What is the role of a cyber security incident responder?

It's inevitable that sooner or later, every business will come under cyber attack. Therefore, while it's vital that firms have the right skills and technologies in place to defend against attacks, they also need a plan for what to do when they do get breached.

This is where cyber incident response teams come in. These professionals play a key role in ensuring a data breach is contained before it has a chance to do serious damage. And with figures from the UK government suggesting 39 per cent of UK businesses experienced a cyber attack in 2022, demand for these professionals is high.

See what companies are advertising for cyber security incident responder jobs at CyberSecurityJobsite.com.

What is cyber security incident response?

Cyber security incident response refers to everything involved in recovering from an attack. This includes immediate steps to contain and resolve a breach, as well as dealing with the longer-term aftermath of an incident. These roles are critical in minimising the financial and reputational damage a breach can cause, as well as ensuring the company does not fall victim to further attacks in the future.

What does a cyber incident responder do?

The primary role of people in cyber security incident response jobs is to react once an issue has been discovered. While a security analyst will study emerging risks and a security engineer will build systems to prevent breaches occurring, an incident responder spots intrusions and steps in once security threats have compromised a network.

An incident responder is responsible for developing and maintaining the plan for what to do in the event of a breach, as well as identifying if any intrusion has occurred. This should cover every eventuality, from a DDoS attack that knocks key services offline to a major data breach affecting highly confidential customer information.

The exact day-to-day role of a cyber incident responder will differ depending on the company and their place within the wider security team. However, general responsibilities may include the following:

  • Monitoring systems and networks for intrusions
  • Identifying security flaws and vulnerabilities
  • Performing security audits, network forensics and penetration tests
  • Performing malware analysis
  • Developing a set of response procedures for security problems
  • Producing detailed incident reports

Who should be on a cyber security incident response team?

Cyber security incident response can be a big job, so it's essential to build a team of people with diverse skills who can take on the various roles and responsibilities within this discipline. Good communication is vital in this, as incident response isn't just an IT issue - it may also require coordination with legal and HR professionals, as well as law enforcement and regulators if necessary.

According to the National Cyber Security Centre, some of the key roles within a good cyber security incident response team (CSIRT) include the following:

  • Senior/executive management
  • Incident manager
  • Technical lead/recovery manager
  • Crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery
  • Investigators and analysts, cyber security specialists
  • IT and infrastructure
  • Other departments including legal, PR, HR and customer services

It's vital there is a central point of coordination when dealing with any cyber security issue, and this will usually fall to the incident manager. Therefore, these personnel need excellent management and delegation skills in addition to technical knowledge.

Is cyber security incident response a good career?

A career in cyber security generally offers a range of benefits. It provides great opportunities for advancement and high salaries, especially for more experienced professionals. Jobs in cyber security incident response are no exception. These roles may be especially well-suited to people who enjoy problem-solving, facing new challenges and working under pressure. 

How do you become a cyber incident responder?

If you're looking for a job in cyber security incident response, some previous experience in areas such as digital forensics is highly beneficial. Most employers will want to see at least a few years' experience as part of a security team, with roles such as security administrator or network administrator especially valuable.

Are cyber security incident response jobs in demand?

With cyber security a leading concern for many businesses, it's no surprise that professionals with skills and experience in incident response management are in high demand. And with the sector as a whole continuing to suffer from a skills shortage, there's never been a better time for skilled personnel to look for their next career move.

What degree is best for cyber security?

Many recruiters will ask incident response job applicants for at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, but there's no one path that's best. If you are looking for roles in incident response, common degrees that employers will look upon favourably include:

  • Computer science
  • Information technology
  • Information assurance
  • Cyber security

Those who have a master's degree in a related subject may be even better-placed to attract the attention of recruiters.

However, in addition to academic qualifications, industry certifications that prove you have practical know-how and experience are also highly valued. Some of the most popular choices for people looking to work in cyber security include:

  • CERT-Certified Computer Security Incident Handler (CERT-CSIH) 
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
  • GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
  • Certified Computer Forensics Examiner

What are employers looking for in cyber security incident response professionals

As well as academic and industry qualifications, there are a few key skills that recruiters will be looking for on CVs and in interviews. These are split into technical and business requirements.

Essential technical expertise recruiters will be looking for include data and network monitoring, an understanding of key programming languages, malware analysis and reverse engineering and penetration testing.

On the business side, key skills employers want to see include both verbal and written communication, collaboration, problem solving capabilities and attention to detail.

If you think you have all the skills and qualifications necessary to become a cyber security incident responder, browse our range of jobs today, or upload your CV to help ensure recruiters can find you.