Too Important to Skip, Too Broken to Ignore: Fixing the IR Tabletop Exercise

What is an IR Tabletop Exercise?

An incident response (IR) tabletop exercise is a discussion-based simulation where participants gather to walk through potential response procedures for a hypothetical cybersecurity incident scenario. The goal is to validate whether the organization’s incident response plan and procedures are effective and to identify any gaps that need to be addressed.

Tabletop exercises are different from functional exercises where personnel actually carry out response procedures in a simulated environment. Tabletops provide a more cost-effective and lower-risk way to test and evaluate incident response plans compared to functional exercises.

Why Annual Tabletops Are Not Enough

While experts recommend conducting an IR tabletop exercise at least annually, one tabletop per year simply does not provide enough practice for organizations’ IR teams. More frequent tabletop exercises mean more opportunities for teams to practice responding to cybersecurity incidents. This leads to better preparation and develops automaticity in personnel being able to react appropriately when a real-world incident occurs. More frequent exercises also allow organizations to test response plans against a wider variety of the latest real-world threats.

However, increasing the frequency of exercises has been a challenge for many organizations due to the substantial time, effort, and resources required for properly planning and facilitating tabletops. Developing realistic scenarios and injects, coordinating schedules across multiple departments, preparing materials, and facilitating the exercise itself takes considerable time and effort.

How ThreatGEN® Red vs. Blue Enables More Frequent Exercises

This is where ThreatGEN® Red vs. Blue can help organizations conduct more frequent IR tabletop exercises while minimizing the planning time and resources required. ThreatGEN provides a turnkey IR tabletop platform that automates many of the typical planning and facilitation tasks. Organizations can choose scenarios and environments from ThreatGEN’s content library and let the software handle injecting events, adapting the adversary’s strategy, scoring participants’ responses, and more. The platform includes built-in scenarios covering recent real-world threats so organizations can test response plans against the latest attacks. ThreatGEN® also provides facilitation guides and documentation to help organizations easily run their own successful tabletop exercises.

ThreatGEN’s tabletop module allows organizations to run exercises without requiring an experienced facilitator. The software guides participants through the scenario and injects events automatically. This enables more tabletops without the high cost of hiring third-party facilitators.

That said, tabletop preparation and planning does also have real costs in terms of staff time and resources. By automating the planning process, ThreatGEN® eliminates those labor costs up front, providing immediate hard cost savings for organizations.

Additionally, ThreatGEN’s tabletop module is built on a gaming engine and utilizes gaming A.I. to provide an active, adaptive adversary that can change its strategy based on the participants’ actions during the exercise. This level of dynamism and realism is not possible in traditional tabletop exercises, resulting in a more engaging and rewarding experience for participants.

The Benefits of More Frequent, Effective Exercises

With ThreatGEN’s automated, game-based tabletop exercises, organizations gain several advantages:

  • Test and improve incident response plans more frequently against a wide variety of threats.
  • The gaming engine and adaptive A.I. adversary provides a dynamic, realistic (and entertaining) simulation not possible with traditional tabletops.
  • Participants stay engaged responding to the active adversary, increasing exercise effectiveness.
  • Develops critical “muscle memory” so teams are better prepared to respond to real-world attacks.
  • Provides cost savings by eliminating staff time needed for manual exercise planning.

In summary, ThreatGEN’s immersive game-based platform enables more regular IR tabletops that are more rewarding for participants and deliver real improvements in incident response capabilities.

About ThreatGEN

ThreatGEN® Red vs. Blue is the next evolution in cybersecurity education, training, and IR tabletop exercises. It is a game-based cybersecurity simulation platform that combines the power of an actual computer gaming engine and active adversary simulation A.I., to provide the most practical and effective way for ANYONE to learn cybersecurity, from beginners to experts, and even leadership. It doesn’t require any prior technical knowledge or command line skills… not even to play as the red team! Used for cybersecurity education, awareness, training, and IR tabletop exercises, ThreatGEN® Red vs. Blue is immersive, interactive, and hands-on, and it’s supported by an education portal with online courses, labs, scenarios, and an online community.

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