In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the need for skilled professionals who can effectively handle and respond to cybersecurity incidents has never been more critical. Cyber threats and attacks continue to pose significant risks to organizations and individuals. To defend against these threats, the role of a certified incident handler has emerged as a vital line of defense. This comprehensive guide will walk you through becoming a certified incident handler, equipping you with the knowledge and skills needed to defend the digital frontier.


This section will discuss the importance of incident handling in the digital landscape and provide an overview of certified incident handlers.

Importance of Incident Handling

With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks, organizations need a proactive approach to effectively identify, mitigate, and respond to security incidents. Incident handling plays a crucial role in minimizing the impact of these incidents and restoring normalcy to affected systems and networks.

Overview of Certified Incident Handlers

Certified incident handlers have undergone specialized training and certification programs to develop expertise in incident response and handling. These individuals possess the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively manage and resolve security incidents, ensuring digital assets’ integrity, availability, and confidentiality.

Understanding Incident Handling

In this section, we will delve deeper into the concept of incident handling, its purpose, and the key responsibilities of an incident handler.

Definition and Purpose of Incident Handling

Incident handling involves identifying, assessing, containing, and resolving security incidents. Its primary purpose is to minimize the impact of incidents on an organization’s systems, data, and operations and prevent future incidents. Incident handlers play a crucial role in this process by acting as the first line of defense when an incident occurs. Their main objective is swiftly and effectively responding to incidents, mitigating potential damages, and restoring normalcy to the affected systems.

Key Responsibilities of an Incident Handler

Certified incident handlers are responsible for various crucial tasks throughout the incident handling process. Some of their key responsibilities include:

  1. Detection and Triage: Incident handlers must be able to promptly detect and identify security incidents. They analyze indicators of compromise, investigate potential threats, and determine the severity of incidents to prioritize response efforts.
  1. Containment and Mitigation: Once an incident is identified, incident handlers take immediate action to contain and mitigate the impact. They isolate affected systems, block unauthorized access, and implement security measures to prevent further damage.
  1. Investigation and Analysis: Incident handlers conduct thorough investigations to determine the root cause of incidents. They analyze logs, gather evidence, and employ forensic techniques to identify the attacker’s methods and motives. This analysis helps in preventing similar incidents in the future.
  1. Response and Recovery: Incident handlers develop and execute comprehensive response plans, coordinating with relevant teams and stakeholders. They ensure that affected systems are restored to normal operations while minimizing downtime and data loss.
  1. Documentation and Reporting: Incident handlers must maintain accurate and detailed documentation throughout the incident handling process. They document all actions taken, findings, and recommendations and provide comprehensive incident reports to stakeholders and management.

Becoming a Certified Incident Handler

This section will explore the benefits of becoming a certified incident handler and the steps involved in obtaining the certification.

Benefits of Certification

Obtaining certification as an incident handler offers several benefits, including

  1. Recognition and Credibility: Certification validates your expertise in incident handling, providing recognition and credibility within the industry. It demonstrates your commitment to professional development and staying updated with the latest practices.
  2. Enhanced Skills and Knowledge: Certification programs cover various technical skills, frameworks, and methodologies. By pursuing certification, you can expand your knowledge and develop specialized skills highly valued in cybersecurity.
  3. Career Advancement Opportunities: Being a certified incident handler opens doors to diverse career opportunities. Organizations often prefer certified professionals when hiring for incident response positions, and certification can contribute to career growth and increased earning potential.

Steps to Become a Certified Incident Handler

To become a certified incident handler, you should follow these steps:

  1. Researching Available Certifications: Start by researching the different incident handler certifications available in the industry. Some popular certifications include Certified Incident Handler (ECIH), GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), and Certified Computer Security Incident Handler (CSIH).
  2. Meeting Prerequisites: Review the prerequisites for each certification to ensure you meet the required criteria. Prerequisites may include specific work experience, educational qualifications, or completion of relevant training programs.
  3. Choosing the Right Certification Program: Select a certification program that aligns with your career goals and interests. Consider the program’s reputation, curriculum, examination format, and ongoing professional development requirements.
  4. Preparing for the Certification Exam: Thoroughly prepare for the certification exam by studying the recommended resources, attending training courses, and practicing with sample questions. Utilize online forums and study groups to exchange knowledge and insights with other aspiring incident handlers.
  5. Taking the Exam and Obtaining Certification: Schedule and take the certification exam once you feel adequately prepared. Successfully passing the exam will earn you the certification and recognition as a certified incident handler.

