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7 Incident Response Plan Templates & Examples

Writing your IR plan from scratch? Not sure where to begin? Get a head start with these free templates and examples.

Wiz Experts Team
7 minutes read

What is an incident response plan template?

An incident response plan template is a pre-structured document that provides a framework and guidelines for creating an organization's incident response plan. It outlines the necessary steps and procedures to follow before, during, and after a security incident to effectively detect, respond to, and recover from cyber attacks or data breaches.

Common Components of an IR Plan Template

  • Purpose and Scope: Defines the objectives and the extent of the plan's application.

  • Roles and Responsibilities: Specifies who is responsible for each aspect of the response.

  • Incident Response Phases:

    • Preparation: Establishes readiness measures.

    • Detection and Analysis: Identifies and assesses incidents.

    • Containment, Eradication, and Recovery: Manages the incident and restores operations.

    • Post-Incident Activity: Reviews and improves the response process.

  • Communication Protocols: Outlines internal and external communication paths.

  • Severity Levels: Defines incident severity and response times.

  • Documentation and Reporting: Details what information needs to be recorded and reported.

7 Incident Response Plan Templates

1. Wiz Cloud Incident Response Template

# of pages: 14

Link: https://www.wiz.io/lp/cloud-incident-response-plan-template

When searching for incident response templates online, you'll quickly find that most available resources are quite generic. These templates typically focus on broad principles and procedures that apply to a variety of IT environments, rather than addressing the unique challenges and nuances of cloud computing. This can leave cloud-native organizations with significant gaps in their incident response strategy.

A cloud-specific template can help ensure that your IR plan:

  1. Addresses unique cloud challenges: Cloud environments have distinct security considerations and potential incident types compared to on-premises infrastructure. A cloud-specific IR plan should accounts for these unique aspects, such as shared responsibility models, multi-tenancy, and distributed data storage.

  2. Aligns with cloud architecture: Cloud environments often involve complex architectures with multiple services and interconnected components. A cloud IR plan should incidents across various cloud services and their interactions.

  3. Incorporates cloud-native tools: Cloud providers offer native security and monitoring tools. A cloud-specific plan should integrate these tools into the incident response process, ensuring more effective detection, analysis, and remediation.

Wiz's Cloud Incident Response Plan Template is a detailed and practical guide designed to help organizations effectively manage and respond to security incidents in cloud environments. This template is particularly useful for organizations looking to create a robust cloud incident response plan from scratch or improve their existing plans. It covers a wide range of cloud-specific components and provides a structured approach to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated response to incidents.

2. NIST Computer Security Incident Handling Guide

# of pages: 79

Link: https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/specialpublications/nist.sp.800-61r2.pdf

The NIST Computer Security Incident Handling Guide (Special Publication 800-61) provides practical guidelines for organizations to effectively respond to computer security incidents. Here are the key aspects of this guide:

  1. Purpose: The guide aims to assist organizations in mitigating risks from computer security incidents by offering practical guidelines on responding to future incidents effectively and efficiently.

  2. Scope: It covers establishing an effective incident response program, with a primary focus on detecting, analyzing, prioritizing, and handling incidents.

  3. Target Audience: The guide is intended for computer security incident response teams (CSIRTs), system and network administrators, security staff, technical support staff, chief information security officers (CISOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and computer security program managers.

  4. Key Components:

    • Guidelines for establishing an incident response program

    • Steps for incident handling, including detection, analysis, and response

    • Advice on incident handling coordination and information sharing

3. SANS Institute Incident Handlers Handbook

# of pages: 19

Link: https://sansorg.egnyte.com/dl/6Btqoa63at

The SANS Incident Handlers Handbook is a practical guide for managing cybersecurity incidents. It provides a basic foundation for IT professionals and managers to create their own incident response policies, standards, and teams within their organizations.

The handbook also offers a structured approach to incident handling while allowing for customization to fit specific organizational needs. It is widely recognized for its thoroughness and practicality, making it a valuable resource for both new and experienced incident handlers. The handbook includes an incident handler's checklist that can be used to ensure each step of the incident response process is being followed during an incident.

Pro tip

While having an Incident Response (IR) plan is crucial for outlining the overall strategy and responsibilities during a security incident, it's not enough on its own. You also need detailed Incident Response Playbooks. These playbooks provide step-by-step procedures tailored to specific types of incidents, such as data breaches, ransomware attacks, or phishing attempts.

4. Health Sector Coordinating Council's Coordinated Healthcare Incident Response Plan (CHIRP)

# of pages: 19

Link: https://healthsectorcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/HIC-CHIRP-FINAL_1.pdf

The Health Industry Cybersecurity Coordinated Healthcare Incident Response Plan (HIC-CHIRP) template is crafted to address the unique operational impacts of cybersecurity incidents on patient care.

Unlike generic plans, it focuses on integrating existing emergency management, business continuity, and downtime procedures specific to healthcare. This template guides healthcare organizations in developing a customized incident response plan that ensures continuity of care and patient safety during cyber incidents. 

5. California Government Department of Technology Example

# of pages: 4

Link: https://cdt.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/templates_incident_response_plan.doc

The California Department of Technology's Incident Response Plan Example is a comprehensive 17-step template designed to guide organizations through the process of responding to active incidents.

Here are some key takeaways from the template:

  • Incident Discovery and Reporting: It emphasizes establishing clear procedures for how different personnel (IT staff, managers, security personnel) should report a suspected incident.

