How to Become an Incident Responder

Muhammet Donmez
June 24, 2024
Incident Responder
How to Become an Incident Responder


A cybersecurity incident is a malicious attack or breach of an organization's information systems. These incidents can result in data loss, service interruption, reputational damage, financial loss, or legal issues. An Incident Responder is an expert who responds to these cybersecurity incidents. Incident responders work to prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to these incidents. Unlike SOC analysts, they deal with deeper and more challenging cases. SOC analysts are also a part of the SOC, a center for monitoring, analyzing, and reporting cybersecurity incidents. SOC Analysts receive numerous alarms and alerts daily, but most of these alerts are False Positives, meaning they do not pose a real threat. Incident responders, on the other hand, deal with situations that pose a real threat and require further investigation - these situations are True Positives. Incident responders use a variety of tools and techniques to determine the source, scope, impact, and consequences of the incident. They also take the necessary steps to intervene, mitigate damage, resolve the incident, and prevent future incidents.

Incident responders typically work during the week, but they need to be ready at a moment's notice when an incident occurs. This is because attackers and cybersecurity personnel are in a race against time. In the event of an incident, incident responders must be able to start the investigation and remediation process without any loss of time. And in such cases, they do not leave the investigation until the case is resolved. They work in shifts if the incident lasts longer than expected.

Job Description

An incident responder is a cybersecurity professional who is responsible for detecting, investigating, and responding to cyber threats. Incident responders have become a critical part of SOC (Security Operation Center) teams today because they handle cybersecurity incidents in companies or organizations. This is where they differ from SOC Analysts the most. While SOC analysts see and investigate a lot of False Positives throughout the day, incident responders typically deal with True Positives. In other words, the incidents they investigate require more in-depth analysis, knowledge, and experience. Unlike SOC analysts, their normal working hours are not shifts or 24/7, but weekdays and weekends. However, they will provide support regardless of the time of day when a case comes in. That is because attackers and cybersecurity personnel are racing against time. Incident responders must begin investigating the incident and taking the necessary action without wasting time. And in such cases, they do not leave the investigation until the case is resolved. They work in shifts if the incident lasts longer than expected.

Job Requirements

Here are the typical job requirements for someone who wants to become an Incident Responder;

  • In general, a bachelor's degree in computer science, information security, or a related field is expected. However, experience and skills can sometimes substitute for the degree requirement.
  • Must have some level of experience and knowledge in network security, intrusion detection, and response, security incident management (SIEM), technical knowledge of security devices (AV, EDR, FW, Proxy, IPS/IDS, etc.), and forensics (Autopsy, Volatility, EnCase, FTK, etc.).
  • It is important to have advanced analytical skills to understand security threats, analyze attacks, and respond effectively.
  • Advanced Linux, Windows, and Cloud skills are expected.
  • Experience with malware analysis, reverse engineering, and forensics is essential. 
  • Excellent communication and teamwork skills are important.
  • Must be open to continuous learning and improvement.
  • Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE), Certified Incident Handler (ECIH), Certified Computer Security Incident Handler (CSIH), GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), and Certified Cyber Incident Responder (CCIR) certifications are preferred. While these certifications are not required, they can compensate for a lack of experience and skills.

Differences Between SOC Analysts and Incident Responders

Incident responders and SOC analysts have many skills in common. For example, both personnel investigate the incidents/alerts that occur on security systems and are expected to have good analysis and reporting skills. However, SOC analysts are typically the first level of alert investigation and deal with lower severity alerts than incident responders. As a result, they see more False Positive alerts in their working life and generally have less experience and knowledge than Incident Responders. Essentially, both personnel investigate cybersecurity incidents. However, SOC analysts do not delve into topics such as reverse engineering or forensics in their investigations, and if their investigation reveals that attackers have infiltrated systems, they escalate the case to incident responders. It should be noted that incident responders typically begin their careers as SOC analysts. After their analysis and investigation during their time as an analyst, they continue their career in the direction of becoming an incident responder. Technical skills in areas such as forensics and data recovery are expected of Incident Responders. They should also have a history of active use of tools such as Autopsy, Volatility, EnCase, FTK, etc., or have training. Of course, knowledge of specific topics like memory analysis, registry analysis, USB forensics, and browser forensics will be an advantage. Finally, one of the biggest differences between an incident responder and a SOC analyst is in the litigation process. In a court of law, incident responders can provide expert testimony. For example, they may be able to assist in litigation in cases such as the recovery, examination, and reporting of data from a burned hard drive.

Required Skills

An Incident Responder is expected to have the following technical skills. In general, it is expected that these skills will be at an advanced level of knowledge and experience.

  • Malware Analysis
  • Network Packet Analysis
  • Programming or Scripting Skills
  • Vulnerability Analysis
  • Event Log Analysis
  • Reporting Experience
  • Advanced PowerShell, Bash, and Cmd Analysis
  • Incident Response Procedure
  • Vulnerability Management
  • Security Awareness and Training
  • Risk Management
  • Cloud Security

The skills listed above are generally the same skills required of SOC analysts. Below are the skills that set Incident Responders apart from the rest of the cybersecurity workforce. These are skills that incident responders must have.

  • Forensic Data Acquisition and Forensic Triage
  • USB Forensics
  • Registry Forensics
  • Windows Forensics
  • Linux forensics
  • Docker Forensics
  • Windows Memory Dump
  • Browser Forensics
  • Memory Forensics
  • Hacked Web Server Analysis

Average Salary

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for an Incident Responder in the United States is $88,083. This includes $9,717 in additional compensation (including bonuses and profit sharing) on top of an average base salary of $78,366 per year.

  • Average Base Salary: $87,349/year
  • Lowest Salary: $56,770/year
  • Highest Salary: $134,399/year

Courses and Certificates

Some companies or organizations require certain certifications or cybersecurity training before hiring you as an incident responder. These include Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE), Certified Incident Handler (ECIH), Certified Computer Security Incident Handler (CSIH), GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), and Certified Cyber Incident Responder (CCIR). Cybersecurity training courses are also recommended. We have provided some training links that we think will be useful for those looking to improve their incident response skills.


This article discusses in detail how to become an incident responder, explains the roles and responsibilities of an incident responder, and then examines the skills and abilities required to be successful in the field. It also highlights the key differences between SOC analysts and incident responders, and provides insight into the training and certification processes for becoming an incident responder. The purpose of this article is to provide information and resources to help you become a successful incident responder. For anyone interested in becoming an incident responder, we hope it will be useful!



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