recovery time, and mitigate the impact of the incident on the organization’s operations, reputation, and sensitive data.

An effective incident response plan typically consists of several key components:

  1. Preparation and Planning: This involves establishing a dedicated incident response team comprising individuals with specific roles and responsibilities. The team should include IT professionals, legal experts, public relations representatives, and relevant stakeholders. The plan outlines their roles and defines communication channels.
  2. Identification and Classification: The plan defines criteria for identifying and classifying incidents based on their severity and potential impact. This enables the organization to prioritize responses according to the level of threat.
  3. Containment and Eradication: Once an incident is identified, the plan outlines steps to contain and isolate the affected systems to prevent further spread of the attack. It also details the process of eliminating the threat from the organization’s network.
  4. Recovery and Restoration: The IRP includes guidelines for restoring affected systems to normal operation. This involves verifying the integrity of data and applications and ensuring that no residual threats remain.
  5. Communication: Effective communication is crucial during an incident. The plan outlines how internal and external stakeholders should be informed about the incident, while also addressing legal, regulatory, and public relations considerations.
  6. Documentation: Comprehensive documentation of the incident, including its timeline, actions taken, and lessons learned, helps the organization refine its incident response strategy in the future.
  7. Testing and Training: Regular testing of the incident response plan through simulations and tabletop exercises ensures that the response team is well-prepared and familiar with their roles. Any gaps or weaknesses in the plan can be identified and addressed during these exercises.

An incident response plan is not a static document; it should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changes in technology, threats, and organizational structure. By having a well-defined and practiced IRP in place, organizations can respond effectively to cybersecurity incidents, minimize damage, and safeguard their operations and reputation.

Who is Responsible for Incident Response Planning?

Incident response planning is a collaborative effort that involves multiple individuals and departments within an organization. The responsibility for incident response planning is typically shared among various key roles:

  1. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): The CISO is often at the helm of incident response planning. They oversee the organization’s overall cybersecurity strategy and ensure that incident response plans align with the organization’s risk tolerance and compliance requirements.
  2. IT Security Team: The IT security team plays a central role in incident response planning. They are responsible for identifying and mitigating threats, implementing security measures, and coordinating the technical aspects of incident response.
  3. Legal and Compliance Teams: These teams ensure that incident response plans adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, especially when it comes to data breach notifications and handling sensitive information.
  4. Communication and Public Relations (PR) Teams: In the event of a cybersecurity incident, timely and accurate communication is crucial. PR and communication teams are responsible for crafting messages to stakeholders, customers, and the public, maintaining transparency and managing reputation.
  5. IT Operations Team: This team is responsible for implementing technical responses outlined in the incident response plan, such as isolating affected systems, recovering data, and restoring normal operations.
  6. Senior Management and Leadership: Senior management’s involvement is vital, as they approve budgets, provide resources, and make strategic decisions that affect incident response planning and execution.
  7. Human Resources (HR): HR plays a role in incident response by managing internal communication, assisting with employee training and awareness, and ensuring that personnel policies align with the incident response plan.
  8. External Experts: Depending on the incident’s complexity, organizations might involve external experts such as cybersecurity consultants, legal advisors, and forensics specialists to provide guidance and support.
  9. Employees: All employees have a role to play in incident response. They must be aware of their responsibilities, including reporting suspicious activities, following established procedures, and participating in training and simulations.
  10. Third-Party Vendors and Partners: If the incident involves third-party vendors or partners, their involvement might be necessary for coordination and remediation efforts.

It’s important to note that incident response planning is an ongoing process that requires collaboration, training, and regular testing. Organizations should clearly define roles and responsibilities, conduct tabletop exercises, and update the plan as technologies, threats, and the organization’s structure evolve.

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Why does your business need an Incident Response Plan?

An incident response plan (IRP) is a critical component for any business, regardless of its size or industry, due to the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats. Here’s why having an incident response plan is essential for your business:

