A Beginner’s Guide to Incident Response Planning: How to Prepare Your Business for a Cyber Attack

Nina Medanic

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The risk of cyber attacks is always present for all sizes of businesses, and there is no way to eliminate these risks altogether, but with the right security solutions, procedures, and policies businesses can considerably decrease the risks and establish robust security for their assets. In our modern era, building a good cyber security posture is the most important thing for businesses as every year cyber-attacks become more frequent and grow in numbers.

In fact, in the following five years, experts predict that there will be a drastic increase in cybercrime rates and global cybercrime damages will reach 23 trillion dollars annually. That’s why all sizes of businesses must be prepared for cyber attacks and create incident response plans for upcoming cyber attacks. In this article, we will explain what steps should be taken to prepare your business for cyber attacks. But, first, we will define what is an Incident Response Plan (IRP).

What Is an Incident Response Plan (IRP)?

An incident response plan refers to creating a set of instructions and procedures to detect, identify, respond to, and contain cyber attacks. Simply, having an incident response plan can help organizations deal with occurring cyber attacks properly, and smoothly.

Also, some compliance regulations like The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) oblige businesses to create an incident response plan to handle all upcoming or occurring cyber attacks. PCI-DSS regulations apply to all sizes of businesses that take payment via credit card, and not complying with incident response plan requirements can result in severe monetary fines and penalties. In other words, for most businesses an incident response plan is not only for security but also it is for being a compliant organization.

How to Prepare Your Business for a Cyber Attack?

1- Gather A Incident Response Team And Audit Your Systems

Before creating an incident response plan, you should make an assessment of current security systems, corporate resources, security policies, and the data that they are holding. This assessment will help you identify weaknesses and critical assets in your systems. So you can strengthen security in the areas that are critical for your organization. Then, you should gather an incident response team who will be responsible for creating a series of guidelines, testing and updating the incident plan, and putting the written instructions into action during the event of a cyber attack.

2- Understand The Threat Landscape

To handle cyber threats, you need to understand what you are dealing with. Today, the cyber attack landscape varies. That’s why each type of attack requires different types of approaches to contain attacks and mitigate cybersecurity risks. Simply, you need to understand common types of cyber attacks and how they occur. This way, you can put the right security measures to fight various types of cyber attacks. For instance, you can implement DNS filtering solutions to inhibit malicious websites. In the cybersecurity market, there are various solutions that will help you accomplish enhanced security against cyber attacks.

3- Train Your Employees

Giving cybersecurity training to employees is vital for your organization because when employees are reluctant to follow your cybersecurity policies, they can unintentionally cause data breaches. The only way to decrease human error is to train employees on cybersecurity. After taking these courses, your employees will be able to identify common types of cyber attacks like social engineering and phishing attacks. Also, they will understand the significance of following your cybersecurity policies and procedures. Shortly, giving employees cybersecurity training will pay off in the long term.

4- Backup Your Data

Backing up your data is critical because during cyber attacks you can lose the data you have permanently. That’s why you should always back up your data and automate backups. The best practice for this is to backup data in three places; one backup should be held on-premises, and two should be in off-site locations.

5- Implement The Right Cybersecurity Solutions

Implementing the right cybersecurity solutions to combat cyber attacks is really significant. If you allow your employees to work remotely, then you need to implement secure remote access solutions like Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Identity Access Management (IAM), Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), Network Access Control (NAC) or Remote Access VPN. Also, Zero Trust or SASE solutions can deliver more than just secure remote access and enable enhanced security for users, devices, corporate networks, applications, cloud environments, and on-premises.

But, if you have a limited budget you can implement Remote Access VPN along with Identity Access Management (IAM) solutions. This way, you can enable secure remote access, authenticate employees’ identities with multi-factor authentication (MFA) tools, and give employees limited access inside the network perimeter. The essence of this matter is to implement the right cybersecurity solutions according to your organizational needs.

6- Create A Response Plan Checklist

In 2012, the SANS institute published a framework that has become a standard for incident response plans. This framework includes 6 steps and which are preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery, and lessons learned. While creating an incident response plan, you should make sure your plan includes the 6 steps that are provided by SANS institutes. This way in the event of a cyber attack, your incident response team can follow these steps to identify, contain, eradicate threats, recover your systems to their pre-attack state, and figure out which errors have led to attacks.

7- Form A Communication Strategy

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As the last step of your preparation for cyber attacks, you should form a communication strategy. Your communication strategy should cover the steps and actions that must be taken after your business becomes a victim of a data breach. These steps should include notifying affected parties and reporting the incident to governmental agencies and compliance authorities. If you don’t report data breach incidents, your business can be in big trouble, and you can face severe fines and penalties.

Also, a good communication strategy can help you keep reputational damages at a minimum. For severe incidents, you should consider making a public statement and be transparent about what has happened, and which parties are affected. Simply, forming a good communication strategy is critical to handle the consequences of data breaches.

Last Words

As of 2023, all sizes of businesses are under the radar of cybercriminals. That’s why businesses can’t neglect and overlook the significance of good cyber security posture, and well-prepared incident response plans. To prepare your business against cyber attacks you can use the seven steps that are explained above and be ready to combat cybercriminals.