Effectively managing incidents

A security incident can be defined as an occurrence that actually or imminently jeopardises, without lawful authority, the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information or an information system. These incidents can take many forms, including malware attacks and phishing attacks.


While you cannot completely eradicate the possibility of an incident, you can definitely influence how your organisation responds to them – this is where an incident response plan comes into play...


The objective of a predefined incident response plan is to allow you to respond quickly and effectively to expected or confirmed security breaches and other threats to your information systems and data.


This blog will provide an insight into the incident management process and how it can be used to manage incidents.


Create an Incident Response Plan

The organisation’s incident response plan should include information on the procedures and steps to be taken if an incident occurs.


The incident response plan should consider: how the organisation operates, any key third parties relied on for operations, and how critical information is stored and managed.


An effective incident response plan may include the following elements:

  • How to identify an incident
  • Classification, prioritisation and logging of incidents
  • The incident response team members and contact information
  • Internal and external stakeholders and required communication strategies
  • Containment, eradication, and recovery procedures for incidents
  • Post-incident review of incidents and plans for improvement


Identification, classification, prioritisation and logging of incidents

The first step in effective incident management is immediate identification and classification, to the extent possible. Incidents should be classified based on the relevant defined factors such as severity, impact, and the effort (e.g. manual labour, technical resources and financial resources, etc.) required to resolve them.


This classification system allows the incident response team to prioritise their efforts and effectively allocate resources. Incidents should be logged for tracking through to resolution, and the execution of the response steps documented for reporting, post-incident review and other future reference uses.


Implement an Incident Response Team

It is critical to have an assigned incident response team in place for efficiently handling incidents. This team would likely consist of individuals who, individually or collectively, have a complete understanding of how the organisation operates, and they should be trained to respond to a range of incident types.


Their roles and responsibilities should be clearly documented in the incident response plan along with key contact details, like a central incident management inbox, messaging channel, or other preferred means of communication.


Communication of incidents

Communication is an essential component of handling incidents. Clear communication channels for reporting incidents, both internally and externally, and communication requirements in the event of an incident should be defined in the response plan.


It's important to establish procedures for notifying and updating relevant stakeholders, such as customers or regulators, as needed. Transparent and timely communication can help organisations maintain trust and positive relationships with relevant stakeholders and protect their reputations in the market. 


Containment and eradication

A part of the responsibility of the incident response team typically includes working to minimise loss, prevent the incident’s impact from expanding, and, eventually, eliminate the root cause.


Based on the type of incident, it may be necessary to isolate systems that were affected, apply security patches, or work with third-party vendors.


Recovery and restoration

After the incident has been contained and eradicated, recovery and restoration may be required. The organisation’s incident response plan should include methods for promptly returning impacted systems to regular operations if applicable. This might include data recovery, system restoration, and monitoring to verify that no risks remain.


Post-incident review and continuous improvement

The post-incident review (‘PIR’) is a critical aspect of incident management, particularly for significant incidents. Once the incident is resolved, the organisation should conduct a PIR to understand the reason for the incident occurring.


This typically includes investigating the root causes of the incident, the effectiveness of the response procedures in addressing the incident, and any lessons learned. The findings of this review should be utilised to enhance the incident response plan and improve the overall security and incident management program of the organisation.


Incident management is a continuous practice towards improving the organisation's incident response expertise based on lessons learned from previous incidents and evolving threat environments.


Annual review of incident response plan

It is good practice to review the incident response plan at least annually to validate its continued effectiveness. New risks and vulnerabilities arise on a regular basis in today's dynamic threat environment.


Organisations could adapt and develop their response plans through regular reviews, ensuring they stay relevant and support their ability to respond to and recover from incidents. This procedure assists in identifying gaps, updating contact information, and handling changes in regulations or technology.


It also ensures that all team members understand their roles and duties, which improves coordination during an incident.


Get in touch if we can help clarify anything above or provide further reading to assist you.



Disclaimer: AssuranceLab performs the role of an independent auditor across hundreds of client environments. We do not perform technical roles or assessments and this content is not intended to be comprehensive on those technical or detailed aspects of cybersecurity. You should perform further research and seek professional advice as appropriate before acting on any of the information contained here.
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