While digital payment systems have enabled financial inclusion and transparency, they have also resulted in increased security threats and data breaches. Malware and ransomware attacks, as well as compromised credentials, business email penetration, phishing, cloud misconfiguration, and vulnerability in third-party software, were the most common types of cyber threats in recent years.

The evolution of cyber attacks is constantly changing as well. Its scope has expanded to include supply chain attacks and double/triple extortion in the recent past. Therefore, if you are running a business, you should be ‘on your toes’ all the time and should be ‘up to the task’ to give a ‘fitting reply’ to potential cyber criminals attempting to intrude into your business.

What is the best way to do so? No, doing everything possible to protect yourself from different types of attacks is not enough. You should also know what to do if your business becomes a casualty of a cybercrime. This is where the need of having insurance for cyber security arises.

What is a Cyber Incident Response Plan?

A cyber incident response plan is a written set of instructions for teams on how to prepare for, recognize, respond to, and recover from a cyber security incident such as loss of sensitive information, a data breach, a data leak, or a ransomware attack. A robust response plan should handle not only technology-related concerns. It should also address the issues that other departments, such as HR, finance, customer service, legal and compliance, or public relations may face.

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Why is a Cyber Incident Response Plan important for your business?

We may reasonably assume that, as with most businesses these days, you rely largely on internet-based technologies to achieve your digital marketing objectives. Let us remind you that all digital tools have the potential to expose your company to cyber threats. When it comes to limiting the repercussions of a cyber incident, time is of the utmost importance. You will certainly want to do everything in your ability to save your data. If a business does not have an incident response strategy, dealing with a cyber assault can become an even more chaotic and frightening experience that can extend indefinitely.

In the absence of a comprehensive cyber incident response plan, your security and management teams will be hustling to understand and respond to the breach. They will be more likely to make costly mistakes if they do not have a plan in place. Depending on the kind of information exposed and the scope of the breach, you may be obligated by law to conduct specific procedures to notify not only the people affected but also Government agencies or other organizations. There are numerous possibilities for you to miss steps and subject yourself to further fines or legal action if you do not have a cyber incident response plan in place.

Having a proper cyber incident response plan in place assists businesses in ensuring that their response to the attack is as quick and structured as possible. Given the numerous ways in which cybercriminals might threaten your business, it is critical for your company to have a number of incident response scenarios in place to cover the various types of attacks. Your response plan should include instructions for what to do in the event of a data breach, a social engineering attack, an insider threat, or a ransomware attack. This is because the source of the breach and the consequence are totally different depending on the type of attack.

Make sure to prepare a list of your top cyber security threats and include them in your response plan. This will put your team in a better position to respond to all potential incidents and decrease the risk of future damage.

How to Design a Cyber Incident Response Plan?

The preparation phase must be completed before you begin drafting the actual guidelines. Of course, the entire procedure will be determined by your organization's needs; how large your business is, how many workers you have, how much confidential data you hold, and so on. However, we will make some basic recommendations that could be applicable to almost any type of business developing a cyber suraksha plan.

  1. Make your incident response team

As previously said, a cybersecurity issue affects the entire company, not just your IT infrastructure. Therefore, while addressing the aftermath of the attack, you must include at least one competent person from each department you consider critical. Of course, you should begin with your IT Security department and assign staff to find the source of the attack. they can also advise other employees on the actions to take. Choose the person to contact your outsourced security provider if you do not have an internal cybersecurity team.

Cyber attacks can be extremely stressful for your employees, especially if their own or their clients' data has been compromised. Most internal communications and employee complaints should be handled by a designated HR specialist. Of course, members of your customer service staff should be in charge of informing and helping your customers. Given that these types of occurrences frequently garner public notice, you should also have legal and public relations professionals in your team. They will be in charge of handling all external communications and related processes.

2. Evaluate Vulnerabilities and Critical Assets

No matter how strong your protection measures are, you must consider that some loopholes may allow fraudsters to penetrate your network. If your greatest vulnerability is your workforce, document it and optimize your training and education methods. Instruct them to be on the lookout for social engineering attacks and to follow the company's password policy strictly.

