Incident response is one of the most rapidly-growing careers in the IT industry. An incident responder is a highly-skilled cybersecurity expert who is responsible for responding to threats and security incidents. In addition, he or she identifies the causes of the incidents, mitigates the damages, investigates the situation thoroughly and provides recommendations to address the loopholes in the current security posture of the organization.
Incident responders use a plethora of computer forensic tools to perform an incident response plan. Prior experience in computer forensics or computer investigations is often indispensable to prepare for a career as an Incident Responder. It is also essential to attain of security clearance.
In this article, we will delve deep into the essential information required to become an Incident Responder.
What are an incident responder’s job requirements?
To be a competitive applicant for this job role, you must have at least a BS in Computer Sciences, Computer Forensics or related fields. Furthermore, security analysts must have two to three years of work experience in incident response. For most senior incident responders and senior intrusion analysts, the relevant experience should be more than five years.
Some hard skills are also required to become an incident responder. At the very least, they must have knowledge of:
- Advanced forensic software (e.g., FTK, EnCase, Cellebrite, XRY, Helix)
- Cloud computing
- System monitoring tools (e.g., SIEM and SOAR)
- eDiscovery tools (e.g., Clearwell, Relativity, NUIX)
- Application security related to the Web
- Backup techniques
- Linux, UNIX and Windows operating systems, as well as their installation, patching and configuration
- PERL, ASM, PHP, Java, C, C# and C++
- Network communication based on TCP/IP
- Computer hardware and software technologies
Since the incident responder acts as the detective, analytical and problem-solving skills are also necessary, as are oral and written communication skills. They should also be confident enough to speak in the conference room and perform a presentation. As with most public-facing security roles, the ability to communicate persuasively and eloquently will always get you farther than any other skill set.
What are the typical job duties for an incident responder?
One of the key roles of an incident responder is to prevent the occurrence of cyberattacks or to immediately mitigate their impact on the IT environment. For this to be done effectively, the knowledge of the organization’s varied hardware and software technology is necessary. For example, some organizations use Linux operating systems, others prefer Microsoft Windows and many of them like a heterogeneous IT environment which involves both categories.
Below are some other duties for an incident responder:
- Check and monitor the corporate systems and network to identify the attack and take proactive measures to prevent it from happening
- Identify loopholes in the current security posture
- Conduct security audits periodically, perform risk analysis and assessment, network forensics and penetration testing
- Perform reverse engineering and malware analysis
- Define course of actions required to respond to security incidents
- Design development plan to evaluate security gaps in terms of policies and procedures
- Prepare a report that includes root cause analysis of the incident, defining what happened and why the incident occurred. This report should be submitted to the top management, end users or security administrators
- Create communication with internal and external customers, as well as other stakeholders
In large organizations, incident responders often serve as the part of a CSIRT — Computer Security Incident Response Team.
What certifications do I need to become an incident responder?
Various certifications related to information security are available for an incident responder. However, it is not always wise to simply choose the one you enjoy. You should check which certification is required by the employer or organization you are looking for. Below is a list of some popular certifications that are valuable for Incident Responders:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst (CREA)
- Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
- Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)
- GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
- GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA)
- GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
- GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)
- Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
What are the salary projections for incident responders?
The average annual salary of an incident responder, as listed at Glassdoor and Payscale, is $74,000 and $70,000 respectively. In Illinois, it’s listed at only $65,000. Since there are also several job titles similar to that of incident responder, salary packages for each job title also vary. Below is the list of alternative job titles to that of incident responder:
- Cybersecurity Incident Responder
- Incident Response Engineer
- Cyber Incident Responder
- Computer Support Specialist
- Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) Engineer
The incident responders who hold a superior position in management or leadership may earn over $105,000 a year.
Shedding light on an incident responder’s career outlook
In the world of information warfare, cybersecurity is a continuous phenomenon. Cyberthreats and incidents are growing much faster than the enhancements organizations are making.
Even state-sponsored attacks are accelerating by leaps and bounds. According to Aon’s 2019 Cyber Security Risk Report, various risks related to regulation, mergers and acquisitions, employees, business operations, Internet of Things (IoT), supply chain and technology occur often. In this report, these risks show that as digital transformations proliferate, the attack surface of the global business expands swiftly and in unexpected ways.
To survive and thrive in today’s constant information warfare, businesses and employers must always look for incident responders to effectively deal with cyber-incidents. The demand for this job role is tremendous and will continue to grow as enterprise organizations, both private and governmental, struggle to safeguard their critical information assets.
What training do I need to become an incident responder?
It’s important that you take part in an effective training program to learn the advanced skills needed to properly detect, contain and mitigate cybersecurity incidents. In addition, you should learn the incident response plan, understand the vital steps taken in the aftermath of the security incident and know how to interact with law enforcement.
- How to become an Incident Responder, Cybertraining 365
- Why and How to Become an Incident Responder?, InfoSecAddicts
- Become an Incident Responder, Cyber Degrees
- How to Become an Incident Responder, Cyber Security Education
- Incident Responder Salaries, Glassdoor
- Average Security Incident Response Salary, Payscale
- 2019 Cyber Security Risk Report, AON Empower Results