A Step-By-Step Guide to Establishing an Incident Response Plan for your Financial Firm

A Step-By-Step Guide to Establishing an Incident Response Plan for your Financial Firm

It's no secret that cyberattacks are on the rise and becoming increasingly more sophisticated by the year. And while any business can be a target, financial firms are more vulnerable because they hold a wealth of valuable data that makes them attractive prey. Therefore, it’s essential for financial businesses to have an effective incident response plan (IRP) to mitigate the risks associated with data breaches and other cyber incidents. 

Whether you’re looking to create your IRP or want to bolster your current strategy, this blog is for you. This article provides a detailed process of establishing an IRP for financial firms using a cybersecurity framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

NIST’s Five Cybersecurity Functions: A Framework for Your IRP

NIST’s cybersecurity framework provides a common language and structure for organizations to discuss cybersecurity risks while offering guidance on how to improve cybersecurity posture. 

The framework’s approach consists of five core cybersecurity functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. Each function represents a set of activities that must be done so your financial firm can be prepared for and respond effectively to a cyber incident.

1. Identify

The first step in creating an effective IRP is identifying your assets, which includes understanding what data you have, where it resides, and its level of sensitivity. This helps determine what data needs to be protected and which security controls are necessary to protect it. Having a good grasp of your data protection needs can also prevent security incidents from occurring in the first place.

2. Protect

This aspect of the NIST framework entails implementing controls to safeguard your assets from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. These controls can be physical, such as locks on doors and security cameras, or they can be logical, such as firewalls and encryption. The key is to select controls that are appropriate for the level of risk you are trying to protect against.

3. Detect

Once you have put measures to protect your data, you need to focus on detecting threats. This involves setting up proactive monitoring and logging systems so that you can be alerted of suspicious activity quickly and identify any potential weaknesses in your defenses. In addition, you should have procedures in place for investigating security incidents and determining whether these are actual threats.

4. Respond

Your response plan should include steps for containing the breach, eradicating the threat, and recovering any data that may have been lost. The Respond stage is also where you actualize your communication plan to keep all stakeholders informed of the situation and what steps you’re undertaking to contain the threat. 

To ensure that your response is coordinated, it’s vital to have a team that will oversee the response and recovery process and anticipate all the potential scenarios that could occur so these can be addressed effectively.

5. Recover

The final step is recovery, which focuses on returning your systems to normal operations as quickly as possible. This may involve restoring data from backups, implementing new security controls, or making changes to your processes to prevent other incidents from occurring.


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Other critical factors to consider when developing your IRP

Following the five-point framework outlined by NIST can greatly help your financial firm create an effective IRP. However, there remain several considerations to ensure your IRP doesn’t fail. 

Make sure you:

  • Assign accountability – Identify the team that will implement your IRP and assign specific roles and responsibilities to each member. This ensures that everyone acts efficiently and purposely when a security incident occurs.
  • Secure assistance – Determine key external vendors including legal, insurance, and forensic providers that will assist you when an incident happens. This will guarantee that you have the help you need as you roll out your IRP.
  • Introduce predictability – This means standardizing crucial response, recovery, or remediation steps, and may entail automating some processes to speed up response time.
  • Create legal readiness – Compile all files pertaining to legal obligations your firm will face in case it suffers from security incidents. Doing so will allow you to fulfill those obligations with ease if the need arises.
  • Mandate experience – Regularly test and exercise your plan so that everyone in the firm can carry out their role in case the IRP needs to be implemented.

Lastly, make sure your firm reviews its IRP at least once a year, and whenever the company goes through changes that could affect either the IRP's operation or the incident response team leading those operations.

An effective IRP incorporates various solutions and processes that strengthen your business's data security before an attack, help with incident mitigation, speed up your company's recovery, and protect it from legal problems should follow-up litigation arise. If you need help with your IRP, drop us a line at Charles IT. We have a wide range of IT solutions and services and a pool of experts to help you secure your data!

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