The 6 Pillars of an Incident Response Plan

Having a cyber incident response plan in place is vital to ensure that you and your team are prepared should the worst happen. During a cyberattack, response plans can be abandoned in the panic of dealing with a high-pressure situation, so it is essential that your incident response process is clearly set out and easy to follow.
In this article, we outline the distinct stages of an IT incident response plan and offer guidance on how to take the appropriate incident response steps.

What is an incident response plan?

Response planning is vital for you to minimize the impact a cyberattack or data breach has on your organization and prevent similar attacks in the future.

Your plan should be managed by a team involving information security, general IT staff, C-suite level members, and possibly representatives of HR, PR, and the legal department, too. It should include written instructions on how to deal with network events, security incidents, and confirmed breaches.

If you are wondering how to write an incident response plan, we have created a step-by-step process that covers the six main pillars you should include.

How to create an incident response plan

There are six key stages in an incident response plan:

1. Prepare

The preparation stage of your incident response plan is the most crucial pillar to protect the interests of your organization. You need to:

  • Train your employees adequately in their duties in the event of a cyberattack.

  • Set up incident response drills and conduct regular mock cyber incidents to assess your plan’s robustness.

  • Secure approval and financing for every detail of your plan, from training to software and equipment.

  • Document everything clearly.

2. Detect

You need a process to identify when your security has been breached. This involves defining which sources are checked to detect if a breach has taken place, including:

  • System logs

  • Antimalware software

  • Individuals within your organization reporting suspected incidents

  • Security products such as security information and event management (SIEM) systems issuing alerts

Once you have detected the breach, you need to determine when and how it was discovered and ascertain the scale of the breach: Containment depends on identifying what areas of the business have been affected and which of your operations have been compromised.

3. Contain

The containment pillar of your incident response plan needs to be robust to avoid the effects of a breach spreading. Based on the findings of the preceding detection phase, you should stop infected servers and endpoints from accessing the network. You will also need to change passwords for any users whose accounts were compromised.

As well as returning all systems to production to permit standard business operation to resume, you will also need to identify and block any accounts and backdoors that allowed the breach to happen.

Having redundant back-up systems in place will ensure that any compromised data can be recovered.
This is also a good opportunity for you to implement multifactor authentication (MFA) for remote access, change all user and administrative access credentials, and make your password criteria more robust.

Before attempting to restore services, ensure you take these two vital steps:

  • Validate and test your network to ensure that all systems are operational

  • Recertify the operability and security of any breached element
    You are now ready to eradicate the problem through forensics.

4. Eradicate

Now that you have contained the problem, you can breathe a little easier. However, you still need to discover what caused the incident in the first place, and move to address it. This will involve cleansing your systems of all malware and applying patches and updates.

Be extremely thorough with this step. If security issues are still lingering somewhere in your system, you remain vulnerable and could be losing valuable data.

5. Recover

Once you can confirm that the immediate security threat has been eliminated, you can start the process of returning affected systems and devices back to operation. It is important to make sure that your systems and business operations are made functional as quickly as possible without incurring the risk of facilitating another cyberattack.

Ensure that the systems in question are adequately patched and tested and that they can be restored from a reliable backup. Determine how long the affected systems will need to be monitored, and what should be looked for during monitoring. Decide what tools will be required to prevent future attacks. These might cover file integrity monitoring tools and products for identifying and protecting against future breaches.

6. Re-evaluate and improve

Once a security incident has been contained, it is time to determine the lessons learned to make future incidents less likely. You may need to improve employee training, introduce new technologies, or patch existing vulnerabilities in your server. When you have identified how to prevent similar incidents, go back to your existing security incident response plan and update it in line with your findings.


Creating and maintaining a robust incident response plan that your employees will adhere to is vital to safeguard your organization’s security. To ensure you are following best practices, contact Zeta Sky, the experts in cyber security.

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