Do you have an Incident Response Plan?

In today’s world there is no denying the reality of data-breaches. We see this happening globally on a daily basis and the victims range from large government organisations to small sized companies.

Incident Response Plan
Incident Response Plan

There have been multiple incidents of data breaches in 2015 alone, some more damaging than others. In February 2015 the Multi-Bank experienced a Billion Dollar Cyber Heist in which affected as many as 100 bank accounts across the world, in June LastPass experienced another attack in which thousands of passwords were leaked on the internet.

Harvard University experienced a breach in July, following eight other education breaches. The Harvard breach affected as many as 8 schools and administrative offices, though it remains unclear what information was leaked. The National Guard had 2 data breaches in 2015, with one that affected 4.2 Million and the other 21.5 Million Federal workers.

Since 2014 there have been countless reports of point-of-sale (POS) breaches, which generally affected retailers around the world. With all of this information it is quite apparent that a data breach could happen to anyone, no matter the size of your company or IT team.

The sad reality at this point is that so many companies have no idea what to do when something like this happens, they have no incident response plan in place to ensure that such a breach is fixed as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Before your company is hit with a data breach, implement a solid incident response plan and ensure that your entire team is aware of this plan. Here are a couple of things that you could consider adding in your incident response plan:

Form an incident response team

Use your resources wisely, in smaller companies that do not have an official IT department ask around the office and find out who has the most knowledge of online security and create a mini-response team. Even if the team members cannot fix the problem themselves, they should know how to contact and when. In larger companies, ensure that your IT department has a dedicated team assigned as the incident response team.

Conduct an threat analysis

Information is key; ask the response team to conduct a threat analysis allowing you to determine what the effects of a data breach would be on your company. The smaller your company the less damage a data breach will have; however to avoid any surprises it is always a good idea to know exactly how vulnerable you are and how much you stand to lose.

Create quick-response guidelines for different scenarios

Using your threat analysis you can quickly create different scenarios and add actions to each scenario. The more planned out the incident response plan is, the less likely it is to fail and the quicker you can retrieve your lost data.

Outline a plan for external notification

In cases where you rely on external consultants for your IT and online security needs, make sure you sit with your consultant to discuss and document the incident response plan. Include flow-charts and communication-diagrams to outline when what information is communicated with whom.

Communicate your plan to employees

Communication is key, thus it is important that your incident response plan is communicated with all your employees. It should be each employee’s responsibility to report a suspicious activity and assist where and how they can when needed.

Learn from your mistakes

No one can ever guarantee that your data will be 100% secure the internet and languages used to code changes so quickly that there is always a slight chance of a breach. Thus if your company has fallen victim to a data breach, don’t see it as the end of the world, but rather a learning curve. Learn from your mistakes. Fix the mistakes. Update your incident response plan.


For those of you struggling to get started on your incident response plan, here are a couple of samples/templates that you can use to base your response plan on. Just remember that each company is unique and different, thus the response plan should be amended to suit your exact requirements:

  1. Security Incident Response Plan Template for IET Unit Employees - 2010
  2. Incident Response Plan Template For Breach of Personal Information
  3. Incident Response Plan for a small to medium sized hospital
  4. The University of Texas at El Pasco Information Security Office Incident Response Plan 

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