What Does A Cybersecurity Incident Responder Do?

Think about it, if there is an emergency in the real world, we rely on first responders such as paramedics, police and firefighters to help tackle the problem. And in the digital world, there must be an equivalent for breaches and other cybersecurity emergencies.

And there is. A cybersecurity incident responder can be the difference between a thwarted attack or one that is handled quickly and a mass data leak that causes disruption to thousands. But in many cases, businesses are without an incident responder as they don’t understand just how important they are.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at what a cybersecurity incident responders is and what it is they actually do on a daily basis.

Who is the Cybersecurity Incident Responder?

A cybersecurity incident responder (CSIR) can also be referred to as an Intrusion Analyst or CSIRT Engineer. As the name suggests, they are the first responders when it comes to cybersecurity incident response within a business.

The role requires the cybersecurity incident responder to act rapidly in the face of any cybersecurity threats, incidents or cyberattacks on an organisation. What’s more, the job requires the use of forensic tools which enable them to quickly investigate any security issues as they unfold.

The CSIR is typically part of the cybersecurity incident response team (CSIRT) if a business has a dedicated, full team of experts. If not, they will work alongside the in-house security and tech team.

What does a CSIR do?

The role of a cybersecurity incident responder will vary from business to business, but there are lots of typical duties that most responders will have to take on. These include:

1. Getting incident response plans in place

In order to comply with data protection guidelines, businesses are encouraged to have an incident response plan in place. It is the job of the incident responder to put this plan together and make sure that everyone involved knows their role and the key information. This includes creating the supporting documents that set out incident response strategies for cyber threats, as well as how to contain and recover data should a breach take place.

2. Providing first-line response and initial management

One of the key things that a CSIR does is responding to cybersecurity threats in as near real-time as they possibly can. They must tackle any new or developing cybersecurity-related issues, and this might require them to update networks, firewalls, security software, authentication protocols, etc., in order to stop or mitigate the attack.

3. Running post-event assessments

Whether an attempted attack is a failure or a success, an assessment must be conducted. The incident responder must work with cybersecurity analysts and other members of the IT team to assess the event and identify the cause. They must also determine what information (if any) has been accessed, stolen or tampered with.

4. Minimising the impact

Following on from the assessment, the team must work together to minimise any harm caused by the event and bolster security systems as quickly as possible if they haven’t already. When the incident is under control, the team can begin to recover systems and data and get the business back up and running.

This could mean a number of things such as restoring backups, rebuilding systems, patching any bugs or changing authentication details and access.

5. Notifying those who have been affected

Depending on the severity of the breach, cybersecurity incident responders may have to notify the legal and communications representatives, as well as regulatory bodies and any individuals that have been adversely affected. This is particularly true for complying with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

6. Reviewing what happened

Once the incident is over, it’s time to learn from the event. This means the incident responder must work closely with the rest of the IT and security team to understand what went wrong and how they can tackle these vulnerabilities in the future.

As a first responder, they are the most qualified to review the event and help the team to get stronger security measures in place. This part of their role could also include updating the incident response plan to make sure it’s as effective as possible.

7. Maintaining security systems and response plans

Another part of a cybersecurity incident responders role is to keep on top of the maintenance of the cybersecurity systems, even if this is just by working with other members of the security team from time to time. They must play a role in proactively monitoring the company’s cybersecurity systems.

So, in some cases, this might involve taking part in penetration and vulnerability testing, network management, security audits, risk analysis and more.

Why businesses need cybersecurity incident responders

We’ve outlined what a cybersecurity incident responder does and briefly touched on how this can benefit a business. However, in this next section, we’re going to look in more detail at why businesses need CSIRs. The key reasons include:

  • Because cyberattacks and data breaches are on the rise and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, meaning they’re able to break through more systems and networks
  • To help mitigate the risk of a cybersecurity breach and quickly deal with an incident if there is one. Incident responders can stop an attack from happening in the first place, or at the very least, minimise the amount of damage done
  • They can also help you to get an effective incident response plan in place and review this regularly to ensure it is as put to date as possible
  • They can help the security team to bolster their systems to protect the business and reduce the risk of another attack in the future

How to become a cybersecurity incident responder

Finally, being a cybersecurity incident responder is a highly specialised role. In order to become a CSIR, a bachelors degree or masters in a relevant subject is usually required. For example, a degree in computer forensics, cybersecurity or another related field.

It is also possible to start a career as a cybersecurity incident responder by working your way up the ladder whilst training and studying relevant professional certifications.

Because of the important role they hold, most cybersecurity incident responder roles will require at least two or three years of prior work experience in relevant fields.

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