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The 6 steps of incident response

The 6 steps of incident response

A well-defined incident response plan allows healthcare organizations to effectively tackle cybersecurity incidents. By following the six steps of incident response – preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery, and lessons learned – organizations can minimize damage, swiftly mitigate risks, and continuously adapt their strategies to stay ahead of evolving threats.


Step 1: Preparation 

The first step in incident response is preparation, which involves building a defense against potential threats. This begins by developing an incident response plan and assembling an experienced team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. This team should include representatives from various departments. By having a well-prepared team in place, healthcare organizations can effectively respond to incidents in a coordinated manner.


Step 2: Identification

Detecting an incident early limits its impact. Next, implement monitoring systems that regularly scan for anomalies or suspicious activities. These systems can include intrusion detection systems, firewalls, antivirus software, and security information and event management tools. Timely identification allows for a swift response, minimizing potential damage and preventing further spread within the network environment.


Step 3: Containment

Once an incident has been identified, we move onto containment. It is necessary to isolate the threat promptly to prevent its further spread within the network environment. This involves isolating affected systems or devices from the rest of the network while preserving evidence for forensic analysis.


Step 4: Eradication 

After containing the incident, the focus shifts towards eradicating the root cause behind the breach. This step often requires conducting a thorough investigation to determine how the incident occurred and what vulnerabilities were exploited. It may involve patching vulnerable systems, removing malicious code or malware, and strengthening security measures. 

Read also: How to identify and prevent malware in healthcare


Step 5: Recovery

Once the threat has been removed, the focus turns to restoring affected systems and services to their normal state. This may involve reinstalling software, restoring backups, and rebuilding compromised infrastructure. The company must ensure that restored systems have undergone rigorous testing to eliminate residual vulnerabilities before returning them to production environments.


Step 6: Lessons learned 

The final step of the incident response process involves learning from the incident and continuously improving an organization's security posture. Conducting a thorough post-incident review helps identify areas where the response could be enhanced or new safeguards implemented. Sharing lessons learned with the broader cybersecurity community contributes to collective knowledge and resilience against future threats.


Continuous adaptation

While these six steps provide a structured framework for incident response, it is an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. As cyber threats evolve, healthcare organizations must continuously adapt their strategies and defenses to stay one step ahead of malicious actors.

Investing in employee training programs, staying up-to-date with emerging threats, and regularly reviewing and updating incident response plans are all necessary for enhancing an organization's ability to detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity incidents.

Read also: Developing a HIPAA compliant incident response plan for data breaches 



What are the basics of incident response?

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), incident response has four steps: preparation; detection, and analysis; containment, eradication, and recovery; and post-incident activity.


Who manages incident response?

Whether in-house, outsourced, or a mix of both, incident response teams include security analysts, engineers, threat researchers, and an incident response manager who is ultimately responsible for managing severe incidents. 


What is an incident in healthcare?

A healthcare incident is an unintended or unexpected event that harms a patient or healthcare organization—or has the potential to harm them.

See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide

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