Why Digital Forensics & Incident Response Matters for Cyber Insurance

It is the alert an organization never wants to receive: its cybersecurity defenses or data security measures were breached. 

A bad actor gaining access to a device or your network threatens your organization with costly and potentially dire consequences. In addition to sensitive data and material assets being compromised, there is the fallout from the event that is not easily, or often completely, remedied. It is certainly not hyperbole to suggest that the financial ramifications of a breach can be devastating to an organization. The average cost of a data breach now exceeds $4.24 million, growing by more than 9 percent in the last year. Adding to the grievous injuries and indignity of an incursion, however, an organization may also lose its cyber insurance or not qualify for immediate compensation and/or future coverage. 

While “always-on” cyber defenses are critical in protecting an organization from adversaries, having the appropriate resources and support in place and prepared to respond with authority to a breach is just as important. Enlisting the services of digital forensics and incident response partners not only helps an organization minimize the impact of a breach but also helps prevent similar attacks in the future. 


Effective Preparation for Breach Recovery

While the best defense against a breach is to implement a robust and reliable cybersecurity strategy, an organization also needs to have mechanisms in place to immediately start the breach recovery process. 

In responding to a breach, time is of the essence. The more time that a threat actor has to operate inside of an organization’s defenses, the greater the extent of the damage that can, and will, occur. Having digital forensics and incident response partners at the ready can make a world of difference, post-breach, in limiting the amount of time that the threat actor has to steal or compromise the organization’s data and assets. Not only will a digital forensics & incident response partner help an organization initiate a containment and recovery process, but they will also determine how and where security was undermined and what went wrong in the first place. 


Digital Forensics

While cybersecurity focuses on prevention and defending an organization from attacks, a search for “forensic evidence” should commence when a breach occurs just as a search for evidence would proceed following a non-digital crime. Digital forensics focuses on the investigation of cybercrime by identifying, preserving, analyzing, and documenting digital evidence. 

A digital forensics consultant works to identify the intrusion, understand its source, seal the breach, and help recover any compromised data. Not only is this important for immediate and long-term breach recovery, but digital forensics also allows an organization to recognize weaknesses in their cybersecurity and take steps to prevent attacks in the future.


Incident Response

A cyber incident response plan is crucial to how well and how quickly an organization starts the breach recovery process.

A playbook of sorts, an incident response plan defines exactly what happens in the immediate and long-term aftermath of a breach. It also delineates responsibilities for every step of the post-breach recovery process. 

An experienced cyber incident response consultant will play an instrumental role in developing a plan that gets an organization to the other side of a breach with minimized damage. As a member of an organization’s cybersecurity incident response team, a consultant will also play an active role in executing the plan, initiating and managing the breach response until the situation is resolved. 

Cyber incident response plans that deliver should follow the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework for the incident response lifecycle:


  1. Preparation: Preparation includes compiling a list of all assets, endpoints, and interdependencies. Organizations should also define what types of security events should be investigated and at what levels.
  2. Detection and analysis: Detection includes collecting data to determine baselines that can be used for analysis to identify anomalies or indicators of cyber incidents.
  3. Containment, eradication, and recovery: The first goal in incident response is to contain the attack before it does any damage. Then, response teams focus on removing the threat and restoring systems to normal operations.
  4. Post-incident activity: A key component of the NIST framework is to investigate and document what happened, what security gaps need to be addressed, and how team members responded. These learnings must then be applied to improve cybersecurity to prevent future incidents.


Beyond having a plan, an incident response partner should help an organization practice for a breach via tabletop exercises and penetration testing to assess cybersecurity readiness. Remember: failure to prepare is preparing to fail. 


Cyber Insurance and Data Forensics & Incident Response

The #1 rule in cybersecurity is the best time to prepare for a breach is before one happens.

For cyber insurers, an organization’s efforts at reducing risk have a significant impact on the level of coverage available or the cost of the premiums required. Having both digital forensics and incident response partners in place before an incursion can mean the difference between having a recovery that is satisfactory for continued coverage at a reasonable rate and losing cyber insurance or having a claim denied.

Of note, not only do some insurers want proof of both partners ahead of time, but they often require having them after a breach. 

Regardless of their impacts on an organization’s cyber insurance policy, working with data forensics and incident response partners is good practice, as both help ensure the best possible outcome in the wake of a breach. 


Digital Forensics & Incident Response for More Complete Cybersecurity 

As cyberattacks proliferate across all sectors and demographics, while continuing to evolve in sophistication, it seems certain that most organizations will fall victim, in some way, to digital adversaries. Programs that seek to reduce the risk of catastrophic damage from a cybersecurity breach must go beyond having the strongest defenses possible – they must also be ready to respond effectively as soon as an incursion occurs. 

Partnering with qualified and experienced digital forensics and incident response experts well before a breach happens is one of the most important steps an organization can take to be proactive in protecting itself. 

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