In the event of an attack, identifying the most critical assets will enable the team to concentrate their efforts. If your response team knows the areas where you are most vulnerable and the assets you consider vital, they will be able to respond fast to control and limit the impact. This is because they would know what to look for and where to explore it.

3. Choose External Cyber security Specialists and Backup Data Resources

Whether you possess your own IT security staff or not, the magnitude of the incident could be so huge that you would want the assistance of a third-party professional to audit and fix the problem. Perform research to find a person or team you can trust and hire them to strengthen security measures and provide potential incident response assistance.

You should also search for data backup resources and purchase enough storage space for your important files and information. It is a good idea to create automatic backups and assign someone or a team to handle the operation.

Please note that responsibility is a critical component of the entire process. It will ensure that everyone in your company and beyond recognizes what they are accountable for and what they must do when such an incident happens.

4. Make a thorough response plan checklist

Aside from the Preparation phase, there are five more critical areas to plan for: Identification, Containment, Eradication, Recovery, and Lessons Learned.

5. Identification

The checklist below will assist you in meeting the important needs of the Identification phase:

  • Who was the first to notice the cyber incident?
  • Who reported the incident?
  • Which device/network segment experienced the cyber incident?
  • How did the cyber incident come to light?
  • What is the likely magnitude of impact?
  • Which key systems are most likely to be affected?
  • Has the incident's root cause been recognized and located? If so, where are they, when are they, and what are they?

6. Containment

In this step, you must control the threat by containing what was attacked. The checklist below will assist you in meeting the important needs of the containment phase:

  • Is it possible to isolate the cyber incident?
  • Have all infected systems and devices been isolated?
  • Is the incident known to all affected system owners?
  • Work with system owners and security professionals to decide the next steps
  • Have forensic backups of the infected systems been made?
  • Are all forensic backups stored securely?
  • Have the members of the reaction team documented their actions for forensic purposes?
  • Has all malware from affected systems been removed?
  • Are exploited vulnerabilities patched?
  • Have all vulnerable systems been hardened?
  • Have corporate operations resumed their normal course?

7. Eradication

In this step, you must remove all threats from your network and devices. Here, the response teams will naturally begin eliminating the cyber threat while isolating affected systems. The checklist below will assist you in meeting the important needs of the eradication phase:

  • Can affected assets be fortified against future cyber-attacks?
  • Have all contaminated assets been thoroughly cleaned?
  • Have response teams documented their efforts to respond?
  • Have you addressed all of the loopholes that led to the cyber incident?

8. Recovery

The goal of this stage is to restore systems to their pre-affected state. The procedure begins by replacing specified environments passed through the Eradication phase with sanitary backups. Remember that these sanitary backups are likely to contain the same vulnerabilities utilized in the initial cyber attack. Therefore, they must be addressed with proper security fixes and remediation measures. The checklist below will assist you in meeting the important needs of the recovery phase:

  • Have contaminated systems been replaced with sanitary backups?
  • Have the loopholes that led to the breach been fixed in the restored systems?
  • Have the restored systems been examined for suspicious activity?

9. Lessons Learned

At this stage, response teams should finish the incident documentation they have been working on throughout the response cycle. This documentation, once finished, should clearly define the full incident response chain. Also, it should be easy to understand for the stakeholders beyond the incident response team. Response teams and stakeholders should meet at least two weeks after a cyber event to discuss the incident, how it was addressed and how response efforts may have been optimized. The checklist below will assist you in meeting the important needs of this phase:

  • Have all meeting participants reviewed the whole incident response report?
  • Have you found any areas for improvement?
  • Is an optimized response procedure been documented depending on the stated areas for improvement?
  • Was the optimized response document utilized to modify or establish a response strategy for future cyber events?

10. Design a Communications Strategy

Communication is critical in the wake of a cyber assault. This is because it is the component of the attack that will be most visible to the public and your clients if handled poorly. When developing your crisis communication strategy, please keep the following points in mind:

  • Who should you notify?
  • What public or government agencies must you contact?
  • What is your reporting deadline for the incident?

