The 5 Steps You Need To Create A Secure Incident Response Plan

The steps you take immediately after a cyberattack will minimize its effect and reduce the risk of another breach. Outlining these incident response plan steps is the most successful way to overcome a security event. In this guide, learn how to create a plan with the right incident response steps that mitigate the damage of a security event and protect your most sensitive data.

What is an Incident Response Plan?

An incident response (IR) plan is a sequence of events that help you detect, contain, respond to, and recover from a cybersecurity incident. An incident life cycle typically comprises four or five phases:

  1. Identification/detection/reporting
  2. Containment
  3. Investigation/triage/analysis/remediation
  4. Recovery
  5. Prevention of future attacks

Not having an IR plan can put your organization at risk. 

“No organization, regardless of size, is exempt from cybersecurity threats, and having an established plan of action that immediately executes following a security breach is crucial to limit incident costs and damages to the company’s reputation,” says Digital Guardian.

Below is an example of an incident response strategy that you can use in your organization:

#1. Incident Response: Identify the Nature of the Attack

The first step of your IR plan should be to identify the type of security event that occurred. Correctly identifying the attack will determine how you contain the breach and prevent it from causing further damage to your organization. 

Here are some of the most common security incidents:

  • Network attack
  • Password attack
  • Privilege escalation attack
  • Malware attack
  • Man-in-the-middle attack
  • Denial-of-service (DoS) attack
  • Insider threat

After you have identified the attack, note its impact on your systems, software, and services. For example, did a network attack affect a single system or all host systems in your organization? Did a password attack infiltrate one password-protect account or all of them?

Identification is one of the most critical components of your IR plan because it tells you which technologies cybercriminals have compromised and what data is now at risk. 

#2. Incident Response: Contain the Attack

Now you have identified the breach, contain it. Doing so will prevent any active attackers on your network from causing further attacks.

Start by isolating the affected device. That device could be a:

  • Server
  • Workstation
  • Datacenter
  • Other IT infrastructure
  • Password-protected account
  • Database
  • Software/application

Then remove the affected device from your network. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Physically disconnect the device from its network by detaching the network cable. 
  2. Disable a wireless access point or station to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the network.

If you can’t identify the compromised device, disconnect the entire network from your Wi-Fi router, firewall, or another access point to prevent unauthorized users from infiltrating other devices on that network. 

Containment should happen as soon as you identify the nature of the security event. Complete this step as quickly as possible. 

#3. Incident Response: Investigate the Attack

When you are confident that you have contained the attack (and unauthorized users can’t cause further damage), investigate the security event and establish what happened. Even though you identified the nature of the attack in the first stage of your incident response strategy, you need to undertake a deeper analysis to determine the root cause of the breach.

First, create a timeline of events that led up to the attack. Incident investigation software will help you discover the tactics used by attackers that caused the incident — the type of malware used, for example. 

Next, perform advanced network traffic analysis (NTA) to identify the network entities involved in the security incident. The right software analyzes network traffic threats using machine learning, static analysis, dynamic analysis, sandbox testing, and other methods.

#4. Incident Response: Recover from the Attack

Recovery is one of the most important incident response steps. Now you understand what caused the attack, you need to recover quickly and prevent damage to your business. Here are some tips for a speedy recovery:

  • Communicate the security breach to all employees. Increasing awareness of security incidents is essential for improving cybersecurity across your organization. Explain the findings of your investigation so employees can identify the signs of a future breach.
  • If the security breach compromised customer data, communicate the incident to customers in a press release or email. Explain what caused the attack, the steps you took to resolve it, and what customers should do to protect their data. Take responsibility for the attack and reassure customers it won’t happen again. 
  • Calculate any financial damages that resulted from the attack. These damages might include a loss of revenue because of downtime or the cost of hiring cybersecurity experts to identify and contain the attack. 

#5. Incident Response: Improve Your Cybersecurity Policies

By now, you should have recovered from the original security incident. However, you need to ensure future attacks don’t jeopardize your business. Update your cybersecurity policies and invest in new technologies that protect your networks and devices. Here are some tips for improving cybersecurity across your organization:

  • Invest in cybersecurity training for all employees. 
  • Set access levels for all systems, software, and devices. 
  • Create bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies if employees use personal devices at work.
  • Keep IT infrastructure and software up to date. 
  • Ensure your cybersecurity policies adhere to all compliance requirements
  • Regularly back up data in a cloud environment for better security.

You should also update your cybersecurity policies if you have implemented a work-from-home program because of the pandemic. These programs bring additional security challenges for organizations because many at-home employees don’t have the same protections as those working in the office.

“Without the security protection offered by the office structure — the metaphorical walls of the castle — businesses are more vulnerable to cyberattacks,” says Forbes magazine. “The failure to keep up with software patches or to use a company’s VPN can cause data interception over unprotected channels.”

Final Word 

An incident response plan provides you with a blueprint to follow in the hours and days after a cyberattack. Identifying the attack, containing it, investigating it, recovering from it, and updating your cybersecurity policies helps you overcome almost any security incident. Follow the five incident response steps above and mitigate damage to your organization. 

Locus Recruiting provides you with the cybersecurity professionals you need to respond to and recover from a security incident. Working with a specialized cybersecurity recruitment firm helps you navigate the challenges of cybercrime in the modern era. Find highly skilled IT, cloud computing, networking, and infrastructure professionals by scheduling a call now.

Do you have any other incident response tips? Leave a comment below, and follow the Locus blog for further insights. 


“Correctly identifying the attack will determine how you can contain the breach and prevent it from causing further damage to your organization.” Read more on the Locus blog. #IncidentResponse #cybersecurity