Are you upset at the way a hacker has made you look silly on the internet? Perhaps some of your sensitive information has been released into jeopardy after being tapped by a cyber-criminal. Regardless of what actions have been taken against you and your online profile, it is best to learn how to become a cyber incident responder. Not doing so means you are making yourself an open target for criminals and an easy job for law enforcement, both internally and externally.

Or maybe you want to penetrate this new domain, make a career shift, or are exiting to learn new stuff.

I am happy you are here!

Cyber security is a rapidly growing field requiring responders to identify, assess, and mitigate threats quickly. And what you need right now is to know how the incident responder role can be the best for you or your company. Indeed, it is an essential part of the cyber security team and requires individuals with various skills. This article will explain the responsibilities of a cyber security responder, provide tips on how to become one, and offer resources to help you get started.

When Has the Whole Thing Started?

In light of the ever-increasing significance of maintaining data privacy and integrity, more and more businesses are turning to incident responders to help them in the event of a data breach. But what exactly is an incident responder, and when was the first time a company needed one?

An incident responder is a person or team responsible for dealing with the immediate aftermath of a data breach. That includes identifying the extent of the damage, containing the breach, and working to prevent future incidents.

The first time a company needed an incident responder was likely in the wake of the Target data breach in 2013. This massive breach affected over 110 million people and resulted in Target being fined $18.5 million by the U.S. government. Since then, other companies like Equifax and Yahoo have also suffered significant data breaches, stressing the need to be prepared for any potential incidents that may arise.

But we trace it back to 1988 when Robert Tappan Morris created the first virus and waged the denial.-of-service (DoS) attack. The internet insult infected 6,000 computers, requiring $200 and $53,000 to clean all computers from viruses. 

So, the American Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced a new initiative to address all future similar attacks called the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERT). And now, it has become part of Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute.

Now, each business has to hire a cyber security team or at least an incident respondent, regardless of size, scale, or industry. These cyber specialists are the ones who can quickly assess the situation, determine the severity, and put together a plan of action. Incident responders are also skilled at communicating with employees and customers during a crisis.

In addition, some governments have mandated that specific industries employ incident responders to protect their residents’ personal information. That creates a massive market for all job seekers who want to hone new skills to land a job in such a prosperous area. 

What Does Cyber Incident Responder Actually do? (Job Description) 

  • Recognise any possible vulnerabilities. – Set a protocol to handle any emergency
  • Design penetration tests. – Collaborate with other I.T. team members.
  • Facilitate communication during emergencies. – Monitor systems and applications.

A computer virus, hack, or another incident can disrupt a business’s everyday operations. They can affect data and a computer system’s physical hardware and software. As a result, companies risk significant losses due to these types of accidents. In such situations, the company must understand how to deal with and respond accordingly. That is typically what incident response is all about. 

When a computer system is affected by such an incident, the company must identify the cause and eliminate the malign code before normal operations resume. Incident responders help in this task by taking charge of the response after a breach. They are specially trained staff members who immediately take control of the reaction after an incident. They conduct thorough investigations and take immediate steps to mitigate the damage caused by the malign code. That includes contacting computer security experts and antivirus software companies for help. During this process, they keep records of all their actions to ensure accountability.

So, the incident responder is responsible for managing the whole situation:

  1. They’ll take stock of the problem and decide how best to proceed.
  2. They will coordinate with other responders to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  3. They will work to resolve the issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The role of an incident responder is critical in ensuring that incidents are handled correctly. Without incident responders, incidents could quickly spiral out of control. Therefore, incident Responders must maintain a cool head and think clearly under pressure.

In addition, they must inform the concerned authorities about the breach and make necessary arrangements for staff members while they undergo stress relief and repatriation procedures if required. They must also notify concerned staff members about the breach so that they can prepare themselves mentally for what could happen next.

Important: Incident responders can work as a consultant or employee depending on the nature of the industry and the sensitive information your company have. For example, finical institutions usually have a permanent full-time to work on any bugs and take the proper action constantly. 

The response role also includes informing concerned employees about possible reprisals from hackers or other sources of criminal activity. Incidents can lead to blackmail or harassment from malignant sources, compromising businesses’ operations and reputations.

Incident responders also are responsible for producing regular reports for management and law enforcement to keep the administration enlightened about what it’s going on in the system and forecasting any possible threats.   