  1. Minimize Damage: Cybersecurity incidents, such as data breaches or malware infections, can have severe consequences for a business, including financial losses, reputational damage, and legal ramifications. An IRP helps minimize the impact of such incidents by outlining specific actions to contain, mitigate, and recover from the incident promptly.
  2. Quick Recovery: Without a well-structured plan, responding to an incident can be chaotic and inefficient. An IRP provides clear steps and procedures for your team to follow, which helps expedite the recovery process and reduce downtime.
  3. Preserve Reputation: A breach can erode customer trust and damage your company’s reputation. An IRP includes protocols for communicating with customers, stakeholders, and the public in a transparent and effective manner, which can help mitigate the negative perception that often follows a cybersecurity incident.
  4. Compliance: Many industries are subject to data protection regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA, which require organizations to have an effective incident response plan in place. Non-compliance can lead to significant fines and legal consequences.
  5. Legal and Financial Protection: Having a documented response plan can provide legal protection by demonstrating that your business took reasonable steps to protect sensitive data and respond appropriately to incidents. This can be crucial in case of legal disputes or regulatory inquiries.
  6. Risk Mitigation: An IRP not only helps respond to incidents but also aids in identifying vulnerabilities and potential weaknesses in your organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure. By proactively addressing these issues, you can reduce the likelihood of incidents occurring in the first place.
  7. Clear Roles and Responsibilities: An effective IRP defines the roles and responsibilities of team members involved in incident response. This clarity ensures that everyone knows their tasks, reducing confusion and enabling a coordinated response.
  8. Continuous Improvement: Regularly reviewing and updating your IRP based on lessons learned from incidents or industry developments allows your organization to continually refine and improve its incident response capabilities.

In today’s digital landscape, no business is immune to cyber threats. By having a well-structured incident response plan, you can enhance your business’s resilience, protect your assets, and mitigate the potentially devastating consequences of cybersecurity incidents.

What are the Different Types of Security Incidents?

Security incidents encompass a wide range of events that threaten the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of an organization’s data, systems, and operations. These incidents can vary in severity and impact. Here are some different types of security incidents:

  1. Data Breach: Unauthorized access, acquisition, or disclosure of sensitive or confidential data, such as customer information, financial records, or intellectual property.
  2. Malware Infection: The infiltration of malicious software (malware), including viruses, worms, Trojans, and ransomware, into systems or networks, potentially leading to data loss, system compromise, or unauthorized access.
  3. Phishing and Social Engineering: Deceptive tactics, such as phishing emails or phone calls, that manipulate individuals into revealing sensitive information, clicking on malicious links, or performing actions that compromise security.
  4. Denial of Service (DoS) Attack: Deliberate flooding of a network, server, or website with excessive traffic to overwhelm its capacity, causing service disruptions and making resources unavailable.
  5. Ransomware Attack: A type of malware that encrypts a victim’s data, rendering it inaccessible until a ransom is paid to the attacker for a decryption key.
  6. Insider Threats: Unauthorized or malicious actions taken by individuals with authorized access to an organization’s systems, data, or facilities. These individuals could be employees, contractors, or partners.
  7. Physical Security Breach: Unauthorized access to physical facilities, equipment, or sensitive areas that can lead to data theft, damage, or compromise.
  8. Unauthorized Access: Gaining access to systems, applications, or data without proper authorization, potentially leading to data theft or unauthorized activities.
  9. Website Defacement: Altering the content or appearance of a website to spread a message, create disruption, or exploit vulnerabilities.
  10. Lost or Stolen Devices: Physical loss or theft of devices such as laptops, smartphones, or portable drives that contain sensitive data.
  11. Misconfiguration: Improperly configuring systems, networks, or software, which can expose vulnerabilities and lead to unauthorized access or data exposure.
  12. Brute Force Attacks: Repeated attempts to gain access to systems by trying a large number of possible passwords or encryption keys until the correct one is found.
  13. Unauthorized Software Installation: Installation of unauthorized software on systems or devices, which can introduce security vulnerabilities or violate company policies.
  14. Web Application Vulnerabilities: Exploiting vulnerabilities in web applications to gain unauthorized access, compromise data, or perform malicious actions.
  15. Data Loss: Accidental or intentional loss of sensitive or critical data due to human error, technical failures, or cyberattacks.

Understanding the various types of security incidents helps organizations develop comprehensive incident response plans and implement preventive measures to mitigate the risks associated with each type of threat.

What Tools are Available for Incident Response Teams?

Incident response teams rely on a variety of tools and technologies to effectively detect, analyze, mitigate, and recover from security incidents. These tools assist in identifying threats, investigating incidents, and managing the overall response process. Here are some essential tools available for incident response teams:

