What is an incident response provider?

An incident response provider is a company or team that provides services to help organizations respond to and recover from security incidents like data breaches, ransomware attacks, or other cyber threats. Incident response providers offer a range of services to assess damage from attacks, stop ongoing intrusions, restore systems and data, investigate how the incident occurred, and recommend ways to improve security to prevent future incidents.

What services do incident response providers offer?

Incident response providers typically offer some or all of the following services:

  • Incident triage – Quickly assessing the scope and impact of an incident
  • Threat containment – Stopping an attack or intrusion that is in progress
  • Forensic investigation – Collecting and analyzing data to determine how an attack occurred and what was impacted
  • Malware analysis – Reverse engineering and analyzing malware used in an attack
  • System recovery – Restoring compromised systems to pre-attack state
  • Data recovery – Retrieving and restoring encrypted or deleted data
  • Vulnerability assessment – Identifying security gaps and weaknesses that enabled an incident
  • Recommendations – Providing advice on security improvements to prevent reoccurrence
  • Compliance reporting – Helping organizations meet breach disclosure laws and regulations
  • Crisis communications – Public relations services to help manage disclosure of an incident

When should you hire an incident response provider?

Organizations should consider hiring an incident response provider if they:

  • Suspect they have suffered a security incident like a data breach or ransomware attack
  • Want assistance assessing, containing, and investigating an incident
  • Lack the internal resources and expertise to effectively respond to an incident
  • Are required to notify impacted individuals and/or regulatory agencies of an incident
  • Need help recovering data and restoring systems compromised in an attack
  • Want recommendations on improving security and preventing future incidents

It is especially important to engage an incident response provider at the first sign of an incident. Their involvement from the early stages can help minimize damage and speed recovery efforts.

What are the benefits of hiring an incident response provider?

Key benefits of hiring an incident response provider include:

  • Expertise – They have skilled staff and proven methodologies for responding to security incidents.
  • Speed – They can quickly mobilize to start assessing and containing an incident.
  • Scale – They have more personnel and resources to respond than most organizations can provide internally.
  • Independence – External provider likely to be more objective in investigating an incident than internal IT staff.
  • 24/7 availability – Providers can respond at any time of day or night.
  • Up-to-date capabilities – Providers stay current on latest threats, hacking techniques, and response best practices.

How do you choose an incident response provider?

Key criteria to evaluate when selecting an incident response provider include:

  • Experience – Look for years in business, number of clients served, and case studies demonstrating ability to respond to similar incidents.
  • Expertise – Ensure provider has personnel with certifications in relevant areas like forensics, malware analysis, and intrusion investigation.
  • Services – Choose a provider that offers the range of incident response services you are most likely to need.
  • Scalability – Provider should be able to quickly scale up with additional resources as required to meet your needs.
  • Industry expertise – If possible, select a provider with experience in your industry and familiarity with associated threats and regulatory requirements.
  • Reporting – Provider should agree to provide reports with detailed analyses, findings and recommendations from their investigation.
  • 3rd party integration – Choose a provider that can work seamlessly with your other incident response vendors like forensics firms or crisis PR agencies.
  • Reputation – Look for positive client references and reviews from past work responding to security incidents.
  • Cost – Compare rates and billing practices, but weigh more heavily on provider qualifications.

What is the incident response process?

While each incident response engagement will be tailored to the specific situation, a generalized incident response process includes these typical phases:

  1. Detection and notification – The organization discovers a security incident has occurred and notifies the response provider.
  2. Incident triage – The provider conducts an initial assessment to understand the scope, impacted systems, and damage caused by the incident.
  3. Threat containment – The provider takes steps to isolate and neutralize the threat to stop any ongoing attack.
  4. System/data recovery – Restoration of compromised systems and recovery of lost or encrypted data begins.
  5. Forensic investigation – Detailed investigation, malware analysis, log analysis, and other methods are used to determine root cause and scope.
  6. Damage assessment – Impacted systems and data are methodically reviewed to identify and categorize what was compromised.
  7. Notifications/reporting – Incident findings are documented and notification is provided to impacted parties and regulatory agencies as required.
  8. Security recommendations – The provider offers advice on controls and process changes needed to improve defenses and prevent similar incidents.
  9. Remediation – The organization begins implementing recommended security improvements based on lessons learned.

This process aims to not just recover from the immediate incident, but improve the organization’s overall security posture for the future.

How long does incident response take?

The duration of an incident response engagement can vary widely depending on factors like:

  • Type of incident – Data breaches often take longer to investigate than malware or denial of service attacks.
  • Number of impacted systems – More affected endpoints mean longer triage and recovery times.
  • Data volumes – Sorting through terabytes of log or forensic data lengthens incident investigations.
  • Regulatory requirements – Industries with strict reporting mandates like healthcare tend to require more extensive response processes.
  • Scope of compromise – Incidents limited to a few endpoints can be resolved faster than systemic breaches.

While providers strive to work as quickly as possible, complex incidents impacting critical systems or vast amounts of data can take weeks or months to fully investigate and remediate.

How are incident response services priced?

Incident response providers typically price services in one of these ways:

  • Retainer – Organization pays an upfront monthly or annual fee in return for a guaranteed response if an incident occurs.
  • Time and materials – Provider bills for actual hours worked and resources utilized responding to the incident.
  • Package pricing – Set fees for predefined bundles of services like emergency response, forensic investigation, etc.
  • Milestone pricing – Established prices for completing major stages of work like threat containment, system restoration, breach notifications, etc.

Expect pricing to vary based on the scope of services required, number of impacted systems, and response timeframes. Costs for a major incident response engagement could easily amount to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How to prepare for an incident response engagement

Organizations can take these steps before an incident occurs to prepare for an effective response:

  • Have an incident response plan in place to guide decision making.
  • Select and contract with a preferred incident response provider.
  • Identify key internal stakeholders who will be involved in the response.
  • Outline the decision making authority for incident response.
  • Document your IT environment including network diagrams and asset inventories.
  • Back up critical systems and data regularly.
  • Maintain pertinent logs like firewalls, DNS, antivirus, etc.
  • Provide incident response training for IT teams.
  • Establish communication plans for status updates and notifications during an incident.

Taking these preparatory steps in advance will help enable a rapid, coordinated, and effective response.

Key takeaways on incident response providers

  • Incident response providers offer services to help organizations respond to and recover from security incidents like breaches and ransomware attacks.
  • Typical services include triage, containment, forensic investigation, system recovery, recommendations, and breach reporting.
  • Consider engaging a provider at the first sign of an incident to minimize damage.
  • Benefits include expertise, speed, scalability, independence, availability, and staying current on latest threats and techniques.
  • When selecting a provider, look for experience, expertise, services, reputation, reporting, 3rd party integration, and cost.
  • Phases of incident response often include triage, containment, recovery, investigation, assessment, notifications, recommendations, and remediation.
  • Response timeframes widely vary from days to months depending on the nature and scope of an incident.
  • Common pricing models include retainers, time and materials, packaged services, and milestone pricing.
  • Proper planning and preparation are key to enabling an effective incident response.


Suffering a security incident can be devastating for organizations, resulting in anything from minor disruption to complete shutdown of operations. Engaging an experienced incident response provider at the first sign of compromise is crucial to quickly neutralizing threats and restoring normal operations with minimal damage. Their expertise, resources, and methodologies enable rapid containment and recovery from incidents that most organizations are not equipped to handle on their own. While incident response services represent a significant investment, they pay dividends in the form of reduced business impact and improved security against future attacks.