The SME Cyber Incident Response Plan

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“There are two types of organizations … those who have been breached and those who have been breached but aren’t aware.”

– John Chambers

According to IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average impact of a data breach on organizations with fewer than 500 employees is $3.31 million or $164 per breached record.

Cyber incidents or breaches should be alarming for all organizations, especially those with limited IT budgets and cybersecurity resources. With bad actors continuing to multiply and the continued proliferation of attack surfaces (i.e. mobile workforce, cloud infrastructure, IoT, and OT), it’s more important than ever for SMEs to implement a Cyber Incident Response Plan (CIRP) prior to an attack.

This post aims to provide a quick overview of considerations and steps to implement a plan regardless if generated in-house or by enlisting 3rd-party expertise.

Significance of a Cyber Incident Response Plan

A robust CIRP is crucial for minimizing the impact of a cyber-attack. It allows an organization to promptly detect, contain, eradicate, and recover from an incident, thereby reducing downtime and associated costs. The timely response facilitated by a CIRP can prevent the compromise of sensitive data, maintain customer trust, and protect organizational reputation. Good thing there’s guidance out there.

Entrance of the Gaithersburg, Maryland Campus of National Institute of Standards and Technology ( NIST ).

This framework consists of several key phases in a lifecycle, designed to guide organizations through the process of identifying, containing, and recovering from incidents while minimizing damage and protecting valuable assets.

The Cyber Incident Response Plan for Small to Medium Enterprises

SMEs with fewer IT staffing resources typically lean on outside help available on a fractional basis to generate and implement a CIRP that is right-sized for the organization and budget. However, before reaching out to a third party, it’s good to have an understanding of the basic elements of a solid CIRP.

When developing a CIRP, all organizations need to consider the following components to ensure the plan’s effectiveness and comprehensiveness.

Pre-Incident Planning

Risk Assessment – Identify and assess potential risks and vulnerabilities within the organization. Recognizing the different types of cyber threats enables the formulation of a more effective and proactive response plan.

Clear Roles and Responsibilities – Define and assign specific roles and responsibilities to team members. This ensures a coordinated and rapid response to incidents. An Incident Response Team (IRT) typically includes IT professionals, legal advisors, public relations specialists, and top management.

Communication Strategy – Establish clear communication channels and protocols to notify stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and affected individuals in the event of a breach, ensuring transparency and adherence to legal obligations. This also includes knowing who to call within law enforcement.

Detection and Analysis – Develop advanced capabilities to detect and analyze incidents swiftly, employing tools like intrusion detection systems and firewalls to identify abnormalities and potential threats.

Containment and Eradication – Formulate strategies to contain and eradicate the threats. This involves isolating affected systems to prevent further damage and removing malicious components.

Recovery and Post-Incident Review – Once the threat is neutralized, focus on restoring and validating system functionality for business resumption. A post-incident review should be conducted to evaluate the response and update the incident response plan as necessary.

Training and Awareness – Regular training sessions and awareness programs can help in cultivating a security-conscious culture within the organization, enabling employees to recognize and report potential threats early.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance – Organizations must consider legal obligations and compliance standards relevant to their industry and location, as non-compliance can result in severe penalties.

Regular Testing and Updating – Regularly test the incident response plan to ensure its effectiveness and make adjustments based on lessons learned from tests and real incidents.


The constant evolution of sophisticated cyber threats mandates the need for cyber incident response plans for all organizations regardless of size. An efficient CIRP is not just about responding to incidents but about managing risks proactively, maintaining customer trust, and ensuring business continuity. The critical considerations for implementing a CIRP revolve around understanding risks, clarifying roles, enhancing detection mechanisms, ensuring swift response, and maintaining compliance with regulatory or insurance mandates.

Preparedness is the key, and a well-crafted CIRP is a lock, protecting organizations from the incessant attempts of cybercriminals.

By embracing a comprehensive Cyber Incident Response Plan based on established standards like NIST CSF, organizations can navigate the turbulent waters of the cyber world more securely, ensuring the sanctity of their digital assets and the trust of their stakeholders.

For more stats to share with reluctant staff, colleagues, or board members about the importance of a cybersecurity plan, please check out Founder Field’s 2023 Cybersecurity Statistics report.

About iLLÜM Advisors

The iLLÜM Advisors’ team has decades of experience working with organizations not only to respond and recover from active attacks but also to properly prepare the business for impending cyber-attacks. We do this by enabling our client’s existing IT teams to plan and train their entire organization on how to identify and respond to cyber threats, while also developing appropriate plans specific to each client’s response to cyber attacks.

NO LONG-TERM COMMITMENTS – All services and software licensing are offered on a month-to-month basis and clients are billed for services consumed.

If you are in an active breach or would like to put a plan in place to mitigate the impact of a breach please schedule a few minutes with an advisor – Schedule 20 Minutes

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