Don’t Be a Failure; Use These 4 Key Ways to Improve Your Cyber Response Plan Today

By: | November 27, 2018

Paul King is SVP and national management and professional services director at USI Insurance Services based in Dallas, Texas. USI’s cyber practice leverages the USI ONE Advantage® with clients across the world. USI ONE integrates proprietary business analytics with a networked team of local and national experts to evaluate the client’s risk profile and identify targeted solutions. Paul can be contacted at [email protected] or 214-443-3107. For more information on USI, visit or follow them on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

Sophisticated, widespread and costlier than ever, recent cyber incidents have shown that corporations require more than a well-secured network and technology infrastructure to respond to an adverse cyber event. Regardless of size or industry, businesses need a strong Cyber Incident Response Plan (CIRP) that outlines how specific processes and stakeholders should react to a cyber threat.


Recent studies show the longer it takes to detect, respond and contain a cyber event, the higher the adverse financial impact. This is one of the key lessons from last year’s data breach at credit reporting bureau Equifax, which, following one of the largest cyber attacks in U.S. history, was paralyzed by indecision and poor response execution. According to cyber security experts, Equifax, which has incurred in excess of $439 million in breach-related costs through September 2018, lacked an effective CIRP with policies and procedures to guide response requirements.

It’s important for organizations to learn from the Equifax case and other similar real-world examples by taking proactive steps to improve their CIRP and mitigate financial loss in the event of a cyber incident. When looking to strengthen your organization’s CIRP, consider focusing on the following key areas:

1) Decision Making and Coordination

During a cyber incident, many organizations rely on one or two key people with institutional knowledge to provide guidance and make critical decisions. This approach is a shortfall of incident response plans, leading to response failure if those decision makers are not immediately available.

It is critical to have a full team of individuals with strong institutional knowledge, specific responsibilities and decision-making authority. Not only top executives or IT representatives, but also legal, risk management and physical security, to lead coordination of real-time information sharing and decision making across various business units within the organization. The CIRP plan should also detail each person’s responsibilities during the event and detail step-by-step procedures to address the cyber incident.

2) Disclosure & Public Relations Strategy

A good CIRP should contain a strong incident communication strategy that covers compliance-related issues, media communications, internal communications as well as timeframes and guidelines for disclosing a cyber incident to affected parties. Depending on the jurisdiction and industry, incident reporting may be required by law to regulators (such as Attorney Generals and industry-specific regulators like the Office for Civil Rights for Healthcare), other law enforcement authorities and individuals affected by the breach.

Ultimately, a strong CIRP should contain a list of trusted partners who understand the organization’s processes and systems and can respond immediately to a crisis on-time and on-budget and in conjunction with any in-force cyber insurance policies.

Incident communications must strike the right balance between openness and protection. Press releases, announcements or disclosure statements should be coordinated with legal and communication teams and contain clear language for the intended audience.

3) Preselecting Incident Responders

A strong CIRP should contain a shortlist of incident responders who have been vetted and approved by the totality of the organization and not just the IT department. For example, legal may have firms they want to use that IT does not know about and vice versa. The list should outline CIRP vendors’ contact information, specific expertise and hourly rate. It may be vital to include whether a listed vendor offers a retainer, which guarantees quick and priority response during a crisis.

Ultimately, a strong CIRP should contain a list of trusted partners who understand the organization’s processes and systems and can respond immediately to a crisis on-time and on-budget and in conjunction with any in-force cyber insurance policies.

4) Practice Cyber Incident Response Planning

CIRPs tend to emphasize frequent testing of network recovery backup systems, but there is often little practice with the crisis management process of the response plan. It is equally critical to test both components, as either may cause a response to fail if not practiced and ingrained.


Organizations should routinely test notification and communication procedures to prepare individuals with incident response responsibilities for actual events. The test can be used to update incident handling and reporting procedures, validate emergency contact information of vendors, law enforcement and stakeholders and provide a forum for new and emergent needs of the CIRP to be built and implemented.

Experts recommend testing exercises at least once every 12 months, to help identify any operational gaps and hiccups in execution that need to be corrected or eliminated. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]