  1. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Systems: SIEM tools collect and analyze data from various sources to identify abnormal patterns, detect potential threats, and provide real-time alerts for suspicious activities.
  2. Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS): IDS and IPS tools monitor network traffic for signs of malicious activities and can either alert the team or block traffic if they detect potential threats.
  3. Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Tools: EDR tools provide visibility into endpoint devices (such as computers and servers), enabling teams to detect and respond to suspicious activities or potential breaches.
  4. Network Forensics Tools: These tools capture and analyze network traffic to investigate security incidents, reconstruct attack paths, and identify the source of a breach.
  5. Malware Analysis Tools: These tools help analyze and understand malware behavior, identify its capabilities, and develop strategies for mitigating its impact.
  6. Vulnerability Scanners: Vulnerability scanners identify security weaknesses in systems, applications, and networks, enabling teams to patch or remediate vulnerabilities proactively.
  7. Threat Intelligence Platforms: Threat intelligence tools provide information about current and emerging threats, helping incident response teams stay informed and proactive.
  8. Incident Response Orchestration and Automation Tools: These tools streamline and automate incident response workflows, enabling faster response times and more consistent actions.
  9. Forensic Analysis Tools: Digital forensics tools help incident response teams collect, preserve, and analyze digital evidence to understand the scope and impact of an incident.
  10. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Solutions: DLP tools monitor and control data movements, preventing sensitive data from being leaked or shared outside authorized channels.
  11. Patch Management Tools: These tools help keep software and systems up-to-date with the latest security patches, reducing the risk of exploitation through known vulnerabilities.
  12. Password Management Solutions: Strong password management tools help ensure secure authentication and access control, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access.
  13. Encryption Tools: Encryption tools protect sensitive data both at rest and during transmission, reducing the potential impact of a breach.
  14. Backup and Recovery Solutions: Backup tools create regular backups of critical data and systems, allowing for faster recovery in case of data loss or ransomware attacks.
  15. Communication and Collaboration Platforms: Effective communication tools allow incident response teams to collaborate, share information, and coordinate actions efficiently.

These tools, when integrated and utilized effectively, empower incident response teams to swiftly and efficiently manage security incidents, minimize damage, and maintain business continuity.

What is the Difference between an Incident Response Plan and Business Continuity Plan?

An incident response plan (IRP) and a business continuity plan (BCP) are both essential components of an organization’s overall cybersecurity and risk management strategy, but they serve different purposes and address different aspects of handling disruptions. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between an incident response plan and a business continuity plan:

Incident Response Plan (IRP):

  1. Focus: An incident response plan primarily focuses on addressing and mitigating the immediate effects of security incidents and cyberattacks. It outlines the step-by-step process to detect, respond, contain, eradicate, and recover from security incidents.
  2. Scope: IRPs are specific to cybersecurity incidents and data breaches. They are designed to manage incidents that threaten the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data and systems.
  3. Objectives: The main objectives of an IRP are to minimize the impact of security incidents, preserve evidence for investigation, and swiftly restore normal operations.
  4. Timing: IRPs are enacted once an incident is detected. They are activated to handle the incident in real time and to manage the incident’s immediate aftermath.
  5. Key Components: An IRP includes roles and responsibilities of incident response team members, communication protocols, incident categorization, response procedures, and post-incident analysis.

Business Continuity Plan (BCP):

  1. Focus: A business continuity plan addresses the organization’s ability to continue operations during and after disruptions. It focuses on maintaining essential functions, services, and operations despite unexpected events.
  2. Scope: BCPs cover a broader range of disruptions, including natural disasters, equipment failures, power outages, supply chain disruptions, and other incidents that could interrupt regular business operations.
  3. Objectives: The main objectives of a BCP are to ensure the organization’s resilience, minimize downtime, and prioritize critical business functions to enable continuity.
  4. Timing: BCPs are proactive in nature and encompass both pre-incident and post-incident phases. They include measures to prevent disruptions, as well as strategies to recover and restore operations after disruptions occur.
  5. Key Components: A BCP includes risk assessments, business impact analyses, strategies for maintaining critical functions, recovery procedures, communication plans, and the allocation of resources during and after disruptions.

In summary, an incident response plan focuses on managing and mitigating the immediate effects of cybersecurity incidents, while a business continuity plan addresses the organization’s overall ability to continue operations and recover from various types of disruptions. Both plans are integral to an organization’s overall resilience and should complement each other to ensure comprehensive risk management and operational stability.

