Grand List of Incident Management Frameworks

Forming a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) is a complicated affair. It involves a certain combination of staff, processes and technologies.

Luckily, numerous incident management frameworks are available for the rescue. They all aim to provide a structured approach for establishing incident response teams in your organisation.

This post provides a general overview of the most popular incident management frameworks.

Classic Incident Management Frameworks

The following standards elaborate the process of setting up and operating CSIRTs. They help build customer as well as internal facing incident responder teams, serving single or multiple organisations.

However, take advice from the listed frameworks with a grain of salt. As they were written before APT-style attacks, they mainly follow the slightly outdated linear process (preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery, lessons learned). Scroll down to the next section for a list of modern frameworks.

ISO/IEC 27035:2011: Information Security Incident Management

iso-logoThe ISO (aka. BSI) framework provides a structured approach to detect, respond, report and learn from security incidents.

You may find the framework excessively rigid and formal. Unless the goal is total ISO compliance, I will consider to take the good ideas from standard and tailor them to the organisation’s needs.

SANS: Creating and Managing an Incident Response Team

sans-logoThis paper gives an overview of classic CSIRT activities and organisational requirements. A solid, easy-to-implement although a bit outdated framework.

RFC 2350: Expectations for Computer Security Incident Response

ietf-logoEach CSIRT is a special snowflake, and this RFC recognises the fact. However, it aims to collect common things that apply to each incident response team regardless of its purpose.

The standard also provides a formal template for publishing the list of services and contact details of your CSIRT. The filled-in document should be publicised either internally or externally.

CERT: Handbook for Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs)

logo-certProbably one of the most cited standard in the incident management governance arena. It defines the governing policy framework around incident response, the list of services a CSIRT may provide. It also collects the common information flows from/to the CSIRT.

Because the handbook considers the CSIRT’s constituents as clients, whose satisfaction is paramount, the guidance is also concerned with quality assurance matters. The manual also deals with loosely connected issues as hiring and training.

NIST 800-61: Computer Security Incident Handling Guide

logo-nistThe standard lists the necessary documents such as written policies and incident response plans. Like the CERT Handbook above, the NIST framework also collects the typical information flows as well as defines the ideal lifecycle of the incidents.

ENISA: CSIRT Setting up Guide

enisa-logoA comprehensive model, which elaborates the necessary steps to establish a CSIRT. It is concerned with business, process and technical aspects.

The framework is mainly concerned with demonstrating the business value of having a CSIRT and the team’s place in the existing organisational structure.

The ENISA guide frequently cites practical examples, which makes the document relatively easy to read. It has been translated into 25 different languages.

ENISA: Good Practice Guide for Incident Management

This guide is the counterpart of the CSIRT Setting Up Guide from above. It describes good practices and provides practical information and guidelines for the management of information security incidents. It also comes with a lot of examples and templates.

ISACA: Incident Management and Response

logo-isacaISACA’s approach to incident management based on COBIT.

It briefly demonstrates the benefits of having an incident response team. The white paper also defines the phases of the incident lifecycle, the associated information security strategies and other governance activities. Finally, it justifies the presence of the IR function by linking it to the relevant COBIT control objectives.

Modern Frameworks for the Age of APT

APT-style attacks involving targeted attacks, AV evasion, Powershell-based backdoors, advanced beacons is a relatively new area. Therefore, incident response practices are rapidly changing here, and the formal frameworks have not caught up yet. The following section is a weak attempt to collect them.

ISACA: Responding to Targeted Cyberattacks

Another framework from ISACA. This publication, however, takes a more tactical approach to focusing on the defences against APT activities.

The document elaborates the essential capabilities, besides standardises the detection and response techniques. The framework was developed together with Ernst & Young.

Yeaaaah, if you could write a framework…

And the list of modern frameworks ends here. Information on current incident management practices is scattered across blogs, conference slides, YouTube videos and whitepapers.


Here is a non-exhaustive list of materials to follow:

What are your favourite resources? Let us know in the comments below!

Incident Management Maturity Models

The following frameworks help to measure the current maturity level of the incident response capabilities in your organisation.

SIM3: Security Incident Management Maturity Model

A maturity model that helps to assess the current level of capabilities of Incident Response Teams. It presents the next maturity level and helps identify the necessary steps to reach that.

CERT: Incident Management Capability Metrics (IMCM)

A comprehensive model based on a checklist approach. This benchmark can be used to assess how an organisation’s current incident management capability is defined, managed, measured, and can be improved.

CERT: An Introduction to the Mission Risk Diagnostic for Incident Management Capabilities (MRD-IMC)

The MRD-IMC method is a risk-based approach for assessing which incident management function achieves its mission and objectives.

Threat Hunting Maturity Model

Hunting is an ongoing activity where analysts actively scanning the infrastructure for indicators for compromise. There are different levels of hunting spanning from non-existent to full automation.

Image courtesy of Benoit photography


Gabor Szathmari is a cybersecurity expert and digital privacy enthusiast. In his professional life, Gabor helps businesses, including many small and mid-size legal practices, with their cybersecurity challenges at Iron Bastion.