Tips to Help You Effectively Manage Your IR Team

By Alex MacLachlan October 13, 2016 incident-response

A cybersecurity incident response team is the first and most important line of defense in preventing breaches and mitigating damage. Cybersecurity team members are highly trained professionals who thrive in a dynamic, ever-changing environment. One day, they’re making split-second decisions to protect an asset during a cyberattack, and the next, they’re poring over data intelligence and insights to methodically root out the underlying cause of the breach. At the same time, the highly regimented and prescriptive monitoring that cybersecurity teams are responsible for can become taxing and mind-numbing over time. For a burned-out cybersecurity professional, a minor threat that should be a concern could very well pass by unnoticed. To keep your cybersecurity incident response team firing on all four cylinders, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to keep them motivated, alert, and experts in their field. Your goal should be to ensure you’re paying attention to their needs and demonstrate that you respect and value their invaluable contributions. Let’s explore five key strategies for effectively managing your cybersecurity incident response team.

Empower your team

It’s natural for senior management at an organization to be overly protective of its systems and assets and, consequently, to try to micromanage the work of its cybersecurity incident response team. The problem is that no employee wants to be micromanaged; when a cybersecurity team is micromanaged, it hinders the team’s ability to use its own creative problem-solving skills and specialized expertise to find the best solutions to problems. Your cybersecurity team needs to feel empowered to exercise its own professional judgment. When you turn over this decision-making authority to the team, you’ll find that team members rise to the occasion, embracing their responsibility to protect your thousands (perhaps millions) of dollars of assets.

Provide adequate resources

Often there’s pressure from the top to reduce the budget of cybersecurity teams, especially if the organization has never faced a serious security breach. The best way you can combat this tendency is to listen to what your cybersecurity team is recommending to you regarding resource allocation; after all, they’re the experts you’ve hired to protect the organization, and they understand that all organizations have finite budgets. If there’s concern that a cybersecurity team or individual team members are asking for just a bit too much, you can push back by establishing a policy that whoever advocates for a new tool or protocol becomes singularly responsible for its ongoing maintenance; that’ll force the team to think long and hard about which resources are truly necessary to do the job. Furthermore, when budgets get particularly tight and you’re considering outsourcing, you should work with your cybersecurity team on developing a reasonable, viable plan for how best to divvy up the workload.

Foster an engaging workplace culture

Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand, and you need to be cognizant of the fact that they will leave if they perceive a negative workplace culture. To keep your team engaged, you want to implement initiatives that inspire and motivate them. Professional development opportunities are a must, as are team-building activities and opportunities for interaction with peers outside the organization. You also should consider “gamifying” their jobs—that is, turning their daily work into a competitive game in which the best-performing individuals get publicly recognized and rewarded. You can create leaderboards, hold recognition ceremonies, and award gifts and other prizes to top performers.

Provide opportunities for your team to de-stress

The workload of cybersecurity teams can vary dramatically by the day or even the hour; even when things are calm, cybersecurity teams must stay constantly alert and be prepared to jump into action at any moment. Furthermore, cybersecurity teams are under constant pressure to be in compliance with their organization’s precise, legally binding standards for protecting data confidentiality and preserving asset integrity. Although cybersecurity professionals enjoy the pressure and pace of their jobs, that doesn’t mean they can’t get overwhelmed, stressed, and burned out. You should be proactively looking for signs of stress, as well as opportunities to help your team de-stress. For example, HR might be able to provide a confidential forum for team members to vent their concerns and frustrations, or you could schedule staff training seminars that focus on improving communication and building healthy relationships with peers.

Ensure your team feels connected to the organization

The first time that your cybersecurity team has meaningful interaction with other divisions of the organization—from compliance to legal to PR—shouldn’t be in the middle of trying to contain a security breach. Your team needs to get to know other departments to establish a rapport and mutual trust; all parties need to know they can be on the same page and work well together in solving problems. Moreover, your cybersecurity team should be proactively engaging with other divisions on subject-specific matters. For example, with legal counsel, your cybersecurity team should be talking through legal liability and confidentiality issues. With PR teams, your cybersecurity team should be talking through how to properly relay information about a cybersecurity incident to senior management, law enforcement, customers, and the public. Your cybersecurity team plays an invaluable role in mitigating risks and providing real-time intelligence about nearly every aspect of your network infrastructure. Although it can be hard to fully appreciate all of the tasks—big and small—that team members are juggling, you should be demonstrating how much you care by empowering them, providing them with adequate resources, fostering an engaging workplace culture, providing de-stressing opportunities, and keeping your team plugged into the broader organization. Learn More About Unified Incident Response

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Alex MacLachlan

Alex MacLachlan

Alex is the Director of Marketing at D3. He oversees D3's marketing, communications, and digital programs. He enjoys fishing, "checking the analytics", playing golf and watching hockey - in that order.


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