How to Become a Security Incident Responder

Another fighter of cybercrime that works on a cybersecurity team is a security incident responder. Other titles for this position include Computer Science Incident Responder, Computer Security Incident Responder Team Engineer, Cyber Incident Responder, Computer Network Defense Incident Responder, or Intrusion Analyst. Security incident responders are the “first responders” when it comes to a cyber incident. They investigate what occurred and try to mitigate damages. Much of the job duties and responsibilities of a security incident responder are similar to those of a computer forensics investigator or cybercrime investigator.

The ultimate goal, of course, of a security incident responder is to prevent cybersecurity incidents from occurring at all. To that end, some of the duties of a security incident responder will revolve around training others in the organization to learn how to avoid risks that can cause, or contribute to, cybercrimes. Security incident responders may work directly for an organization or as an independent consultant, as many companies still outsource their incident handling and management.

If the world of cybercrime is fascinating to you and you’d like to be on the front lines of responding when such events occur, keep reading to discover how you can become a security incident responder.

Education and Experience Required to Become a Security Incident Responder

A security incident responder is not an entry-level position. Experience in information technology and information security is necessary before you can fill this position. Most security incident responder positions will require at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity or information technology. See our Cybersecurity Bachelor’s Degree guide for bachelor’s degree programs within your state. Graduate degrees are always helpful if you would like to advance in your career or become a supervisor someday.

Examples of bachelor’s degrees that apply to this position include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity – University of Montana, Missoula
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology – Security and Information Assurance Concentration – Pace University, New York City, NY
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – Concentration in Cyber Defense – University of Idaho, Moscow
  • Bachelor of Computer Engineering, Minor in Cybersecurity – University of Delaware, Newark

If you are having trouble finding experiential opportunities, internships are a great way to gain such experience. Take a look at our Guide to Cybersecurity Internships to find experiences that can help you along the way on the path toward becoming a security incident responder.

There are many professional industry certifications that can assist you in your quest to become a security incident responder. Some of them include:

  • Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst (CREA)
  • Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
  • Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)
  • Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Computer Security Incident Handler (CERT CSIH)
  • Certified Incident Handler (E/CIH)

Job Description & Skills Required for a Security Incident Responder

There are many important responsibilities involved in the job description of a security incident responder. Some of theme include:

  • Monitor the organization’s networks and systems to spot and prevent intrusions
  • Thoroughly examine and define all security flaws and holes in an organization’s computer systems and networks
  • Use computer forensic tools to examine and analyze electronic media in suspected hacking cases
  • Conduct security audits on the systems, including performing penetration testing tasks, network forensics and risk assessment and analysis
  • Conduct tasks related to malware analysis and reverse engineering
  • Define a course of action to take if a security problem does exist
  • Define protocols for communication with the organization and with law enforcement should a security incident occur
  • Design and implement a development plan to target evaluations of security gaps in an organization’s policies and procedures, including tabletop testing and training for employees
  • Explain in detailed technical reports what occurred when an incident happens, including the reasons why this occurred and your response
  • Document all findings in an easy to read format
  • Prepare an incident response plan for the organization
  • Testify in court if called upon to do so
  • Build relations with other entities responsible for conducting cyber threat analyses

Skills that Security Incident Responders are expected to have are:

  • Usage of forensic software applications like FTK, EnCase, XRY, Cellebrite
  • System monitoring tools
  • Coding ability using C, C++, C#, Java, ASM, PERL, PHP
  • Backup and archiving techniques
  • Use of enterprise system monitoring tools
  • Cloud computing
  • UNIX
  • Network communication (IP/TCP)
  • Computer hardware systems
  • Web-based application security
  • eDiscovery tools
  • Windows Operating Systems
  • Linux Operating Systems
  • Persistence
  • Work well under pressure handling multiple tasks
  • Problem-solving and advanced analytical skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good grasp of basic security principles like confidentiality, authentication, access control and privacy, security vulnerabilities, physical security issues, protocol design flaws, malicious code, implementation flaws, configuration weaknesses, user errors, user indifference

Security Incident Responder Salary & Job Outlook

According to, the average annual salary for a security incident responder in the US is $73,046. reports similar average salaries for security incident responders, at $77,288. further goes on to note the average security incident responder salary range at various employers in the US, including:

  • Northrop Grumman: $69,000 to $80,000
  • Humana: $95,000 to $102,000
  • Sevatec: $57,000 to $62,000
  • Secure Mission Solutions: $88,000 to $94,000
  • General Electric: $86,000 to $92,000
  • Cox Communications: $118,000 to $127,000
  • GE Digital: $112,000 to $121,000

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says that information security jobs are projected to increase by 31 percent from 2019 to 2029, including job opportunities for security incident responders. This field is certainly on the rise, and perfect if you want to investigate and prevent cybercrime in an in-depth, immediate manner. With some education and a bit of experience, you, too, can work as a security incident responder.