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6 Tips for Your Next Incident Response (IR) Tabletop

April 11, 2023  | By: Stephen Boals

IR Tabletop – Establish best practices for Policies, Personnel & Procedures

Practice makes perfect, and incident response is not the exception.  We have seen a rise in customer requests for facilitated IR Tabletop exercises, and we wanted to share some key tips.  Today’s complex cybersecurity environment can create communication and coordination nightmares for cross-functional incident response teams.  Like any team, practice and experience are critical to optimal performance, and rapid response.  And with rapid decision making being one of the key factors in reducing breach cost (cyberconIQ cybermetrIQs Risk Calculator), exercises are critical to nail down the process of key decisions and overall management.

They allow organizations to test their response plan in a controlled environment and identify any weaknesses or gaps that need to be addressed. The following are six tips for running an effective Incident Response tabletop to address your cybersecurity:

  1. Define the scope and objectives: Clearly define the scope of the exercise, including the systems, personnel, and data that will be included. Identify the objectives of the exercise, such as testing the incident response plan, assessing the effectiveness of communication channels, or evaluating the ability of the team to identify and contain a breach.
  2. Choose the right participants: Select a cross-functional team of participants who represent different parts of the organization, including IT, legal, HR, and senior management. With the rise of OT risk, consider hybrid exercises if you are in manufacturing or critical infrastructure segments.  Utilize tabletop exercises as an educational opportunity to ensure that the participants have the necessary expertise and experience to act during an incident.
  3. Develop realistic scenarios: Develop scenarios that are relevant and realistic for your organization and industry. Consider different types of cyber attacks, such as malware infections, phishing scams, or ransomware attacks. Incorporate the latest threat intelligence to ensure the scenarios are up-to-date and accurate.
  4. Prepare the team: Provide the team with the necessary information and resources to ensure they are well-prepared for the exercise. This may include training on the incident response plan, guidelines on communication protocols, and access to relevant tools and systems.
  5. Run the exercise: Facilitate the exercise in a controlled environment, providing guidance and feedback to the team as needed. Monitor the progress of the exercise and note any issues or challenges that arise. Remember, this is the time to fail and learn from the failure to improve your process so that you are prepared to respond to a real incident.
  6. Evaluate the results: Evaluate the results of the exercise to identify any areas for improvement in the incident response plan. Document the lessons learned and develop an action plan to address any weaknesses or gaps. Communicate the findings and recommendations to senior management and other stakeholders.  On a quarterly cadence you should test aspects of your Incident Response Plan to create a constant cycle of improvements.

In conclusion, by following these tips, organizations can conduct an effective incident response tabletop exercise that will help them prepare for cyber attacks and improve their overall cybersecurity posture.  Need help with your next IR Tabletop?  cyberconIQ can help.  Contact us about our IRP Advisory Services.


For more information on improving your existing security awareness programs, lowering your human risk, and creating a cybersecurity cultural framework, contact us today.