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Incident Management Best Practices: What Your Organization Needs

By Securiti Research Team
Published January 3, 2023 / Updated August 10, 2023

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Organizations spend years, sometimes decades, building their reputation. While data is the proverbial goldmine that can provide organizations with the necessary insights into the best way to serve their customers' needs, getting users to trust an organization with their data is altogether a different story. That is precisely why reputation is so important.

And that is why organizations must invest adequate resources in developing a robust incident management plan to protect consumers’ data. Incident management plans refer to a breach response mechanism that includes containment of the security incident and mitigation risks arising from the incident, data breach assessment to identify whether the incident qualifies as a data breach, data breach risk severity assessment in order to determine if breach needs to be notified, data breach notification to impacted data subjects under applicable privacy laws as well as evaluation and reviewing of security controls.

Security incidents can have lasting consequences for an organization: millions in fines, losses in revenue, and irreparable damage to their customers' trust. Hence, it is vital, critical even, that organizations follow certain practices when developing and deploying their incident management plans. Though simple, these practices can often go a long way in helping organizations avoid the unnecessary burden of dealing with what happens if the incident management plans prove inadequate.

1. Hire The Right People

One of the most crucial steps toward ensuring a sound incident management plan is in place is to undertake all possible measures to hire the right people. This applies to almost all functional aspects of an organization but is especially important for incident management.

This involves ensuring that the people who become part of your incident response team have the proper skill set and the mentality to serve the organization to the best of their abilities.

Of course, the skillset will depend on the nature of your organization itself and the scale of threats it faces. Identifying this will go a long way toward creating a team that is competent and passionate about the job at hand, as well as capable of responding to the incident in an appropriate manner.

Secondly, it is vital that each member's role and responsibility are adequately defined and explained to them. This will not only help you avoid any unnecessary internal conflicts but also aid the implementation of your overall incident management strategy, with each member carrying out their role both effectively and efficiently.

2. Proper Communication Channels

Delays are an incident response team's worst nightmare. A sound incident management response plan relies on timely and seamless communication between all stakeholders, from the end users to the main IT team. Throughout the life cycle of all critical incidents, all stakeholders should be kept in the loop on incident management.

Hence, it is vital that all internal and external communication channels between these stakeholders not only be easily accessible and easy to use but also have a dedicated team regularly checking these communications.

It is essential to regularly send out alerts and status updates on the stage of incident management. Emails, live chats, phone, IMs, and web forms must be made available to the end-user.

At the same time, other internal relevant channels must also be available to ensure that the incident management process can be initiated without undue delay. Creating a portal for self-service is handy in incident management practices as it helps with submitting requests, reporting incidents, assessing solutions, and tracking progress.

3. Run Root-Cause Analysis

Depending on which data regulations an organization is subject to, this may be a legal obligation in some cases. In any case, it is considered a good practice to conduct a detailed root cause analysis to determine the exact causes that led to the incident in the first place.

Such a detailed assessment is usually helpful in identifying underlying problems within existing infrastructure, a gaping blindspot in organizational workflows, or any number of other factors that may have caused the incident.

While running such analysis helps identify the causes of the incident, their other major benefit arises from the insights they can provide related to what improvements need to be made within the existing practices and how best to implement them.

4. Easy-to-Use Knowledge Base

An organization's internal knowledge base is the first information-related resource that the internal employees rely on. These contain information on how to handle incident reports and how to properly document such incidents for both legal and internal assessment purposes.

However, insufficient resources or sources containing inaccurate or inefficient information within the knowledge base can often lead to an information gap between employees that can prove detrimental to the overall incident management plan's effectiveness.

The knowledge base should be designed so that the information architecture is based on the information usefulness hierarchy. High-volume help resources should be easily-accessible with minimal or no restricted resources.

Moreover, the resources should be easily comprehensible, with the solutions provided easy to read and implement. Unnecessarily complicated documentation at this phase can hinder the efficiency of the overall plan.

Lastly, take regular feedback from the incident response team. They're the ones that rely the most on the knowledge base, so it is important to take their feedback seriously to both improve the knowledge base and stack it with resources that will help them perform their roles better.

5. Automate, Automate, Automate

Automation is any organization's best hope of instilling an incident management regime that can be both more effective and efficient than any manual alternative. Automated systems help keep track of not only major incidents like breaches but also minor incidents like system glitches.