Finally, incident responders must be aware of various tools to respond to incidents. Even after an incident, restoring normal operations as quickly as possible is essential. A business must avoid letting an incident stop them from earning money- instead, they should recover from an incident quickly and resume normal operations as soon as possible.

To do this, they should have ready-to-use tools for incident response available in their office or warehouse. These include backup generators for critical systems such as air conditioning, security screens for windows, lights, heaters and fans, food and water for staff members working overtime, first aid kits, non-digital record-keeping systems and more.

Note: A security specialist or administrator can work as a cyber security responder since they have relevant experience in this area.

Key Skills to Be a Professional Cyber Incident Responder 

As the number of cyberattacks continues to rise, the demand for professional incident responders is also on the rise. But what does it take to be a successful incident responder? Here are some critical skills that are essential for any professional cyber security responder:

What Does a Cyber Incident Responder Do? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Soft Skills

1. Decision-making: The ability to think quickly and make decisions under pressure. When a cyber security incident occurs, every second counts. Therefore, incident responders need to be able to promptly assess the situation and make decisions about how to resolve it best.

2. Excellent communication skills: Incident responders need to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical staff verbally and written to coordinate an effective response. This set of skills includes being able to articulate clearly the nature of the problem and its potential impact.

3. Dealing with constraints: Actually, the role of cyber security is reactionary, which means working under pressure is a lifestyle for them. They will always face emergencies and need to keep cool until they find the best solution to end the attack.  

5. Critical thinking: Incident responders need an analytical mindset to prevent the system from being attacked. They need to have the potential to gather, assess and decide what better action they need to take. That should include observing, reasoning and reflection. In the end, you should be open to criticism and start it all over again to test something new.

6. Time management: Since good time management can help reduce stress levels and increase productivity, it’s critical to hone your skills to master them. Incident responders need to stay organised and assess their responsibilities for priority, such as choosing which network should be observed first and what task need to finish depending on its urgency.    

7. Good organisational skills: A successful incident response requires careful planning and coordination. Incident responders need to keep track of all the moving parts and ensure everyone knows how to do it.

8. Flexibility: Incidents can often take unexpected turns, so cyber security responders need to be flexible and adaptable. Also, they should be willing to adapt to changes since cybercrime is an ever-evolving threat, and you, as a responder, ought to learn more about their techniques and catch the possible right solution.  

9. Open-mindedness: Cyber responders need to collaborate with the whole I.T. department or other people in the organisation because the core is to save the workplace from harm. It fosters an environment where new ideas are welcome, and people are willing to listen to others. This type of atmosphere is essential to creating a productive and innovative workplace.

10. Patience: Cyberattacks can take time to detect and mitigate. Even the most well-prepared organisations can fall victim to a sophisticated cyberattack. Once an attack is underway, it can take days or even weeks to detect and contain it. That is why patience is critical during a cyberattack, while you need to focus on details, which could change the whole process.

Hard Skills

1. Strong technical skills: A successful incident responder must have strong technical skills in order to be able to understand and resolve complex issues. So, building an efficient knowledge of I.T. is a must; your experience and how much you know will determine which level you can reach in the incident response field.  

2. Understanding legislation: Almost all countries worldwide set a series of regulations to punish attackers. As a cyber responder, you should have a background in these laws to use them effectively against any crimes and compensate your company physically and mentally.

3. Good mathematical and computer skills: All incident responders must know how to program computers and operate software systems- including word processors, spreadsheets, databases and network management tools.

4. Understanding Ethics: Cyber security responders should know the ethics of saving company data. It could vary from place to place, but before starting any job or delivering any task, you need to ask about the ethical side to cement yourself as a professional cyber security specialist. 

5. Investigation: When we think about cybercrimes, most of us think about the defending attitude. But part of the process is to investigate. They need to use all available techniques and procedures to analyse the system, probe for vulnerabilities, report any and suggest how to fix them.

6. Cyber security Code: Before taking any action, you should ask about what is the code of practice to ensure that you are on the right track. This code is designed to help organisations better understand and implement cyber security controls. It includes assessing risks, programming security audits, selecting and enforcing rules, and monitoring their effectiveness. You need to understand all of them. 

