Tabletop Exercises: How These Practice Sessions Improve Your Incident Response Plan & Ready Your Team
There are two sides to cyber security defenses: prevention and mitigation. While prevention is the first line of defense, a proactive mitigation plan is a realistic necessity in today’s cyber climate.
It’s always best to be on the offense of your cyber security and conducting proactive security assessments can help you. The results of these assessments will help your IT team make better decisions to improve your security moving forward.
While we’ve focused on business impact assessments and penetration tests in the past, this blog is going to target cyber tabletop exercises, which are an important part of your business’s incident response preparation.
The reality organizations face today is that they will likely fall victim to a cyber-attack, specifically ransomware, if they haven’t already. Regularly conducted cybersecurity tabletop exercises will proactively prepare your organization for the worst-case scenario. A well-thought-out response will allow your business to act fast and decisively, limiting the damages associated with ransomware attacks.
What is a Tabletop Exercise?
A tabletop exercise is a way to assess your business’s current incident response plan processes and procedures. This type of functional exercise involves gathering all IT team members and business stakeholders into a classroom-type setting and completing a run-through exercise of a real-life cyber event scenario.
The only prerequisite of a tabletop exercise is an established incident response plan. Without an incident response plan in place, there will be nothing to test throughout the tabletop exercise. An incident response plan is “a set of instructions to help IT staff detect, respond to, and recover from network security incidents. These types of plans address issues like cybercrime, data loss, and service outages that threaten daily work.”
Instead of testing your actual cyber security methods, a tabletop exercise is a test of your business’s response policies, your business’s knowledge of those policies, and the efficacy of those policies. In addition, a tabletop exercise is a test of your business’s ability to communicate with one another and with outside parties. Not only does a tabletop exercise test your procedures, but it also provides your team with valuable practice within a safe and controlled environment.
In addition to strengthening your security, performing these exercises will demonstrate the validity of your existing plan which can positively impact your cyber insurance coverage.
Who Should be Involved?
For an effective tabletop exercise, someone from every department of your organization should participate.
This includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Business Operations
- Risk Management
- Executive Leadership
These discussion-based, full-scale exercises will help address everyone’s role and responsibility so your organization can determine your plan of action on potential real-life scenarios. What will be your ransomware response? Will you pay the ransom? How will you notify clients, customers, or any other effected parties?
While there are many different types of tabletop exercises, ransomware tabletop exercise scenarios in particular can make a significant impact on your ability to recover from this type of cyberattack. When everyone clearly understands their role and the overall plan of action, a fast response can significantly mitigate the damages associated with ransomware.
How Often Should Tabletop Exercises Be Conducted?
Throughout the tabletop exercise, any gaps in your current incident response plan will be identified so they can be addressed and improved upon in the future. As these exercises represent a point in time, tabletop exercises should be completed regularly as a consistent check-in.
Many companies conduct these exercises annually, although the more frequent the better. The biggest challenge businesses face in conducting these is simply getting all necessary parties together in a room at the same time so regular, pre-scheduled testing is recommended.
Next Steps: Test, Review & Improve Your Incident Response Plan
These exercises provide your organization with valuable information that can significantly improve your cyber security posture, your processes and procedures, and your team’s communication abilities.
It’s important to not only complete these exercises but to take advantage of the wealth of information that they provide so your business can make better decisions moving forward. Your business will be able to uncover possible gaps in your policy and gain clear, tangible remediation guidance so you’ll be prepared when you face a real cyber incident.
As the cyber threat landscape continues to change every day, there are endless improvements that can be made.
From guiding your team through an entire attack scenario and exercise process to helping your business act on your results, our Arraya experts here to assist.
Contact us today to start a conversation.
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