Cyberattack Prevention with the 6-Phase Incident Response Plan

A holistic cybersecurity strategy must include both proactive defenses to deter threats and responsive measures to counter attacks. An incident response plan (IRP) is a formal guide that outlines the procedures and responsibilities an organization takes during a cyber incident. It essentially tells an organization’s leaders, IT team, and staff what to do amid and after a cyberattack incident such as a data breach, data loss, or exposure. Therefore, a solid incident response plan is vital for cyberattack prevention.

Why do you need an incident response plan for cyberattack prevention?

Even with the most powerful cyber defenses, you can’t completely rule out the possibility of an attack or an internal data-related incident. An IRP prepares your organization to deal with any threats that manage to slip through the barriers. The main goal of an IRP is to minimize damages and prevent unproductive chaos and confusion during a cyber emergency. Plus, it’s a compliance requirement for many data security and privacy standards, including HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.

There are several proposed threat response frameworks, but NIST and SANS IRPs are the most popular standards today. And apart from a few verbiage differences, the two are remarkably similar. Here’s a summarized step-by-step guide to incident response planning as recommended by NIST and SANS:


Firstly, thorough preparation is the first step in designing an incident response plan. Begin by creating a complete list of all your IT assets (computers, data systems, servers, network devices, etc.) and rank them by order of importance and security vulnerability. From there, you can determine what constitutes a threat and the kind of threats that warrant a prompt response.

Finally, assign threat response roles and responsibilities to the employees and ensure they are thoroughly trained on the same. Once all that is done, you’ll end up with a working incident response template covering all possible threat scenarios.


Once a security incident occurs, try to learn as much as you can about it as quickly as possible. Focus on investigating the threat’s source, path, and destination. Also, find out the affected operations or compromised systems. Understanding the incident helps you move to the next step.


Keep the threat from spreading by stopping it in its tracks or restricting it to the affected systems. The containment procedures will depend on the nature of the threat. It could mean taking the affected servers or workstations offline, cutting internet connections, applying software patches, or deleting redundant or recoverable data.

Cyberattack prevention with incident response planning.


Once you’ve stopped the bleeding, you need to find a way to eliminate the threat. Again, the weapon of choice depends on the threat in question. For instance, you may have to purge and rebuild the affected systems to get rid of a malware infection, update or patch a flawed software application, or reconfigure the network system to stop DoS traffic. Surely, cyberattack prevention is better than dealing with fallout of an incident.


After successfully eradicating the threat, you can safely restore all systems to their normal status and operations. The scope of this stage will depend on how much disruption was caused to the IT infrastructure during the containment and eradication processes. However, recovery mainly involves restoring data backups and bringing systems back online.

This is also a good time to assess the level of damage incurred and notify the relevant authorities or victims about the loss or exposure of any sensitive records.

Lessons learned

Lastly, have a sit-down with everyone involved in the response efforts and discuss what you’ve collectively learned from the incident. Determine what you could have done better and, more importantly, how to prevent a similar incident from recurring. This last stage is an opportunity to gather valuable insights into strengthening your overall cybersecurity posture and improving the incident response strategy. The key is prevent future data breach incidents from happening. Going forward, cyberattack prevention is the key to a good incident response plan.


In conclusion, dealing with a cyber threat is a race against the clock; every second that passes strengthens the threat and widens the damage scope. An IRP is a crucial damage control measure that prepares your organization to quickly and effectively counter and recover from imminent threats.

However, as much as you might be prepared to face threats, prevention is always better than cure. Seal all your access-related loopholes with GateKeeper. Our automated password manager ensures safe user authentication through 2FA solutions, passwordless login, and proximity-based access. GateKeeper is access security and user authentication made easy – helping to prevent data breach incidents that need responding. A great next step to an incident response plan is a cyberattack prevention plan. Schedule a live demo to see how to prevent cyberattacks and incidents using automation solutions.

Capterra Best Value for Authentication Jun-20
Capterra Ease of Use for Authentication Jun-20

See GateKeeper Enterprise advanced MFA in action.

Take a self-guided tour of how you can evolve from passwords. Then you're really saving time with automation.