Incident Command System

What Is an Incident Command System?

An incident command system (ICS) is a management structure developed to effectively handle and resolve emergencies. An ICS provides a systematic and comprehensive approach to resolving cybersecurity incidents by facilitating coordination among stakeholders, resources, and communication. Organizations can execute an ICS precisely through its command, control, and coordination mechanisms, thus enhancing their ability to respond to and mitigate incidents effectively.

Benefits of an Incident Command System

An ICS safeguards organizations against the risks and damages posed by cyberattacks, minimizing the impact of potential incidents. As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, an ICS is a vital asset that offers robust protection in the event of a security compromise. By fostering a secure environment, the ICS promotes a shared understanding of roles, actions, and protocols, ensuring swift and coordinated responses. Cyberattacks aim to breach network security and steal confidential data, and several risks necessitate an ICS, including:

Functions of an Incident Command System

A typical organizational structure for an ICS is based on five primary management sections. The functional areas of responsibility include: 

1. Command

The command stage designates an Incident Commander, setting the foundation for effective leadership and facilitating decision-making. The Incident Commander directs and manages ICS operations, playing a crucial role in defining goals, establishing response objectives, and selecting additional leaders to assist in the execution of the plan. Organizations lay the groundwork for a cohesive and efficient response effort by ensuring that an ICS is well-structured from the start. 

2. Operations

This section establishes a comprehensive strategy, implementing specific tactics to accomplish the objectives of the ICS. It serves as the central hub for coordinating and executing strategies to achieve the desired response outcomes. Depending on the main threats an organization may face, the specific operations can vary, as plans are tailored to address different aspects of potential incidents. 

3. Planning

The planning component involves determining the technical basis for the plan’s operations, coordinating the various functions, and processing incident information. It gathers and analyzes relevant data to develop comprehensive response strategies, facilitating a well-coordinated response system.

4. Logistics

This portion supports the technical actions necessary to execute the ICS successfully. It plays a crucial role in providing essential equipment, personnel, services and resources, ensuring the necessary tools and infrastructure are available to respond to the incident effectively.

5. Finance and Administration

Managing finances and administration is the final key component of an ICS, as it provides organizations with oversight of financial expenditures, documenting all costs and claims. As well as tracking and processing any expenses related to the incident, this component supports administrative tasks to maintain organization. 

Elements of Effective Incident Command Systems

A system of transparent and accountable responsibility is imperative, and a practical ICS should have the following elements:

Clear Chain of Command

A successful and efficiently executed ICS depends on the Incident Commander’s ability to facilitate clarity and uniformity among their team. Establishing a clear chain of command ensures that all stakeholders have a single point of contact for inquiries and reports.

Unified Command

Agencies with varying legal, geographical, and functional authorities and duties can coordinate and collaborate more efficiently by placing themselves under a unified command.

A Manageable Span of Control

The concept of “manageable span of control,” advises that no manager should have more than seven direct reports as a standard guideline in the workplace.

Integrated Communications

Incident communication plans are integral aspects of an ICS, as typical methods of communication may not always be adequate during emergencies. Compatible channels, systems and procedures are essential for effective integrated communications.

Information and Intelligence Management (IIM)

An IIM is a procedure for collecting, evaluating, exchanging, and managing data about an incident, ensuring that all necessary information is accounted for.

Incident Management vs. Incident Command System

Incident management detects and resolves any information technology (IT) events that can disrupt an organization’s critical operations and coordinates actions to mitigate an incident. It involves planning, organizing, and evaluating various response efforts and is broader than an ICS. Incident management encompasses the overall management and coordination of incident responses, proactively preparing organizations for cyberattacks. 

While an ICS is also a proactive method of defending against cyber threats, it is much more specific than incident management. An ICS is a fixed structure designed to facilitate effective incident management and provides a clear set of emergency management protocols.

Get immediate help from BlackBerry® Cybersecurity Services—whether you're under cyberattack, need to contain a breach or want to develop an incident response plan. Report an incident or call us now at +1-888-808-3119.