7. Analysis and reverse engineering: You should prove a good experience using reverse engineering to recover the system after fixing damages. Both analysing and engineering processes are used to understand better online threats and how to prevent them.

8. Understanding various computer forensic tools: You should be competent to use a bunch of computer forensic tools to investigate crimes, gather evidence, and track down criminals. By understanding these tools, specialists can better protect their organisations from cyber offences.

9. Producing detailed incident reports: Incident reports provide documentation of what happened during a security breach or other type of incident. This documentation can be used to help improve the organisation’s security posture by identifying weaknesses that were exploited. And it will help I.T. departments get back to it as a reference to see the company’s records or even conduct data analysis to minimise such possibilities.

9. Producing detailed incident reports: Incident reports provide documentation of what happened during a security breach or other

10. Establishing internal and external protocols: Internal protocols help to ensure that only authorised personnel have access to sensitive information. In contrast, external protocols help to defend against attacks from outside the organisation. By establishing these protocols, specialists can help to keep data safe and secure. Again, this could be a playbook for a set of security problems to follow up to upgrade. 

Education, Required Certifications & Experience

Cyber security response is a group of I.T. specialists that respond to data breaches and cyber-attacks. These specialists are in high demand as organisations become more reliant on technology daily. Anyone with a good understanding of computers and the internet can become a cyber security responder. However, a responder needs several requirements and prerequisites regarding education, certifications, and experience to respond effectively. Plus, no one could follow instructions or complete any task remotely. 

Let’s break it down to know what steps you should take now to find your dream job.

What Does a Cyber Incident Responder Do? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Education

The required education to start as an incident responder includes a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer forensics, information assurance, computer engineering, or B.S. in cyber security or a related field. However, some companies may prefer a candidate with an advanced degree which is excellent for you to transmit to the upper level in your career path, as many other opportunities will come your way, such as senior intrusion analyst or CSIRT manager.

Note: some employers might focus on your experience and what you can actually do instead of holding any B.A. degree. But we always suggest taking the professional path to position yourself in a better role with a high possibility of getting promoted and earning the desired salaries. 

Certifications

Many incident responders also have certifications from organisations. Indeed any relevant professional certification will help you a lot to demonstrate your skills. Just keep in mind there are many certificates and institutions around, and you should be picky about paying for certifications. That means the requirements vary significantly depending on position, industry, and the company you apply for. 

Pro tip: looking for a mentor to help you in your cyber security career journey will be a good idea. We need to get motivated by other stories. And you’d be amazed how many people are willing to provide a hand.

However, we compiled the most significant certifications you can start with, according to cyber specialists:

  • International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC).
  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
  • GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
  • GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA)
  • GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
  • Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst (CREA)
  • Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)

Experience

In addition to formal education and training, experience working in information security or a related field is often required. For example, almost all incident responders must have 2-3 years of relevant experience in computer forensics, network security, computer investigation or cyber security.

If you don’t have any of them, start building your experience in forensic tools, which are much more desirable for many employers. 

Important: so, the excellent question now is, what should I do when all employers need experience, and I don’t have any?

Well, online courses, workshops, boot camps, internships, and training with any project you have worked on will bolster your resume to convince the employer you can do this job. These projects can include simple technical reports, setting up a security system, or proving how you can use specific tools. 

Pro tip: get involved with professional communities, summits, Linkedin groups, and any others to get closer to professional responders and don’t be reluctant to ask them about possible training at their companies. 

Salaries and Career Outlook

Often, the salary of security incident responders is going to be between £60.800 and £100.000 annually, based on a study conducted by Payscale lists. However, this average might vary depending on the industry, employer, and geographical location. 

And this rate will increase by 13% in the future years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Also, Washington, D.C., Singapore and Berlin are the top-paying cities for cyber security incident responders, based on a new analysis from TechShielder.

And the best industries to get a well-paid job in the cyber security domain are information technology, finance and banking, and business and consulting, according to Payscale. 

Extra information you need to know: 

  • Cyber security will be among the best and most in-demand roles by the next decade. Of course, incident response is the top of the fastest-growing career paths within cyber security. (Source: IDC).
  • Artificial intelligence (A.I.) technologies can conduct many cyber security duties. However, the A.I. still needs a while to be able to do response tasks because the assessments related to computer network defence and incident engineers need human guidance. 
  • All individuals willing to expand their incident response experience are expected to be hired for many years. 

