Cyber Incidents and Data Breaches: A Best-Practice Response

Cyber attacks and data breaches are an everyday operational risk for all organisations that rely on technology or are connected to the Internet. However, relatively few organisations implement the cyber incident response measures they need to deal with the inevitable.

This shortcoming is illustrated by a recent study by Forrester Consulting for Immersive Labs, which found that 82% of cyber security decision makers agreed that they could have mitigated the damage caused by their most significant recent cyber incident if only they were better prepared. Less than 20% of respondents thought they had “the capabilities to respond to future attacks”.

The rapidly evolving nature of the cyber threat landscape means that mitigating the risk of a breach is complex, which goes some way to explaining why so many organisations’ incident response planning is inadequate.

However, a focused approach to cyber incident response management means you won’t waste valuable time when the worst does happens, but will be able to deal with disruptions efficiently.

Free PDF download: Cyber Incident Response Management – A beginner’s guide

Download this free paper to:

  • Learn exactly what constitutes a cyber incident;
  • Understand the potential consequences of suffering an incident;
  • Find out what to include in your incident response plans; and
  • Discover a step-by-step incident response process.

Why is cyber incident response management important?

Cyber incident response management is a critical component of your security programme and your business continuity management practices.

Although your security posture will be improved immeasurably if you implement security controls to detect and address the risks you face, the reality is that you’re still likely to encounter a successful cyber attack, and both the speed at which you identify an incident and the effectiveness of your response make all the difference to your exposure, reputation and recovery costs.

Indeed, according to IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Study, incident response planning and testing is among the top three ways of mitigating the costs associated with a data breach, saving an average of $1.49 million (€1.4 million), and, on average, enabling organisations to resolve incidents 54 days faster.

As well as helping you return to business as usual as quickly as possible after an incident, incident response management is also a legal and/or regulatory obligation for many organisations.

For instance, the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) requires organisations to restore the availability of and access to personal data in the event of a physical or technical breach and the NIS Directive (EU Directive on security of network and information systems) requires OES (operators of essential services) and DSPs (digital service providers) to adopt incident response measures to ensure recovery following a disruptive incident.

What should best-practice cyber incident response management entail?

Without robust incident response management, you’ll make costly mistakes or misjudgements, such as considering paying ransoms or attempting to cover up any incident you do suffer.

Although this might seem a good idea at the time, it can often cause more harm than good – as was the case with British Airways, which faced months of negative news stories as details about its 2018 data breach slowly leaked out. And once your customers lose their trust in you, it’ll be an uphill struggle to recover. So, what should you do?

Here are eight steps to help improve your incident response management capabilities:

  1. Identify risks, vulnerabilities and threat exposure
    A risk assessment will help you identify where your organisation is vulnerable.
  2. Review cyber security controls
    You’ll already have some security controls in place, but are they up to date and working as intended?
  3. Conduct a business impact analysis
    This will help you understand how critical business areas will be affected by the scenarios outlined in your risk assessment.
  4. Form the incident response team
    These are the people responsible for overseeing your incident response practices.
  5. Develop incident response plans
    Make plans based on the risks you’ve identified and how they will affect your critical assets.
  6. Test incident scenarios
    Don’t assume that, having created plans, your work is done. You need to regularly test your plans to ensure they remain relevant to ever-evolving risks.
  7. Conduct incident response training
    Teams are often under pressure while responding to incidents. Ensure they have the training they need to execute the plans efficiently.
  8. Establish a continual improvement framework
    As with any process, incident response management can be refined over time.

You can read more about these eight steps in our blog post Worried About Data Breaches? Check Out Our 8-Step Incident Response Guide.

Emergency Cyber Incident Response Service

If you need help and advice building your cyber incident response capabilities, our Emergency Cyber Incident Response Service provides everything you need. It will analyse your security controls and identify vulnerability gaps that could increase your risk exposure.

Our consultancy team will develop an action plan that will allow staff to recognise potential risks and train personnel to respond to any incident in a timely and expeditious manner.

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