Security Tabletop Exercises are an important form of organizational training and validation that can help mitigate the impact of cyber-attacks. 

Your business’s Incident Response Plan serves as the blueprint that enables your team to detect, respond to, and recover from security incidents. If your organization has a plan in place, tabletop exercises allow you to practice your response and address any gaps.  

In this post, we will explore what security tabletops are, how the process works, and how it compares to red team testing.  

What is a Security Tabletop Exercise?  

A cybersecurity tabletop session is like a fire drill for a security breach. It is an incident simulation where key stakeholders in an organization come together to practice their incident response plan.  

Some of the key objectives include:  

  • Assigning roles and responsibilities to the right people.  
  • Establishing key outcomes for security response that satisfy all stakeholders.  
  • Outlining if not/when parameters for different scenarios.  
  • Renewing policies and procedures in place. 

The goal is to evaluate your organization’s crisis response processes, tools, and proficiency from both an executive and technical perspective.  

How Does the Process Typically Work? 

A cybersecurity tabletop session simulates an actual security incident. To start, someone, usually an outside security consultant such as those at Difenda, will identify objectives and present a scenario outlining the initial indicator of compromise.  

During the tabletop session, the team will work together to mitigate the impact of the breach and execute key response initiatives. Such as legal intervention, stakeholder communications, security remediation, marketing efforts and more.  

Throughout the discussion, the consultant will walk through different scenarios and point out holes in your resolution so you can create innovative solutions. In this roundtable environment, the team will review different actions until they have an agreed-upon approach and believe the desired outcome has occurred.

Once you have completed the exercise, a report is formulated and presented to the group at a later time. Changes can then be made to your formalized incident response plan.  

Why Run Security Tabletop Exercises?

Tabletop exercises help businesses assess the efficacy of their current policies and procedures. They identify strengths and weaknesses in crisis response plans and define the roles and responsibilities of the crisis team. These exercises are used to prepare critical business leaders for a breach and educate board members about incident response protocol.  

With the continued increase in cyber breaches, tabletop exercises are a necessary tool to provide businesses with peace of mind when an incident does occur. It is typically recommended that organizations run cyber breach tabletop exercises annually, at minimum.  

Comparing Security Tabletop sessions to Red Team Testing

Tabletop sessions and red team testing are both ways of assessing your business’ security preparedness. However, the methods of assessment are significantly different.  

Red team testing is a simulated attack on your security software. It is designed to establish the effectiveness of your technical security programs and tools. Simulated attacks deployed by Red Teams are multi-layered and designed to gauge how well a company’s people, processes and technologies detect and respond to a legitimate attack. 

Put simply, red team testing is the execution of the scenario outlined in a tabletop session. And for an effective incident response plan, you need both.  

Types of Firms that Should Consider Security Tabletops

Tabletop exercises are crucial in the cybersecurity industry. Any organization that has an in-house security team or is working with a managed security service provider (MSSP), should be assessing its incident response plan annually. These roundtables are designed to discover organizations’ weaknesses and ensure that organizations implement best practices and protocols for cybersecurity. 

However, if you do not have an incident response plan in place, it’s a good idea to establish one first so you can get the most out of your time.  

Looking to ensure your business is prepared for a breach? Contact us!