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What Is a Cybersecurity Event and How to Respond to It?

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Cybersecurity events and incidents are happening all over the world, all the time. It’s just that the big ones aren’t making headlines, but are being dealt with by a group of highly trained security experts. But what exactly are they doing? More importantly, what is a cybersecurity event, and how is it different from an incident?

Those are just some of the questions we’re going to answer today, so let’s not waste any more time, and get straight into it.

What Is a Cybersecurity Event?

So what is a cybersecurity event, and why is it crucial that you know about it? Well, a cybersecurity event defines a change in the regular or foreseeable behavior of a system, environment, process, or workflow. It represents a change in a network’s or service’s everyday operations, and it points to a safeguarding failure or security policy breach.

Also, if we’re talking about computing, a cybersecurity event can include any identifiable occurrence that’s significant to software or hardware. For a cybersecurity event to be called that, it needs to bear some importance to security systems or any data.

Now, one common misconception that we see about events is that most people that these can only mean something negative. However, a cybersecurity event can also be a positive change that’s been made to improve or strengthen security systems.

It can also vary in size, and be just a minor thing, like an email, or big enough to force an organization to change its firewalls and response plans. For example, these are some of the more common cybersecurity events that you’ll see:

  • Emails of suspicious origins being flagged
  • Server outage causing a security lapse
  • Downloading software to company devices


More often than not, the first thing to tip you off that there’s been a cybersecurity event is an alert. How fast and relevant this alert is will depend on which Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) tool you’re using. 

Also, the person in charge or security provider can determine who should get them. As soon as there’s an alert, there should be a response already prepared, which will efficiently tackle the event.

What Is a Cybersecurity Incident?

A cybersecurity incident is a negative change within the system that can impact the entire business or organization. It can happen as an employee mistake or as a deliberate attack, but whichever it is, all incident scenarios warrant a response.

One thing to know about incidents is that they’re not as obvious as you might think. That is to say, it’s much more than someone in the organization just clicking on a wrong link, and opening a pornado. Cyber attackers are using extremely stealthy tactics, which is why they can go in and out of systems easily. 

Someone could be robbing you of your data without you even knowing. Well, unless you’re looking for it. But keep in mind that a breach attempt is not the same as an actual breach. While that sounds pretty obvious, there’s an important reason for bringing it up.

If you classify every breach attempt as an incident and not an event, you risk having many more incidents than there actually are. And since incidents trigger alarms every time, it could become a huge problem that leads to alarm fatigue. 

What that means is that, at some point, while expecting it to just be an attempt, your response team might not pay a lot of attention. At that moment, an attacker could use the alarm fatigue to their advantage to do a full-on breach.

Some common examples of a cybersecurity incident include:

  • Someone stealing private and sensitive data (virtually or by stealing equipment)
  • Compromised passwords because there’s no password management system
  • An employee responding to a phishing email

what is a cybersecurity event

Events vs. Incidents — Knowing the Difference

The simplest way to remember the difference is that not all events are incidents, but all incidents are events.

As we mentioned earlier, a cybersecurity event can mean countless different things. On any given day, there are hundreds, if not thousands of events happening because they can be both good or bad. Since sifting through all of them is not only impossible but a total waste of time, businesses use SIEM tools. They can highlight which events require immediate attention and a response

Once the events have been singled out as incidents, they require instant identification, records, and remedies. 

Responding to a Cybersecurity Event and Incidents

As with everything in security and executive protection, there are always different ways to handle a situation because no two are the same. With that said, incidents have higher alert levels, and they usually require an immediate and urgent response. 

On the other hand, dealing with events, which are not yet incidents, should be a bit easier because you should already have protocols in place. For example, you could run scans, monitor accounts, and do traffic analysis. If any of those tests show you that you have an incident on your hands, you’d then move to a different response.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have a system in place that will filter out the important events from the less relevant ones. But keep in mind that, no matter how good the system is, it can’t just run itself. You need to do constant checks and maintenance to ensure everything is working the way it should.

Now, moving on to incidents for a moment, let’s talk about the response plan. That plan should go into detail about why and how you can recognize threats, mitigate risks, as well as prevent future incidents. Here’s everything you need to know about creating a bulletproof emergency response plan.

To Sum up

We hope that we’ve helped you understand what is a cybersecurity event, and how it’s different from an incident. We also hope that you’ve figured out that absolutely no business or organization should be without a proper emergency response plan. But if you don’t have one, call your security provider right now, and have them create one.

If you have any more questions or concerns, please feel free to leave us a comment down below. And if you want to keep tabs on the security industry, and always be in the know, subscribe to our newsletter.

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