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Why Form an Incident Response Team?

Why might some organizations want to form an incident response team? This section focuses on some possible reasons.

Ability to Coordinate

In general, it is easier to coordinate the efforts of individuals who are on an incident response team because they generally report to the team leader, who can direct them to become involved in one particular activity or another.


Information security incidents are becoming increasingly complex; incident handling experts are thus becoming increasingly necessary. Technical gurus always come in handy when incidents occur, but pure technical expertise is not enough when it comes to many incidents. Having helped with many previous incidents, knowing what policies to consider and procedures to follow, and so forth are just as critical, if not more critical, than pure technical skills. One of the best ways to build expertise is to serve on a dedicated incident response function.


A team builds a collective knowledge that often leads to increased efficiency. An isolated individual can easily go astray in dealing with an incident, but collective wisdom accrued within a team can help incident response efforts get back on track. Additionally, a team (as opposed to any individual or a few independent individuals) is more likely to develop and follow procedures for incident response, something that boosts efficiency.

Ability to Work Proactively

Being proactive (that is, adopting measures that address incident response needs before incidents actually occur) is one of the keys to a successful incident response effort. Training users and system administrators to recognize the symptoms of incidents and what to do (as well as what not to do) is a good example of a proactive effort. Although it is possible for any number of individuals to engage in proactive efforts, having a team increases the likelihood that proactive efforts will occur. Having a team allows the luxury of having different persons specialize in different functions, especially in proactive activity. Additionally, successful proactive efforts are often the byproduct of successful collaboration by teams; individuals are not as likely to think of and carry out successful proactive activity.

Ability to Meet Agency or Corporate Requirements

Another advantage of having an incident response team is that a team is generally better suited to meeting agency or corporate requirements. The main reason is that a team has individuals who are geared toward the same mission. Note that some government agencies and corporations go one step further in that they require (through a management directive or a policy statement) that an incident response team be formed.

Serving a Liaison Function

Response teams are better suited to serving a liaison function than are individuals because outside entities are not likely to learn of and/or be motivated to deal with individuals. Having a team identity provides extra external visibility as well as credibility, both of which are more suited to the liaison function. Furthermore, a "team," in many respects, commands a certain degree of legitimacy within internal and external organizations.

Ability to Deal with Institutional Barriers

Institutional politics invariably affect virtually any effort that occurs within an institution. Incident response teams (or at least incident response teams sanctioned by senior management), however, provide at least some degree of immunity from politics that provide barriers to incident response efforts. The main reason is that these teams are likely to have more authority to take action—such as shutting down systems that have been compromised at the superuser level—than individuals. Additionally, teams often involve individuals from a cross-section of organizations and groups, making them more politically palatable within a range of an organization's divisions and groups.

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