Step-by-Step Incident Response Plan for CEOs

Are you confident that you have a plan in place to execute immediately in the event of a cybersecurity event? You need this step-by-step incident response template.
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Taking the time to react in the event of a cybersecurity event can cause an added layer of stress to your team during a time that you need to act quickly. Putting together a cybersecurity incident response plan is vital for small to mid-size business CEOs, especially when you consider that 43% of cyberattacks are aimed specifically at small businesses and not enterprise organizations. Just as with any project, you’re unlikely to be successful without a plan firmly in place that accounts for a variety of variables and can be executed quickly by your team. Creating a step-by-step incident response (IR) plan that is appropriately automated and can be rapidly triggered will help your team calmly and quickly respond to cybersecurity threats to your organization.

What is Included in a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan?

While each incident response plan should be customized for your organization, there are certain activities that will help you move through the more formalized steps. They include:

  • Preparation. Who needs to be involved in your plan? Do you have a list of the various assets for your business? Putting this information together helps create the base upon which to build your incident response plan. Part of your preparation should include listing the types of events that could occur and assigning roles and responsibilities for each event.
  • Risk Assessment. Protecting your organization from the spread of any cybersecurity event is a crucial first step, and starts with understanding the scope of the event that has occurred. Your risk assessment may include determining which of your inventoried assets were affected by the event and any specific digital services that may require remediation, as well as the required timeline.
  • Communication. In a cybersecurity event, communication is a critical portion of your incident response. Internal stakeholders need to be informed of the situation, and any changes that they need to make in their daily work. Customers may have to be told that there’s been a data breach, and there are defined requirements for compliance that your business must follow. Finally, you’ll want to have a message in place that can be shared with the media to help reduce the negative publicity that can come with a major cybersecurity event.
  • Remediation. Perhaps you and your IT services partner determine that you need to complete patches on your software and update all of your corporate passwords in order to get your systems back to normal operations. It’s more likely that you’ll find yourself rebuilding some or all of your physical servers or digital assets before you’re able to become fully operational again. Defining the steps required for remediation in the most common types of incidents allows you to have a plan in place that can be triggered quickly.
  • Follow-up. Once an incident occurs, you’ll need to do a thorough post-mortem to determine what could have gone more smoothly and what needs to be changed in your IR plan for the future. Keeping this full-circle path of communication will help your business stay safe during future cybersecurity events, too.

There are two key frameworks that you can utilize to build your incident response plan: the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and the SANS (Sys-Admin, Audit, Network and Security). The two are quite similar and are both aimed at returning your organization to full operations quickly and efficiently. Each is an adaptive model, meaning they are built to change over time as the business evolves to provide you with the business continuity that you need.

While this template can help you get started, your cybersecurity response plan should be a living, breathing document that grows with your business. Whether you need assistance getting started with your plan or are looking for a partner to support your business after a cybersecurity event has already happened, contact the professionals at CIO Advise at 833-CIO-ADVISE. Our team of talented security specialists will work closely with your business to define best practices and ensure that you are prepared for any eventuality that occurs.


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