Compliance Best Practices: 5 Steps to Demonstrating Incident Response Readiness

Organizations across all industries must meet compliance standards while also facing the need to respond rapidly to any business-impacting incident. 

Incident response readiness and compliance can complement each other, even strengthening each other in the process. But that won’t happen on its own—you need to craft strategic plans that align with evolving compliance requirements.

Otherwise, you risk being unprepared for devastating incidents while also risking non-compliance by not understanding specific requirements, especially regarding data breaches.

Every action taken by your teams needs to eradicate the threat and return to normal options while maintaining compliance. Keep reading as we explore five steps to managing this intersection of two business-critical initiatives.


Step 1: Establish a Proactive Incident Response Plan

An incident response plan is necessary to rapidly recover from a range of possible incidents, from natural disasters to cyber-attacks. 

These plans provide clear processes and protocols for how to contain, eradicate, and recover from incidents that disrupt normal operations or otherwise present a threat to the business. Key components of an effective incident response plan include: 

  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Established communication procedures
  • Escalation procedures
  • Data handling processes
  • Involvement of legal teams

You don’t necessarily need to develop a play-by-play method for every possible scenario, establishing how response teams handle common tasks effectively and in full compliance matters. 

Step 2: Implement Efficient Incident Detection Solutions

Being aware of an incident is the first step in responding to it. Taking action during the early stages of an incident can make the difference between extensive downtime and a minor incident that doesn’t disrupt operations.

Implementing solutions for intrusion detection, uptime monitoring, or power outage notification will go a long way toward minimizing the impact of any given incident. Tools that leverage advanced automation and AI are highly effective at identifying anomalous behavior and notifying admins of the potential issue.

How does compliance come into play? The right incident detection platforms will also include careful documentation and reporting features to help with post-incident review. This evidence can help significantly during the next audit, alongside reporting the incident to any necessary authorities or the general public.


Step 3: Align Evolving Compliance Requirements with Incident Response Plans

Compliance must be considered when these plans are being developed so that teams can avoid any issues during a crisis. Otherwise, teams may risk taking non-compliant actions as they try to contain and recover from an incident.

Any incident that threatens the business will be stressful, leading to missteps that may become costly after your next audit. Including compliance requirements in your incident response plans ensures that teams who consult these plans are ready to maintain compliance during the recovery process, such as proper evidence collection.

For example, GDPR and HIPAA are two widely applicable data privacy and protection compliance standards. Both require evidence collection during an incident and dictate when the general public needs to be made aware of the incident.

Ensuring these requirements are included in guidance given to crisis management teams keeps them aware of the need to maintain compliance in stressful situations.


Step 4: Ensure Incident Response Readiness with Frequent Training and Practice

All teams involved in incident response plans should receive regular training on the latest processes and procedures. Training should cover the steps to containment and recovery and include related compliance requirements.

However, training alone is insufficient to respond effectively to many types of incidents. That’s why practicing individual steps or overarching processes like communicating is so critical. For example, you can set up simulated environments and tabletop exercises that replicate a cyber attack to give teams a tangible way to practice response plans.

Stress and frustration during an incident make following the response plans challenging, degrading readiness efforts. Practicing your plans allows you to identify any issues, gives teams hands-on experience, and helps emphasize compliance requirements.

Step 5: Review and Update Response Plans Regularly

Continuous review is a foundational component of incident response readiness. Plans should be reviewed shortly after an incident is recovered from, but you should also conduct quarterly or annual reviews. There are two core reasons why this needs to be done:

  1. Threats change, and new threats emerge: Risk assessments are a separate but related process that greatly informs incident response planning. The threats you know about will change, and entirely new threats will emerge. Additionally, adopting a new technology or platform may introduce new vulnerabilities that must be understood and planned for.
  2. Compliance requirements are always evolving: Similarly, regulatory requirements are continually being revised in response to new threats or technologies. For example, the rise of AI will likely influence the next revisions of many compliance standards. New legislation may also be passed that introduces an entirely new set of requirements to meet, such as the need for data protection following GDPR.

Regularly reviewing existing response plans allows you to be ready to tackle the latest threats head on while also meeting new or revised compliance requirements. Don’t make the mistake of keeping reviews to the post-incident process; it must be a recurring process.


Maintaining Compliance Throughout Incident Responses is Critical

It can be challenging to balance compliance and incident response readiness, as you need to ensure business continuity while also avoiding the possibility of risking your non-compliance standing.

Fortunately, being aware of the potential for recovery teams to inadvertently take non-compliant steps in a crisis helps you adjust response plans accordingly. Build proactive plans, align them with compliance controls, and regularly review plans for effectiveness and changing compliance requirements. 

Additionally, communication is one critical aspect of quickly responding to any given scenario, but coming up with ad hoc solutions to downed comms may risk compliance. ShadowHQ offers secure out-of-band communications with the latest security protocols to protect your compliance while you recover. 

Are you ready to take an important step in balancing compliance with incident response readiness? Watch our on-demand demo to see the ShadowHQ platform in action.


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