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Wisdom and Advice for Incident Response Testing

By Dan Hadaway | Thursday, June 25, 2015 - Leave a Comment

Testing Reduced to Two Bullet Lists!

How to make sure your Incident Response Tests are “amenable” to your auditors!
Another one of those Dan’s New Leaf Posts, meant to inspire thought about IT Governance . . . .



One of my favorite Clients is preparing for his or her (when she gave me permission to turn my answer into an article, she made it clear she didn’t want to be known) Incident Response Test scheduled for July.  She e-mailed me the following question:

“I’m preparing for our Incident Response Test.  I’m planning on doing two scenarios.  First being the loss of a bank owned cell phone and the second the loss of an employee owned cell phone.  Any words of wisdom or advice?”

To which I, a person with both wisdom and advice, replied as follows:

Words of wisdom:

  • Be sure you hold a “Walk-through Test” in advance of the tabletop test.
  • Be sure you have three documents as the paper-trail of the test process:
    1. The Test Plan (that is reviewed with the IRT prior to the actual test date.  Could be during the walk-through.)
      • The test plan should lay out the overall test scenario (in your case, Mobile Device Breach), but not give the team the heads-up on the “sub-scenarios.”
      • It should spell out all the requirements of the test.
    2. Minutes from the actual test.
    3. Documentation of a “Post-Mortem Review” that includes action items, if possible.  It could include planned changes to the plan.  NIST calls this the Post-Incident Follow-up Document.
  • Be sure that one of the “sub-scenarios” would be classified as a “disclosure incident” or however your policy is set up to require you to notify your customers.  You want your team to know what it feels like to have to make that decision.
  • Make the last sub-scenarios be an incident that occurs when everybody who is participating in the other sub-scenarios are not available.


  • In my experience, a quick two hour meeting is not enough.  Consider making it a four hour test, separated by lunch.  10-12, 1-3.
  • Test as many sub-scenarios as time allows.
  • Try to fit a “black swan sub-scenario” into the day . . . . an event that has a low likelihood but huge impact.  So in the case of the mobile device plans you have, maybe we discover that the employee had “temporarily” e-mailed a huge spreadsheet with thousands of ssns, names, addresses, account numbers, the works) to himself, and actually had the file up on his cell phone before he saw the geeky looking guy run off with it screaming “I can get $90 a record for this baby!”
  • Or something like that.


Original article by Dan Hadaway CRISC CISA CISM. Founder and Managing Partner, infotex

“Dan’s New Leaf” is a “fun blog to inspire thought in the area of IT Governance.”




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