What Does Your Life Look Like as a Cyber Security Incident Responder?

Are you excited to start your incident response career?

Okay brilliant! But before you go, something is still missing; what will your day or workflow be like? 

First, you should know that your daily tasks vary depending on the industry norm you are working in and your job type (freelancing, full-time, on-site, from home, or part-time).  

The typical daily duties of cyber incident responders include detecting security vulnerabilities, overseeing applications, working on specious activities within your corporate network, and so on. 

However, in a major emergency, you might have to work some days of overtime before taking a week off.

Therefore, it is essential to be there during a crisis to respond quickly and effectively, thereby reducing the extent of any potential harm.

In general, there is no standard working style in incident response, as you must always be prepared for unforeseen situations.

That takes us to another important point…

Lifecycle of Incident Response

In the world of incident response, there are key stages that an incident responder must go through to succeed. These stages are detection and analysis, identifying the right communication channel, assessing the impact, containment and eradication, reviewing related tickets, recovery, and lessons learned. Each stage is vital in its own right, and each must be completed for the next step to begin.

Detection and analysis: It is the first stage of incident response. That is where the incident responder must identify that an incident has occurred. Then, the responder must analyse the situation to determine what has happened and how best to proceed. This step can be professionally handled by monitoring and altering tools that will tell you there is something suspicious around. However, sometime you will identify the incidents from your customers or other employees. 

Identifying the right communication channel: In this step, the responder should direct the team members to communicate through one medium to smooth the analysis and detection process. For example, sending an email for all employees to stop chatting on any platforms except through email and so.

Assessing the impact: After deciding the way of communication with customers and other stakeholders, the responder should determine the effect of the incident and then come up with a strategy to scan all external communications and finally build a resolution plan. 

Containment and eradication: It’s when the responder takes steps to prevent further damage from occurring. This stage may involve isolating affected systems or shutting down access to them. Then, it’s time for eradication. The responder removes the cause of the incident and restores normal operations. 

Reviewing any related tickets: Part of taking a suitable reaction is to check any related tickets from employers, clients, and other stakeholders. This step will be a great help to you in producing the post-incident reports. That will be an insightful resource for further investigating and building training upon real cases.   

Recovery: It involves restoring systems and data to their pre-breach state. The recovery phase often begins with a thorough analysis of the system backups. The incident responder will then work to restore any lost data and rebuild any damaged systems. 

Lessons learned: After cleaning up the system and ensuring the company network is safe, review the incident to identify what went well and could be improved. It also involves communicating the findings to key stakeholders and making changes to the organisation’s incident response plan based on what was learned. Also, it can help organisations avoid making the same mistakes in future incidents. 

What Does a Cyber Incident Responder Do? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Some Job Titles Related to Cyber Incident Responders

Since the roles of incident responders are about cyber security and computer science, you can find many jobs with pretty similar responsibilities carrying different titles. So, if you have a solid foundation of these specific skills with technician experience in information technology, you can just apply for these positions.

 Below are five key job titles related to incident response or cyber security career paths

Computer Forensic Analyst 

Job description: Computer forensic analysis is responsible for collecting and analysing data about any trends in cyber attacks. This data can be in emails, text messages, or even social media posts.

The analyst will need to examine this data in order to determine if it contains any valuable information.

They need to track any malicious online activities. For example, they investigate ways for your organisation to prevent social engineering, fraud, hacking, and others. Also, this role entails what makes these attempts successful. They also identify patterns and report their findings to law enforcement or other organisations. They may also be responsible for testifying in court about their results. 

Required certifications: you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. In addition, you will need to be certified in computer forensics by an accredited institution. Many different types of certifications are available, but the most common and respected is the Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) certification from the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE). You must pass a test and have a minimum of two years of experience in the field of computer security.

Years of experience: at least 1-2 years of experience in any related cyber security field.

Average salaries: £64.000

Software Developer 

Job description: Software developers are responsible for creating the entire security technologies, from conception to implementation. They collaborate with other team members to create high-quality and innovative software solutions. In addition, they also provide support and maintenance for existing applications. Then, they need to apply the acuity protocols to the current system.

Indeed, the job responsibilities of software developers vary depending on their experience level and the size of the company they work for. However, all software developers should understand computer science and be capable of writing code in a programming language at least.