You must invest in the right type of solutions that can help your organization from having to continue using vital resources for repetitive tasks. By automating your incident management plans, you can enhance the plan's overall effectiveness, save time and devote your human resources to other tasks that need a human touch.

All the while, parameters can be set to ensure anything from minor incidents, such as hardware and software failure, to significant incidents, such as unauthorized database access, can be detected proactively with the relevant contingencies put into action instantaneously without requiring human involvement.

6. Single Out the Impacted Data

It is not enough to know that you’ve been a victim of a data breach. In some cases, it is considered both good practice and a regulatory requirement for an organization to carry out a detailed assessment to gain valuable insights on what data was impacted exactly.

There are multiple reasons for doing so. Firstly, an organization can assess and analyze the true extent of the breach and how severe it was. Based on that, organizations can decide whether further to report the incident to regulators or impacted individuals. Lastly, organizations can undertake appropriate remedial measures accordingly, and calculate the possible penalties and fines as a result.

7. Connect the Impacted Data to the Impacted User

This is essentially an extension of the aforementioned heading. Data is not separate from the users it belongs to. Particularly in the case of incident management, getting a clear idea of the relationship between the impacted data and users is critical for multiple purposes.

Firstly, most regulations differ in how the impacted users are supposed to be informed of the data breach and what information should be made available to them. Remember, as mentioned earlier, the time immediately after a data breach during the notification period is a crucial time since your organization’s reputation hangs in the balance. You can irreparably damage your PR if you don’t handle the impacted users per the law and undertake all the necessary steps.

8. Breach Notification Requirements

Most data regulations have detailed provisions related to what actions an organization is expected to carry out in the event that it becomes aware of a potential data breach. One such provision is the requirement to inform the impacted users and the primary regulatory authority within the country.

Many regulations or industry standard practices stipulate a specific time frame and level of harm inflicted for such a notification to be sent out to the regulated authority as well as the impacted individual.

Moreover, organizations must include preliminary information related to the data breach itself. While theoretically possible, organizations would be well advised to opt for the automation of this particular step. A reliable data breach management system can help you identify the impacted users instantly so that they can be notified as per the requirements of the regulation they’re subject to.

9. Test Your Response Plan

On paper, your organization may have a near-perfect incident response plan. However, until you’re absolutely sure that all the proper bases have been covered, it’ll remain a plan on paper.

The best practice to ensure that your incident response plan is adequately designed is to carry out regular simulations and drills to see how well your staff is trained to follow the plan, identify any potential blindspots, and where improvements can be made.

Regular simulations also help keep your plan up-to-date with the most current practices and potential threats while also training your staff to be much better prepared in the event of a data breach.

10. Remediation, Not Punishment

Often championed but rarely put into practice, a fundamental tenet of any incident response plan is to figure out where the responsibility lies. To remediate, not punish, that individual(s).

It is not uncommon for human error to be the cause of a data breach. Carelessness in following protocols or ignoring them altogether has often led to notable data incidents. A robust incident response plan must determine where this responsibility lies to cultivate a culture where such problems are resolved via proper re-education and better training rather than finger-pointing.

Furthermore, if such a blameless culture is not encouraged, employees may not be so forthcoming in cooperating with the post-incident assessment if there’s always the threat of severe consequences.

How Can Securiti Help

Data breaches have always been a problem for most organizations for quite some time. The rise in state-sponsored cyberattacks and quantum computing means that organizations have to deal with more data threats of various natures than ever before.

As mentioned earlier, manually addressing these threats would be both laborious, costly, and a waste of resources. Modern incident management plans must rely on automation from the point of detection to the eventual elimination of the threat. It is the only effective strategy to deal with modern data threats.

Securiti is a market leader in providing automated data compliance and governance solutions to enterprises. Each solution is based on state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine-learning-based algorithms.

One such solution is breach management. Thanks to Securiti's breach management, organizations can automate the incident response process by gathering incident details, identifying the scope, autodetecting impacted users, and tracking remediation activities while being completely compliant with global privacy regulations. Securiti’s breach management also facilitates you to notify impacted data subjects and regulatory authorities as per stipulated timelines provided under applicable privacy laws.

Request a demo today and learn how Securiti can help you further solidify your incident management plans.

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