Getting Started with your Incident Response Plan

Getting started with an incident response plan (IRP) involves several key steps to ensure its effectiveness and relevance to your business’s specific needs. Here’s a guide to help you initiate the process:

  1. Understand Your Business Environment:
    • Identify your organization’s critical assets, systems, and data that need protection.
    • Assess the potential risks and threats your business faces, including cyberattacks, data breaches, and other security incidents.
    • Consider relevant industry regulations and compliance requirements that may impact your incident response strategy.
  2. Form an Incident Response Team:
    • Assemble a cross-functional team of experts from IT, cybersecurity, legal, communication, operations, and management.
    • Define roles and responsibilities for each team member within the incident response process.
  3. Define Incident Categories:
    • Categorize potential security incidents based on severity and potential impact.
    • Determine which incidents require immediate attention and which can be addressed through routine procedures.
  4. Develop an IRP Framework:
    • Outline the structure and components of your incident response plan. This includes key sections such as goals, objectives, team roles, communication protocols, and incident handling procedures.
  5. Create Incident Response Procedures:
    • Detail step-by-step procedures for different incident types. Address how incidents will be detected, analyzed, contained, eradicated, recovered from, and lessons learned.
  6. Establish Communication Protocols:
    • Define how internal and external communication will be handled during an incident.
    • Identify key stakeholders, including management, employees, customers, partners, legal authorities, and public relations.
  7. Allocate Resources:
    • Determine the resources needed for effective incident response, including tools, software, personnel, and budget considerations.
  8. Develop Training and Awareness Programs:
    • Provide training for incident response team members and employees on their roles, responsibilities, and the basics of incident response.
    • Raise awareness about potential security threats and the importance of reporting suspicious activities.
  9. Test and Refine the Plan:
    • Conduct tabletop exercises and simulations to test the effectiveness of your incident response plan.
    • Identify gaps, weaknesses, and areas for improvement based on the outcomes of these exercises.
  10. Update and Maintain the Plan:
    • Continuously review and update the incident response plan to account for changes in your business environment, technology, and threat landscape.
    • Ensure that the plan remains relevant and effective over time.
  11. Document and Train:
    • Document the finalized incident response plan, including all procedures and contact information.
    • Provide ongoing training to incident response team members and employees to ensure everyone is prepared to execute the plan effectively.

Remember that an incident response plan is not a static document; it requires regular review, testing, and refinement to stay effective in the face of evolving threats and changes within your organization.

Legislation and compliance for cyber attacks

In Australia, organizations are subject to various legislations and regulations that mandate the reporting of cybersecurity incidents, particularly those involving data breaches or cyberattacks that compromise personal information. The key legislation that addresses reporting cyber incidents in Australia is the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) Scheme: The NDB scheme, which came into effect on February 22, 2018, amends the Privacy Act 1988 to require organizations to notify affected individuals and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) of eligible data breaches. An eligible data breach occurs when there is unauthorized access to or disclosure of personal information that could result in serious harm to individuals.

Under the NDB scheme:

  1. Notification to Affected Individuals: If an organization becomes aware of a data breach that is likely to result in serious harm to individuals whose personal information is involved, it must notify those individuals as soon as practicable.
  2. Notification to OAIC: Organizations are also required to notify the OAIC of eligible data breaches. The OAIC provides guidelines on how to report breaches and the information that should be included in the notification.
  3. Penalties: Failure to comply with the NDB scheme can result in significant penalties, including fines. The OAIC has the authority to investigate and take enforcement action in cases of non-compliance.

It’s important to note that the NDB scheme applies to entities that are covered by the Privacy Act, including government agencies and private sector organizations with an annual turnover of AUD 3 million or more, among others.

Apart from the NDB scheme, various sector-specific regulations and guidelines may also apply to specific industries. Organizations are advised to stay informed about the evolving legislative landscape and ensure compliance with relevant regulations to fulfill their obligations for reporting cybersecurity incidents.

Final thoughts

The goal of an Incident Response Plan is to help your business avoid, mitigate and respond to a cyber attack in a considered and timely manner.  Developing a cyber security IR plan is an ongoing management exercise, not a one-off event – it should be reviewed and updated regularly to be effective.

Businesses should introduce IR training and exercises including live attack scenarios to strengthen their cyber security posture.  What worked in the past might not work tomorrow.  The right IR plan should be a living document that is up to date and considers the evolving threat landscape.

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  1. Cyber stats in 2021 (Source):  https://www.titanfile.com/blog/15-important-cybersecurity-statistics-in-2021/
  2. Source: Australian Government Information Security Manual.
  3. Source:  Essential 8 Maturity Model
  4. 134 Cybersecurity Statistics and Trends for 2021.  Source:  https://www.varonis.com/blog/cybersecurity-statistics/
Article Name
Why your business needs a cyber security Incident Response Plan
What is an incident response plan and why do you need one? An Incident Response plan aids businesses to mitigate, remediate & manage a cyber attack.
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Kaine Mathrick Tech
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Why your business needs a cyber security Incident Response Plan
What is an incident response plan and why do you need one? An Incident Response plan aids businesses to mitigate, remediate & manage a cyber attack.
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Kaine Mathrick Tech
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