In addition, they should be able to work effectively in a team environment and have good problem-solving skills.

Required certifications: A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field.

Years of experience: at least 1-year experience in computer programming— however, fresh graduates and entry-level employees have a gig chance to land a job with zero experience. In addition, you must have the principles of dealing with different software development tools. 

Average salaries: £63.000

Security Specialist

Job description: A security specialist is responsible for the safety and security of a company and its employees by creating and implementing security policies, procedures and systems. Security specialists also perform gap assessments, investigate security breaches and provide training to employees on security procedures. They may also be responsible for handling emergencies, just like incident responders. 

So, they must have strong analytical and problem-solving skills with a remarkable ability to think critically and quickly to assess a situation and take appropriate action. Communication skills are critical here as well to able to clarify their thoughts to employees, management and law enforcement officials.

Experts in the field of security must keep abreast of any new developments. In addition, they must constantly monitor their work environment for potential threats and vulnerabilities. By staying proactive, they can help prevent security breaches before they occur. Additionally, if you want to work as a security specialist, be prepared to develop solutions to avoid any potential violations. 

Required certifications: One must have a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. However, many employers prefer candidates who have completed post-secondary education, such as an associate’s degree or certificate program in security management or a related field.

Years of experience: at least 1-2 years of experience in information technology networks.

Average salaries: £66.000 

Important: The most important qualification for a security specialist is experience. Many specialists start their careers in entry-level positions, such as security guards or surveillance officers, and then move to more senior positions after gaining on-the-job experience. Some security specialists may also choose to pursue voluntary certification to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Security Architect

Job description: Security architects are responsible for the design and management of the security of the network. So, they must be knowledgeable about both safety and architecture. That means he must have in-depth knowledge of strategies and technology when designing a security system.

If you choose this position, you have to figure out the best way to communicate with all stakeholders— employees, customers, and external parties — to gain support for the system. 

Working closely with an I.T. manager and a business analyst, the security architect will develop a design proposal based on this knowledge. His stakeholders will then review the submission and make decisions about which features they would like included in the final design. After receiving approval from his stakeholders, the security architect will put together a proposal detailing how to address their needs with his design choices.

Plus, a security architect should design and implement a security system to prevent, detect, and resolve incidents. With this in mind, they should focus on what can be done to keep organisations secure without slowing down productivity too much.

A sound approach to building any kind of software involves planning based on clearly defined user requirements as well as technical specifications supported by company policies and measures. 

Required certifications: A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and a master’s degree in infosec is super to get your desired salary and get hired by a prominent company.  

Years of experience: 5 years of professional experience in information technology networks or any related security area. 

Average salaries: £110.000 

Security Manager

Job description: The security manager’s responsibility is to ensure the safety of the employees, the property and the organisation’s resources. They develop and implement security policies, oversee the whole security infrastructure and supervise security personnel. Absolutely, they need leadership and management skills to run the cyber security department. 

A good manager should quickly set up effective processes and procedures for their team to follow. This strategy keeps everyone productive and on-task without any delays or complications. Plus, this makes it much easier for company leaders to operate their businesses without hindrance from virtual intruders.

Besides their managerial tasks, they must decide what steps to keep the entire system secure. Taking this extra step ensures that any vulnerabilities in the network are fixed as soon as possible, and no harm comes from these mistakes— mainly if the company uses sensitive information this person manages responsibly!

Required certifications: A bachelor’s degree in information technology and cyber security is a must. Some employers may want candidates who have a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Years of experience: at least 5 years in a cyber security area.

Average salaries: £103.000

To sum up

Every business should be prepared for an incident at the workplace and sketch out an emergency plan. This plan details precisely what the staff will do when an incident occurs and guarantees everyone is on the same page when crises strike.

The plan should include information on where staff members should meet during an emergency, where leaders will come from to run meetings and where employees will get updates on the response during the response itself. It is also best if security managers rehearse their plans with their staff beforehand, so everyone knows what to do during rehearsals and emergencies.

A knowledgeable team also should act as a mediator during an incident response process when one happens at a company or workplace environment. Incidents are difficult situations that can harm businesses’ reputations if mishandled- all business owners must have plans to respond to incidents effectively when they happen.

So, remember, it’s not incident responders but an entire cyber security team.

Have any questions? Well, leave them the comments below. We will get back to you so soon!