How to Become an Incident Responder?

How to Become an Incident Responder?

Interested in becoming an incident responder for your security incident response team?

That’s great because all organizations encounter security incidents sooner or later.

Having an incident responder to face these types of emergencies is very crucial for an organization.

Why Become an Incident Responder?

1. High Impact Environment.

Studies show that cyber-attacks cost companies over $6 Trillion per year.

A significant percentage of these losses is a result of delayed action.

By incorporating the services of a security incident response team, organizations are much more likely to mitigate these losses.

2. Pay’s Well

According to data from ZipRecruiter, the average salary of an incident responder was about $99,627 /year.

As you gain more experience, managerial positions can pay up to $142,340.

3. Challenging Experiences

A good incident responder is required to perform complicated tasks under pressure.

At times, you’ll have to restore complex systems or determine root cause within just a few hours.

If you want to grow your problem-solving skills, this is a challenge you will definitely enjoy.

4. High Demand

Incident responders are provided an endless supply of work.

In fact, a 2021 Gartner survey indicated that 66% of CIOs are expected to increase investments associated with cybersecurity in the next year.

The Roles and Responsibilities of an Incident Responder

Before becoming an incident responder, it’s essential to know the roles and responsibilities. Some of these include:

  • Developing procedures to handle various security threats
  • Identifying vulnerabilities in an organization’s network or system
  • Working hands-on with other team members to implement security patches
  • Inspecting systems and applications after an attack for anomalies
  • Running penetration tests and risk analysis
  • Implementing security procedures created to deal with the specific threats
  • Providing detailed incident reports regarding all security incidents

Let’s take a closer look at developing the six phases of incident response procedures:

Phase 1: Preparation

This stage involves preparing everyone in the security incident response team and other members of the IT team to take action in case of an emergency cybersecurity breach.

Phase 2: Identification

This phase involves identifying the security incidents that need the attention of the incident response team.

The incident response team needs to set parameters to distinguish between events that need to be given attention and those that don’t.

Phase 3: Containment

After identifying the incident, the next step is to contain the affected systems and devices to prevent further spread.

The goal for containing the incident is to reduce the potential damage if the incident is not well-managed.

Phase 4: Eradication

This phase involves determining the root cause of the incident and eliminating it.

In some cases, it may be necessary to first remove all the affected systems from the company’s network.

Phase 5: Recovery

After fixing the issues with the affected systems, they must be brought back into action and closely monitored for unusual behavior.

Phase 6: Review

After bringing everything back to normal operation, the final phase is documenting all the lessons learned while dealing with the incident.

These lessons will help you develop better strategies when dealing with future incidents.

Sources of Security Incidents

As a member of the security incident response team, you’ve got to be aware of the multiple sources of cyber-attacks to prevent reoccurrences. Here are a few such examples:

  • Phishing Emails: A significant percentage of cyber-attacks are triggered through links sent via email.
  • External/Removable media: Sometimes, cybercriminals may execute an attack by tricking one of your company members to plug a USB storage drive with malware into any of your computers. These attacks are usually referred to as BadUSB.
  • Web: Cyber-attacks can also be executed via your website or web application that you rely on to do work. One of the common examples of web attacks is SQL Injection.
  • Physical Security: In some rare cases, attackers can use physical force to compromise and destroy your company computers and networks.
  • Inappropriate usage: This happens when one of the members of the organization violates your computer usage policies.
  • Loss or theft of equipment: Cybercriminals can launch an attack if they get access to any of the IT devices you use to do work.

Required Skills of an Incident Responder

Let’s take a look at some of the requirements to become an incident responder:

  • Networks: An incident responder needs to have in-depth networking knowledge of the Internet, LAN (Local Area Networks), MAN (Metropolitan Area Networks), and WAN (Wide Area Networks). Studying for the CompTIA Network+ exam will provide you a solid foundation for this knowledge area.
  • Operating systems: Incident responders need to also understand about operating systems (OS), including Windows, macOS, and Linux.  Investigating incidents requires basic understanding of OS commands.
  • Computer hardware: Hardware components such as: routers, firewalls, servers, network cards, as well as other network connected devices each have their own method of operation and vulnerabilities.
  • System monitoring tools: Most companies install Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems that are meant to send alerts whenever they detect errors and anomalies to the system. An incident responder should configure these tools to trigger alerts when certain conditions are fulfilled. Additionally, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with forensics software such as: EnCase, Helix, XRY, and FTK.
  • Programming code: An incident responder also should have a basic to an intermediate level understanding of programming languages.

Training Requirements of an Incident Responder

Most companies need at least two years of working experience in a related job before hiring you as their incident responder.

Some companies may require a college degree or certifications from recognized institutions before giving you a job.

Having additional certifications from online learning platforms or recognized institutions will also increase the chances of landing a job.

Some of the certifications you may consider getting include:

  • GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA)
  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
  • GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA)
  • Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
  • Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)
  • Certified Penetration Tester (CPENT)
  • Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst (CREA)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)


The scope of an incident responder’s role may vary based on the size of the organization.

While their primary function is to prevent system intrusion; if a cyber-attack does occur, they must also bring systems back to resiliency and also preventing future reoccurrences.

If you want to pursue a security-related career, being part of security incident response is one of the best options to choose.

Start with any of the above certifications to move your career in the right direction.

You can always add more certifications as you continue with your cybersecurity career.

by Amit Doshi

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