An incident response plan provides detailed steps for crisis management in the face of a cyber attack.

Planning for When a Cyber Attack Strikes

Incident response planning may seem like the projection of the worst-case scenario.

That’s because it actually is.

An incident response plan provides Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with the guidelines to react and recover when a cyber attack strikes. These attacks may be Potentially Unwanted Programs (PuPs), phishing attempts, ransomware attacks, or other advanced persistent threats.

SME Cyber Attacks Occur. Frequently.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB),  the average annual loss for SMEs reached $80,000 in 2020. 70% of ransomware incidents occurred in companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, and 60% of cyber attacks occur in companies reporting revenues of less than $50 million.

Cyber readiness incident response

Cyber attackers reach practically every sector these days, especially any business that collects valuable data. This data may include personal information, banking details, or legal data. Stealing and holding this data enables attackers to not only target the attacked business but the individual clients whose data has been looted.

Cyber Readiness is Required

As cyber-attacks grow more common, SMEs must prepare to respond.

However, SMEs frequently forgo incident response plans. Due to the size and availability of resources, these businesses generally do not prioritize cybersecurity awareness. Furthermore, they may not have disaster recovery procedures and plans in place. In many cases, they may not have data backups.

While cybersecurity education plays a vital role in cyber-attack prevention, many SMEs don’t know this type of training exists. A study conducted by the Cyber Readiness Institute indicated only 46% of SME owners provided cybersecurity training to employees when they moved online in 2020 in wake of the pandemic. There’s a good chance that many of the companies in the other 54% didn’t know that the training existed, or where to find it if they did.

Reasons to Create an Incident Response Plan

An incident response plan mitigates the risk of a cyber attack. With a thorough plan in hand, business owners know that they have a strategy in place to protect their business from cyber-attacks, steps outlined to recover data and systems, and a well-thought-through plan in place to maintain client trust in even the direst situation.

An incident response plan offers the following a number of potential benefits.

Disaster readiness: By thinking through the prospective threats and the required responses in advance an SME can prioritize the required steps for the response, map out the resources required for recovery, and manage their employees in the face of the attack.

Speed to respond: When an attack is detected, an SME will be prepared to put a plan in action. The plan will empower employees, allowing them to place their confidence in the prescribed operational actions. This means they’ll know exactly what to do when, and prevents missing any important steps. It will also enable a team of responders to alert key stakeholders about the incident.

Reputation management: An incident response plan protects an SME from brand erosion and litigation. If an incident exposes a client or partner’s personal data, they may well terminate their contracts and find a new service provider. That costs the business money and may compromise the longevity of the business.

Frameworks for Developing an Incident Response Plan

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defined the phases of a cyberattack and provided a framework for developing an incident response plan. Each plan is recommended to include the following steps:

  • Prepare
  • Identify
  • Contain
  • Eradicate
  • Recover
  • Review

Rules to Live by When Preparing an Incident Response Plan

Rule 1: Expect the Worse. The best way to prepare an incident response plan is to take stock of your business systems, identifying those technologies that are most likely to attract threats. This plan will assume that your business will be subject to a cyber attack.

Incident Response Plan SME

Rule 2: Make backups. Ensure copies of your critical data and programs are available offline. Backups enable businesses to recover their data after a cyber attack.

Rule 3: Deploy layered security. By relying on layers of security –  from an antivirus tool to catch known threats, to End Point Detection and Response to catch advanced threats, and firewalls to control traffic or spam filters to detect undesirable emails – layered security is key to blocking cyber attackers.

Rule 4: Employ Human Analysts.  Tactics like defense in depth combine state-of-the-art technology with human-led threat hunting. While the technological resources automatically monitor a network, human analysts adeptly detect the nature of an incident. Businesses like CYDEF specialize in offering machine learning platforms combined with expert analysts.

Rule 5: Develop a cyberattack recovery plan. Organizations that fall victim to a cyber-attack often realize they could have avoided disruption and financial loss if they had an incident response plan in place.

The Bottom Line: Incident Response Plans Save Businesses

An incident response plan is like an evacuation plan. When a disaster, like a fire, strikes a facility, the evacuation response plan ensures that people understand what to do when.

An incident response plan enables an SME to halt an incident, restate all data and networks to operational capacity, and minimize the disruption to the business. It’s an invaluable resource.

Reach out today to learn more about how CYDEF can support your incident response plan.