You can gain the necessary skills and credentials to excel as a certified incident handler by following these steps. However, becoming certified is just the beginning of your journey toward becoming an expert in incident handling.

Core Skills and Knowledge

This section will explore the essential skills and knowledge areas that a certified incident handler should possess.

Technical Skills Required for Incident Handling

To be effective in incident handling, certified professionals need to have a strong foundation in technical skills, including:

  1. Networking and Systems Knowledge: Understanding network protocols, operating systems, and network architecture is crucial for identifying vulnerabilities and assessing the impact of incidents.
  2. Malware Analysis and Forensics: Proficiency in analyzing malware and conducting digital forensics enables incident handlers to uncover the tactics and techniques used by attackers, aiding in incident response and prevention.
  3. Intrusion Detection and Prevention: Knowledge of intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) helps monitor network traffic, identify suspicious activities, and respond to potential threats.
  4. Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing: Incident handlers should be familiar with conducting vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify system weaknesses and mitigate potential risks.

Understanding Common Types of Incidents

Certified incident handlers should be well-versed in recognizing and handling various types of security incidents, including:

  1. Malware Infections: Dealing with malware infections, such as viruses, worms, and ransomware, requires incident handlers to understand the malware lifecycle and employ effective mitigation strategies.
  2. Data Breaches: Handling data breaches involves investigating unauthorized access to sensitive information, assessing the impact, and implementing measures to prevent further data loss.
  3. Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks: Incident handlers must know how to identify and mitigate DoS attacks that disrupt the availability of services by overwhelming systems with excessive traffic.
  4. Phishing and Social Engineering: Understanding phishing techniques and social engineering tactics are crucial for incident handlers to educate users, detect fraudulent activities, and respond effectively.

Knowledge of Incident Response Frameworks and Methodologies

Certified incident handlers should be familiar with incident response frameworks and methodologies, such as:

  1. NIST Incident Response Framework: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a comprehensive framework for incident response, including preparation, detection, analysis, containment, eradication, and recovery.
  2. SANS Incident Handling Process: The SANS Institute offers a structured incident handling process that covers preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery, and lessons learned.
  3. ISO 27035 Incident Management: ISO 27035 provides guidelines for managing information security incidents, encompassing incident identification, reporting, assessment, response, and lessons learned.

Proficiency in Incident Analysis and Investigation Techniques

Certified incident handlers should possess strong analytical and investigative skills, including:

  1. Log Analysis: Analyzing system logs, network logs, and security event logs helps incident handlers identify suspicious activities, trace the steps of an attacker, and gather evidence for further investigation.
  2. Evidence Collection: Knowing how to collect and preserve digital evidence ensures its integrity and admissibility for legal and forensic purposes.
  3. Incident Reporting: Incident handlers should be able to compile detailed incident reports, documenting the incident timeline, affected systems, actions taken, and recommendations for preventing future incidents.

By developing these core skills and knowledge areas, certified incident handlers can effectively navigate the complex incident response and mitigation landscape.

Training and Education

This section will explore various training and education options available to aspiring incident handlers.

Formal Education Options

Formal education in cybersecurity or related fields can provide a solid foundation for a career as a certified incident handler. Pursuing a degree program, such as a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or information technology, equips individuals with a comprehensive understanding of incident handling principles and concepts. These programs often cover many topics, including network security, cryptography, ethical hacking, and incident response.

Online Courses and Training Programs

Online courses and training programs offer a flexible and accessible way to acquire specialized knowledge and skills in incident handling. Numerous reputable organizations and platforms provide self-paced or instructor-led courses specifically tailored to incident response and incident handling certification preparation. These courses cover incident management, analysis, digital forensics, and incident response methodologies.

Workshops and Conferences

Attending workshops and conferences focused on incident handling and cybersecurity allows individuals to learn from industry experts, network with professionals, and stay updated on the latest trends and best practices. These events often feature hands-on exercises, case studies, and presentations by renowned incident handlers, providing valuable insights and practical knowledge.

Continuous Learning and Professional Development

The field of incident handling is constantly evolving, with new threats and attack techniques emerging regularly. Therefore, certified incident handlers must engage in continuous learning and professional development. This can be achieved through staying up-to-date with relevant industry publications, participating in webinars and online forums, and pursuing advanced certifications or specialization tracks within incident handling.

