The Top 3 Challenges with Incident Response 

December 15, 2023
| David Tidmarsh
| Incident Handling

If an organization’s primary cybersecurity defenses fail and suffer a cyberattack, team members must react quickly and efficiently, overcoming incident response challenges to eliminate the danger and restore normal operations.  However, there are many different Incident response challenges faced by organizations, including the high volume of cyberattacks, budget constraints, lack of knowledgeable personnel, and lack of the proper tools.

Therefore, organizations should ensure a concrete plan for how they will respond to a cyberattack. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. According to F-Secure, only 45 percent of companies have incident response plans (FRSecure, 2022). Additionally, as per a study by IBM, companies take 277 days on average to identify and contain a data breach — allowing the attackers to exploit their systems and steal information for far too long (IBM, 2022). 

What’s behind this shocking lack of preparedness? Part of the reason is the various incident response challenges that businesses may encounter. This article will discuss the top 3 challenges of incident response and how to deal with these issues to improve your cybersecurity posture.

What is Incident Response?

The incident response involves identifying, mitigating, and resolving the effects of a cybersecurity incident or breach. It involves an organized set of policies and procedures that must be followed in the wake of an attack to manage the situation and restore order.

Incident response is a crucial business function regardless of a company’s size or industry. Having an incident response plan reassures customers and shareholders that your organization can act quickly to protect your IT systems and data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

How to Implement an Effective Incident Response Plan

An effective incident response plan involves multiple stages. Businesses must go through careful planning and preparation, formulating clear policies and procedures for responding to a security incident. This entails creating an incident response team, identifying the events likely to occur, and determining the appropriate responses. Training exercises and simulations can evaluate the effectiveness of an incident response plan, helping businesses locate weaknesses or blind spots in the plan and take action before an actual incident.

6 Steps in Incident Response

Cybersecurity experts typically divide incident response into six steps or phases. These stages are based on the NIST Computer Security Incident Handling Guide, which offers guidance on how to react to cybersecurity events (NIST, 2012).

  1. Preparation: The preparation stage involves the preliminary actions discussed in the previous section: developing and testing an incident response plan and establishing an incident response team. 
  2. Identification: In the immediate aftermath of a security event, the incident response team must be able to determine whether a breach has occurred quickly. This stage also involves answering questions such as the extent of the incident and its effects on business operations.
  3. Containment: After an intrusion or attack has been identified, the incident response team must move swiftly to contain the damage, mitigating its reach and limiting the repercussions for employees and customers. This stage may involve taking certain systems offline or isolating them in a sandbox while team members look for quick fixes for the immediate vulnerability.
  4. Eradication: Once the incident is under control, the incident response team moves to eliminate the threat by patching vulnerabilities or wiping infected systems. This requires a firm understanding of the event’s root causes.
  5. Recovery: With the threat eradicated, the incident response team helps the business reinstate its normal operations by bringing the affected systems back online and restoring data from backups.
  6. Lessons learned: Finally, the incident response team reviews the security event to understand why it occurred, what went well during the response, and what could have been improved.

3 Common Challenges in Incident Response and Management

Despite the clear-cut list of steps above, many organizations struggle to implement a successful incident response plan. This section will discuss three of the most significant incident response challenges you might face when constructing a cybersecurity strategy.

1. The sheer volume of attacks

Cyberattacks and data breaches are constantly in the headlines, with no sign of slowing down. According to the risk intelligence firm Flashpoint, more than 4,100 data breach events were reported worldwide in 2022 (Flashpoint, 2022).

From classic approaches such as SQL injection and phishing to sophisticated new attacks, companies are increasingly under assault by malicious actors. It can be challenging for organizations to drown out all this noise and detect when a security event has occurred. Moreover, this figure only represents the number of successful attacks discovered; the number of attempted hacks is far higher.

2. Budget and knowledge constraints

Many companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, lack the IT budget and know-how to protect themselves against cyberattacks. Even larger enterprises may be affected by cuts or stagnation. According to Spiceworks Ziff Davis, 44 percent of organizations expect their IT funding to stay constant or decrease in 2023 (Spiceworks Ziff Davis, 2022).

Even with a sizable IT budget, organizations may need help finding knowledgeable and skilled incident response personnel. Effective incident response requires in-depth awareness of an organization’s entire IT attack surface: all hardware, software, and sensitive data belonging to employees and customers.

3. Lack of escalation and collaboration tools

When an alert arrives in the incident response team’s inbox, it can be hard to understand the severity without the proper context. This means team members may be unable to accurately diagnose the issue and determine its priority. The incident response team may waste time analyzing relatively trivial occurrences while ignoring other potentially serious events.

Incident response teams require powerful, capable tools for escalating issues and collaborating with team members. Organizations should also have a structured hierarchy for whom to contact about a problem and how best to contact them.

How to Address Incident Response Challenges with E|CIH

Although businesses face several incident response challenges, the good news is that these difficulties are by no means insurmountable. By gaining knowledge and real-world experience, incident response team members can learn effective solutions to these challenges.

Certifications and training programs are an excellent way to learn about incident response and start a career path. EC-Council’s Certified Incident Handler (E|CIH) certification prepares students to handle and respond to cybersecurity incidents, imparting the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to work in incident response.

Participants will learn about all stages of incident response, from proactive planning to recovery and post-incident activities. E|CIH students also learn about domains ranging from insider threats and malware to email, cloud, and mobile security. The E|CIH certification includes access to 4 different operating systems, more than 50 labs, and 800 tools, giving you the well-rounded education you need to become a cybersecurity professional. 


Flashpoint. (2022, December 13). Flashpoint Year In Review: 2022 Breaches and Malware Threat Landscape.

FRSecure. (2022, August 11). Incident Response Statistics: How Do You Compare? | FRSecure.

IBM. (2022). Cost of a data breach 2022 | IBM.

NIST. (2012, August 6). Computer Security Incident Handling Guide | NIST.

Spiceworks Ziff Davis. (2022, June). The 2023 State of IT – Spiceworks Ziff Davis.

About the Author 

David Tidmarsh is a programmer and writer. He has worked as a software developer at MIT, holds a BA in history from Yale, and is currently a graduate student in computer science at UT Austin.  

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