  • Initial Assessment: The plan outlines how to gather information about the incident, such as its severity, potential impact, and affected systems.

  • Classification and Response: Based on the assessment, the team follows specific procedures tailored to the incident type (virus, intrusion, denial-of-service etc.).

  • Containment and Eradication: The plan covers steps to stop the ongoing threat and restore affected systems.

  • Documentation and Review: It highlights the importance of documenting the incident details, response actions, and lessons learned to improve future responses.

Pro tip

The biggest names in the industry agree that traditional incident response methods often fall short in addressing the complexities of cloud environments. Gartner recognizes cloud investigation and response automation as an indispensable technology in the cybersecurity landscape. Gartner views CIRA as a strategic investment for organizations looking to fortify their security posture in the cloud. Simply put, the shift to cloud computing brings unprecedented opportunities but also introduces new risks.

Learn more

6. National Institute of Health (NIH) IR Template

# of pages: 23

Link: https://wiki.nci.nih.gov/download/attachments/384206504/NIH%20Incident%20Response%20Plan%20Template.docx?version=1&modificationDate=1551914351000&api=v2

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Incident Response (IR) plan template is specifically tailored for NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs). Given its NIH-specific nature, organizations outside of NIH would need to adapt this template significantly if they were to use it as a basis for their own incident response plans. However, it could still serve as a useful reference for how a large, complex federal organization structures its incident response planning.

7. University of Connecticut IR Plan Example

# of pages: 10

Link: https://security.uconn.edu/incident-response-plan/

The University of Connecticut (UConn) has a comprehensive Incident Response (IR) plan that outlines how the institution handles information security incidents. The plan provides guidance for responding to data security incidents, determining their scope and risk, and ensuring appropriate responses, including communication to stakeholders. It applies to all UConn information systems, institutional data, networks, and anyone accessing these systems or data.

UConn's plan defines key roles in incident response, including:

  1. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): Coordinates incident management efforts and provides guidance to stakeholders.

  2. Privacy Officer: Manages regulatory requirements and notifications.

  3. Executive Response Team (ERT): Makes key decisions in managing incidents related to data with regulatory reporting requirements.

  4. Incident Response Coordinator: Directs information gathering efforts and documents processes.

  5. Incident Response Handler: Gathers data from systems and provides technical expertise.

 Their plan emphasizes the importance of proper communication, including:

  • Consulting with the Office of General Counsel for external law enforcement communications.

  • Coordinating with University Communications for public statements.

  • Establishing a single point of contact for addressing questions and concerns from affected individuals

How to Use an IR Plan Template

An effective incident response plan template should be used as a starting point to create a customized plan tailored to your organization's specific needs and environment. Here are some key guidelines for using a template effectively:

  • Customization is Key: Don't just fill in the blanks. Adapt the template to reflect your organization's structure, size, and specific threats. For instance, a small company might focus on critical systems, while a larger organization might have a more comprehensive plan.

  • Focus on Core Components: Ensure your plan covers essential aspects like:

    • Purpose and Scope: Define the plan's goals and what types of incidents it addresses.

    • Threat Scenarios: Identify potential threats your organization might face.

    • Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly outline who does what during an incident, including titles and contact information.

    • Incident Response Process: Establish a clear sequence of steps for incident detection, containment, eradication, recovery, and post-incident review.

  • Define Clear Roles and Communication:

    • Ownership and Responsibility: Assign specific roles for each stage of the response process, with clear titles and contact details for each team member.

    • Communication Protocols: Establish communication paths for escalation and information sharing during an incident. This includes who needs to be informed, what information needs to be communicated, and how often updates should be provided.

  • Create a Flexible and Adaptable Process:

    • Tailored Approach: The response process should be adaptable to different types of incidents while providing a clear sequence of events to follow.

    • Severity Levels and Response Times: Define different incident severity levels and set corresponding response and resolution times for each level. This helps prioritize efforts based on the incident's impact.

  • Maintain, Review, and Update Regularly:

    • Regular Review: Schedule quarterly reviews of the plan, incorporating lessons learned from past incidents and addressing new threats that emerge.

    • Supporting Documents: Consider developing supplementary documents for specific critical scenarios like zero-day attacks or ransomware outbreaks. These can provide more detailed guidance for handling such events.

Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Template

When using an incident response plan template, there are several key things to avoid to ensure you create an effective and tailored plan for your organization:

  1. Don't use the template as-is without customization. Adapt the content to reflect your organization's specific structure, assets, systems, and potential threats.

  2. Avoid being too IT-focused. Consult with non-technical teams like legal, compliance, HR, and communications when developing the plan.

  3. Don't create the plan in isolation. Involve relevant stakeholders and supporting teams in the development process.

  4. Avoid being too general or too specific. Strike a balance to make the plan actionable yet flexible enough to handle various incident types.

  5. Don't neglect to establish a clear team structure and individual roles. Define responsibilities for each team member to prevent confusion during an incident.

  6. Avoid failing to test the plan. Regularly conduct tabletop exercises and simulations to identify gaps and ensure the plan's effectiveness.

  7. Don't let the plan become outdated. Review and update it regularly, especially after significant changes in your IT infrastructure or business operations.

  8. Avoid overlooking the importance of communication protocols. Clearly define communication paths, what should be communicated, and to whom.

  9. Don't forget to include severity levels and response times. Define incident severity levels and corresponding required response and resolution times.

  10. Avoid creating the plan without considering its place in your overall document hierarchy. Ensure it aligns with other cybersecurity documents in your organization

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