How is an Incident Response Retainer Essential For Your Success?

Leonardo M. Falcon
7 min readFeb 8, 2022

It is best to be prepared for any disaster. Isn’t it? Having an external incident response retainer is a part of such preparation where they provide you with extra resources that can deal with any type of cyberattacks. These resources specialize in responding to a cyber incident with a guaranteed Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Their mature policies, guidelines, and skilled labor will help you by reacting to the cyber breaches appropriately. Because there is a shortage of trained people in the market, an external cyber incident retainer is very helpful for any business, no matter its size. It is a quick and effective way to immediately enhance your security defenses.

Here are some vital things that you must know about a Cyber IR Retainer:

What is an External Incident Response Retainer Service?

An External IRR or Incident Response Retainer is the most widely used response and prevention threat method of businesses worldwide. It uses a methodical approach to make a strategy to limit, mitigate and detect possible exploitation. This service aims to bring value to businesses by restricting any damage due to a cyberattack. An investigation takes place to check the reasons behind any such adversity and helps in achieving a faster recovery.

When buying a service from a tool vendor, you can choose from mainly two types of retainers:

  • Prepaid Retainer: It is an agreement in which the client makes an advice payment to the service provider for a fixed duration. It is used to respond to cyber incidents with an agreed SLA. The service provider can offer you other security services like security education for the organization's staff or penetration testing if the hours are not entirely utilized by the end of the contract.
  • No-Cost Retainer: Also known as “zero dollar” retainer, it is an on-demand agreement where the service level agreement (SLA) defines the nature of services provided, cost per incident and procedure for declaring incident. It specifies how the agency will respond to an incident when it occurs. It is only paid if the company uses their services.

Why Is It Necessary to Rely on Incident Response Services?

Having a monthly retainer must be of utmost priority for early investigation and reaction to cyberattacks, primarily when the severity and consequences of security breaches are constantly growing. But, the fact is that most teams are overloaded with the day to day work on multiple IT projects, and many companies lack security knowledge. This can increase the chances of data loss, leading to a severe financial and reputation harm. Having a monthly retainer arranged in advanced can mitigate the effect of the security breach, avoiding costly delays.

Thorough risk analysis, active monitoring and an intelligent approach are a few practices that every organization must follow to be secure online. An external cyber incident response team will help you complement these capabilities and can be highly beneficial in other ways as well. They can deal with all the time-consuming but essential duties of managing active breaches and discovering the root causes that led to them. An external cyber incident response retainer can also proactively identify other risks while responding to an incident, and increase the overall future resiliency to similar threats.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring an External Incident Response Retainer?

Many organizations believe that building an in-house Incident Response team is better than hiring an external agency for their cybersecurity. It might be a good idea, but an in-house team will have drawbacks. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider hiring an external agency:

  1. Regular Support Tasks and Preparedness for the Latest Attacks

Your existing IT staff have a great deal of daily operational work, supporting users, updating systems, etc. They might also have to take care of onboarding new technology and integrating it with the existing systems and processes. With so much work in hand, responding to complex cybersecurity incidents can become overwhelming for them.

An external partner will allocate a dedicated team that works only on handling cyber incidents of various organizations making it easier for them to manage the internal issues around them. They also contribute to preparing your environment to respond faster and more efficiently to future attacks, external or internal.

2. Best Specialist Available at an Affordable Rate

There are only a limited number of cybersecurity experts available in the market. Finding the right ones for your own organization and keeping motivated can be difficult. It might also prove to be expensive for you as they have a higher salary and you will have to provide them with advanced training courses to keep their skills sharp. Also, your organization might not have enough Incident Response work to keep the specialist occupied on a regular basis.

With an Incident response retainer, highly qualified experts work for you without the extra cost and responsibilities. They will be always be ready to react in case of any cyber-attacks, even outside your organization’s working hours.

3. Tools Aren’t Always Available to Investigate Cyber Attacks at Scale

To investigate the root cause behind complex cyberattacks involving tens, hundreds of devices or more, various specialized tools are needed. When a corporation having thousands of devices is attacked, often they don’t have the correct tools in place to investigate the incident at scale across their IT/OT environments. Tools like EDR or scalable live-forensics platforms are essential in these cases. Other tools are also needed to collect and analyse data from different types of operating systems, including those legacy systems that are so hard to replace. An external cyber incident response team will have the correct tools, tested in the battlefield and ready to be deployed when needed.

4. Travelling to Remote Locations

When you hire an external cyber incident response team, they will be ready to travel to a remote location, to collect the forensic evidence that’s required for the investigation, and even perform the investigation on-site if needed. With an in-house team, employees might not be as comfortable travelling to a remote location on short notice, given that they might have other priorities or the location is too far to travel immediately.

What is Included in an External Incident Response Retainer Service?

An Incident Response service provider will typically include the following services in your cyber incident response service:

Preparation: It involves reviewing the IT systems, existing security tools, and the organization's network along with establishing quick procedures for investigating incidents and gaining access to data.

Planning: The IR service team will speak with the IT or security team of the organization to jointly plan a response to different types of incidents.

Incident Triage and Classification: Calling the security analyst of the service provider to provide the details of the incident, prioritize it and help in determining the severity of the security incident.

Initial Response: The response will follow a framework after the incident has been identified. The next step will be to investigate and remove the threat, recover the affected systems and prepare a strategy to avoid this attack in the future.

Service Level Agreement (SLA): It is an agreement that contains the agreed level of access given to the service provider’s IR team. They are mostly available 24/7, and have initial response times ranging from minutes to several hours. It can segregate between remote and on-site IR activities.

What Values do External Incident Response Retainers Bring Along?

Readiness: They will understand your environment, the common devices and operating systems used. Their tools will be prepared to be deployed without delays and to start investigating and responding to the threat in the shortest time possible.

24/7 response to attacks: The external experts are prepared technically and psychologically to start helping at any time of the day.

Crisis management: Their experts can help to manage the communications and other aspects of the response to large incidents that have a major impact in an organization.

In-depth forensic investigations: An external retainer service will provide highly skilled professionals with a strong skillset in Digital Forensics, Malware Analysis and Threat Intelligence.

Proactive Threat Hunting: They can help to discover threats or risks that are not clearly defined leveraging threat hunting methodologies and specialized tools.

Regular Threat Monitoring: During the response and recovery phases, the external team can monitor regularly your environment, leveraging the indicators of compromise recovered during the investigation phase. This can help to detect if the attacker is attempting to regain access to the environment.

Flexibility: Many retainers offer the possibility to use the allocated hours for a different purpose, like threat hunting, awareness trainings, phishing exercises, etc.

Key Takeaways

When you hire an external Cyber Incident response retainer, you are practically making your organization prepared for cyberattacks. With this retainer, you can be in control during these bitter crisis situations. Your partner will provide the necessary resources available 24*7 for urgent escalations, as well as general DFIR expertise and surge assistance. Also, the pre-negotiated terms and conditions will reduce execution timelines. Thus, it will help in reducing your organization’s exposure to the threat, associated risks and subsequent costs.

Get in touch with us through our web contact form or write us directly at if you have interest about IR retainers or if you are unsure if this service would be the right fit for your company. Our team will help you.



Leonardo M. Falcon

Leonardo is a recognized expert and leader in the field of cybersecurity, entrepreneur, and founder at Falcon Guard (