Gaining Practical Experience

While certifications and formal education provide a strong foundation, practical experience is invaluable for becoming a competent incident handler. In this section, we will explore different avenues to gain hands-on experience.

Hands-on Experience through Internships or Entry-level Positions

Securing internships or entry-level cybersecurity or incident response team positions can offer valuable hands-on experience. These opportunities allow individuals to work alongside experienced incident handlers, gain exposure to real-world incidents, and apply their knowledge in practical scenarios. Internships and entry-level positions also provide learning opportunities from mentors, enhancing technical skills and developing a professional network.

Building a Portfolio of Practical Projects

Engaging in personal projects related to incident handling can showcase your skills and commitment to potential employers. For example, setting up a lab environment to simulate different incidents, documenting your approach to incident handling, and showcasing the results can demonstrate your practical abilities and problem-solving skills.

Joining Incident Response Teams and Communities

Participating in incident response teams within your organization or as a volunteer allows you to work collaboratively with experienced professionals. It provides exposure to diverse incidents, fosters teamwork and communication skills, and enables you to learn from the collective knowledge and expertise of the team. Additionally, joining online communities and forums dedicated to incident handling allows you to connect with like-minded professionals, share experiences, and gain insights from the broader incident response community.

Developing Soft Skills

In addition to technical expertise, incident handlers should develop essential soft skills to excel in their roles. These skills contribute to effective communication, problem-solving, and professionalism.

Effective Communication and Collaboration

Strong communication skills are essential for incident handlers to effectively interact with team members, stakeholders, and external parties. They should be able to articulate complex technical concepts clearly and concisely, actively listen, and adapt their communication style to different audiences. Collaboration skills are equally important, as incident handling often involves working closely with cross-functional teams to resolve incidents and implement preventive measures.

Problem-solving and Critical Thinking Abilities

Incident handlers must possess excellent problem-solving and critical thinking abilities to analyze incidents, identify patterns, and develop innovative solutions. They should be adept at troubleshooting complex technical issues, evaluating risks, and making sound decisions under pressure. Developing these skills involves honing analytical thinking, logical reasoning, and thinking creatively in high-stress situations.

Stress Management and Resilience

Incident handling can be mentally and emotionally demanding, requiring incident handlers to manage stress and remain resilient. Building resilience involves developing coping mechanisms, practicing self-care, and seeking support from colleagues and mentors. Incident handlers must maintain a healthy work-life balance and prioritize their well-being to perform effectively in their roles.


Becoming a certified incident handler is a rewarding and challenging career path that offers opportunities to protect organizations from cyber threats, mitigate risks, and safeguard sensitive data. By acquiring the necessary skills, knowledge, and certifications, aspiring incident handlers can embark on a journey to defend the digital frontier and play a vital role in incident response and mitigation.

Remember, it is essential to continuously learn and adapt to the evolving landscape of cybersecurity. Stay updated with industry trends, technologies, and best practices to enhance your expertise as an incident handler. By combining technical skills, practical experience, and strong, soft skills, you can establish yourself as a proficient incident handler capable of defending organizations against cyber threats.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is certification necessary to become an incident handler?

Certification is not mandatory but offers recognition, credibility, and validation of your skills as an incident handler. It enhances your career prospects and demonstrates your commitment to professional development.

2. How long does it take to become a certified incident handler? 

The duration depends on various factors, including your prior knowledge, experience, and your chosen certification program. Preparing for and obtaining a certification can take several months to a year.

3. What is the average salary of a certified incident handler? 

The salary of a certified incident handler can vary based on factors such as location, experience, and organization size. On average, certified incident handlers earn a competitive salary ranging from $70,000 to $120,000 annually.

4. What are the future career prospects for certified incident handlers? 

The demand for skilled incident handlers is expected to grow significantly as organizations prioritize cybersecurity. Certified incident handlers can explore career opportunities in various industries, including technology firms, government agencies, financial institutions, and consulting companies.

5. Can I transition into incident handling from a different IT role? 

Many professionals transition into incident handling from related IT roles such as network security, system administration, or cybersecurity analysis. Acquiring relevant certifications and gaining hands-on experience in incident response can facilitate a smooth transition.

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