You should also carefully consider when to notify your clients, vendors, partners and anybody else impacted by the cyber attack. If the attack was serious and was reported by several sources, a public declaration is required. These types of issues must be handled with extreme caution because they are extremely sensitive and can result in significant reputational damage, if not handled correctly. Hiring an experienced third-party agency may be the best course of action rather than managing all the PR activities on your own.

11. Test and Update Your Response Plan on a regular basis

While you can not fully test the effectiveness of your incident response plan when there is no cyber attack, you can set up a test environment and carry out your plan. This will enable you to identify any errors or flaws in your document and correct them on time. Depending on the frequency of legislative and intra-organizational changes, updating the strategy once or twice a year would ensure that it remains up to date-and is ready to be implemented when needed. Make absolutely sure that your security procedures are frequently updated and that you are adhering to the most recent best practices.

If a cyber attack occurs, produce a full report to identify what went wrong. It should also include what modifications are required to make your plan to better protect your business from future attacks.

Now that you have got a fair idea of how to design a cyber incident response plan, it’s time to look into the key elements of such a plan.

Key Elements of a Cyber Incident Response Plan

Key elements of a cyber incident response plan

Here are some of the essential components of a comprehensive plan. However, do keep in mind that some of these will not apply to small businesses. At the same time, some big enterprises may require a more comprehensive strategy.

  • Identification of the source

When you realize your system has been compromised, the first thing you should do is to determine where the breach originated. Conduct a comprehensive investigation to discover the computer or network from which the attack originated.

  • Containing the breach and mitigating further damage

Computer viruses spread at a rapid pace. Therefore your security specialists should do everything they can to isolate affected systems and limit the damage as confined as possible.

  • Assessing the extent of the damage

When you are convinced that the breach has been contained, analyze your entire system to determine the severity of the incident. The magnitude of the damage will provide you with a better understanding of what was impacted by the breach and what measures you should take next.

  • Reporting to regulatory authorities

Consult with your legal team on how to comply with prevailing cyber security rules and regulations as well as how to report the breach. Also, discuss with them about potential legal ramifications of the incident.

  • Inform your insurer

If you have a cyber liability policy, approach your insurer for assistance with the aftermath of the attack. If you don't have cyber insurance or believe you are underinsured, now might be the time to act.

  • Notify the affected parties

Once you have discovered any outsiders whose data may have been affected, notify them as soon as possible. If you are unsure who was affected, make sure to notify everyone who may have been affected by the attack.

  • PR activities

If the magnitude of the attack was substantial and it impacted other stakeholders in your business, the general public will surely come to know about it. Ensure that you release a timely public statement so that you can stay ahead of and manage the scenario that may follow.

  • Clean up your systems

After you have implemented all the required precautions to limit the damage, you may begin cleaning your systems. You may begin with the isolated devices and networks that may need a total overhaul.

  • Restore lost data

Retracing the route and source of the attack can show all compromised data as well as the approximate date of the attack. From this information, you can locate the most recent backup not affected by the attack. This can be utilized to restore lost data that was backed up on other systems.

  • Strengthen your cyber security protocols

By this point, you should have a good idea of which security areas need to be improved. Use the information you gathered during the recovery period to reinforce your policies and educate your employees even further. It is another good idea to update your response plan and share your observations with your corporate network. This is to ensure your partners are prepared if they encounter a similar scenario and need to involve you.

The footnote:

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of cyber attacks have escalated significantly, resulting in financial and reputational damages for many businesses. Cut to 2023, these cyber security threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities are still a serious concern. Cyber insurance is one ‘safety net’ coming from the insurance industry to help businesses threatened by the increasing growth of cyber threats and cyber-attacks.

It does so by offsetting the costs associated with the damages and recovery, resulting from a data breach, a cyber security incident, or a ransomware attack. It also covers the costs of compliance fines, forensics, crisis communication, lawsuits, investigations, customer refunds, and even extortion payments.