Building the Best Incident Response Team

Building the best incident response team blog banner: incident response team working together on cybersecurity issue

When it comes to critical incident management, IT teams require a structured approach that will ensure that any cybersecurity event is swiftly remediated. And no incident management plan is complete without a clearly defined incident response team. 

Whether your team is looking to establish an incident response team from scratch or just improve existing response practices, this blog will help your organization understand what it takes to build the best incident response team.  

What is an Incident Response Team?

An incident response team is a group of IT professionals responsible for identifying, prioritizing, responding to, and resolving critical cybersecurity incidents within an organization. Their primary goal is to quickly handle incidents by minimizing damage, restoring normal operations, and preventing future recurrences. 

Some of the incidents that response teams are tasked with are data breaches, system failures, unauthorized access, and other security related events. In addition to incident response, teams must also maintain and optimize their response plan, and conduct post-incident reviews to ensure the success of their incident management procedures.

Building the Best Incident Response Team

Building the best incident response team requires strong team coordination, a well-structured plan, and efficient processes. So, we have created a guide to help your organization develop a superior incident response team: 

Define the Scope of the Incident Response Team

The first step when creating an incident response team is to clearly communicate the scope of the team’s objectives. In this step, it is important that IT teams define both the types of incidents that the team will handle and the extent of their responsibilities. As this can vary from company to company, organizations must evaluate their specific needs to determine the scope.

Team Roles and Responsibilities

After defining the scope, teams must identify the roles and responsibilities of members within the incident response team. Some key roles and their responsibilities include:

Incident Manager – The incident manager oversees the entire incident response process and coordinates the team’s efforts to ensure that incidents are swiftly resolved and all potential vulnerabilities are mitigated.

Communication Lead – The communication lead manages all internal and external communication during and after an incident. This can include delivering incident alerts and updates to relevant personnel, collaborating with public relations teams, and ultimately ensuring that all communication is consistent and up-to-date, so that all team members are informed and aligned in their goals.

On-Call Responders – On-call responders are available around the clock to ensure they can take immediate action in the case of an incident. They must quickly assess, contain, and respond to critical incidents upon identification. It is imperative to employ robust on-call management solutions that always mobilize the right on-call staff.

Analysts – Analysts are responsible for doing a detailed investigation of critical incidents. They will analyze all of the relevant data and evidence collected, to identify the root cause and do an impact assessment. This role is critical when it comes to remediation and can enhance post-incident reviews, enabling teams to optimize response processes.

Customer Support Lead – The customer support lead handles all customer-facing communication related to the incident. They answer customer questions and concerns, providing them with accurate and timely information about the incident and its current status. The main goal is to maintain organizational reputation and customer trust while the incident takes place.

Compliance Specialist – The compliance specialist ensures that the response plan, and all actions taken adhere to regulations and industry standards. They must maintain documentation and evidence that demonstrates the organization’s compliance throughout the incident management process. They also conduct audits and work with the legal team to protect the organization from legal risks and ensure its accountability and transparency.

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Best Practices for Incident Response Teams

Host Training and Development Sessions

Once the incident response team has been established, it is crucial that they can effectively perform all of their required tasks. To ensure this, teams can host training sessions and mock incidents where the response team can practice following the organization’s response plan. 

Establish Strong Communication Processes

Teams must have an effective way to notify the incident response team of critical security events. Most response teams employ an incident alert management solution with automated alert routing capabilities. These tools ensure that the right on-call responder immediately receives a loud, distinguishable alert right to their mobile device. 

Additionally, the incident team has various other stakeholders that they must communicate with. So, employing a mass notification solution that enables them to swiftly distribute crucial information and instructions via multiple communication channels (SMS, phone call, and email) is essential to keeping stakeholders informed.

Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement 

The incident response team should be collaborative and transparent to ensure that they can continually improve their processes. They should be encouraged to provide their feedback, mistakes, and experiences resulting from incident response at the post-incident reviews, to establish a culture of trust, maximize collective knowledge, and facilitate continuous improvement.

Automated Incident Response: OnPage Alert Management

OnPage can significantly enhance the success of your incident response team through these advanced benefits: 

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Automated Alert Routing 

Alerts triggered from critical incidents are automatically routed based on on-call schedules and escalation policies, ensuring that incident alerts reach the right on-call engineer every time, immediately mobilizing responders to take action.

Automated Escalation Policies

In the event that the first on-call responder doesn’t respond, teams can establish escalation policies that will automatically escalate the alert to the next on-call responder. This ensures that incidents don’t go unnoticed if the first on-call engineer is unavailable. 

Fail-Safe Digital Scheduling

Incident response teams can create schedules in the OnPage system to ensure equitable on-call duties and alert routing based on schedules/rotations. In the case where human error results in a coverage gap or schedule misconfiguration, alerts will be delivered to the entire on-call team so that the incident catches someone’s attention. Responders can check their own and their teams’ most up-to-date schedules on the go via their phone app.

Two-Way Collaboration

Teams have access to secure two-way messaging that is SSL encrypted, enabling enhanced collaboration among team members and more informed decision-making during incident response. 

Post-Incident Reporting

Incident managers have visibility into a variety of reporting details in the OnPage system to enhance post-incident reviews. They can view audit trails, with sent, delivered, and read recipients, and a full reporting dashboard via the web app. 

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