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Incident Response Definition & Meaning

Incident response is the process of preparing for cybersecurity threats, detecting them as they arise, responding to quell or mitigate them, and planning for the next one. Organizations manage their threat intelligence and mitigation through incident response planning: for large companies that handle sensitive data, it is particularly important. But any organization stands to lose money, data, and reputation from cybersecurity threats.

Incident response requires compiling a team of people from different departments within an organization, including some in leadership, some in IT, and some in data controlling/compliance. Based on the company's priorities and legal requirements, this team must:

  • Plan how to analyze data and networks for possible threats and suspicious activity
  • Decide which incidents should receive a response first
  • Plan for data and finance loss
  • Comply with all relevant laws
  • Be prepared to present data and documentation to authorities after a breach

Though not all may result in sensitive data being stolen or financial loss, data breaches are common and happen regularly to large enterprises. Proactively avoiding cyber breaches includes:

  • Training employees to be aware of social engineering tactics, such as malicious links in emails or requests for private information
  • Developing risk management strategies
  • Implementing endpoint detection and response security measures for the entire organization and all devices
  • Avoiding information silos by keeping every employee on the IR team involved and aware
  • Heightening security around privileged access accounts, through which attackers often gain access to sensitive information
  • Thoroughly analyzing all company data, perhaps in a data lake, so that no information is siloed and so that threats can be tracked more easily
  • Automating threat intelligence so that IT staff are not overwhelmed; they won't be able to analyze all of the data sufficiently without machine learning assistance

Incident response is not just about avoiding breaches, however, but also reacting when they first occur. The security solutions that a company has implemented will alert a team to an incident; whether it's soon enough depends on the solution and how successfully it's implemented. XDR is one of the best solutions: it's comprehensive and watches all corners of a network, rather than just one or two, for better visibility and detection.

Incident response can be a very overwhelming process for organizations, especially because managing huge amounts of data is next to impossible without advanced technology and automation. However, it's crucial for protecting data, not only the organization's private networks but also stored customer information. It's also essential for complying with data privacy laws.

Incident response and compliance

Incident response became very important starting in 2018 when GDPR went into effect, and CCPA soon followed. GDPR, for example, has extremely strict breach reporting regulations. If a particular breach has to be reported, the company must be aware of it in 72 hours and let the appropriate authorities know what happened. Not only that, they must provide a report of what happened, have a good idea of how and where in the network the breach occurred, and present an active plan to mitigate the damage. If a company does not have a predefined incident response plan, they won't be ready to present such a report.

GDPR wants to see not only what happened but also if the organization had appropriate security measures employed beforehand. Companies can be heavily penalized if they're examined post-breach and officials find that they didn't have appropriate security.

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