What is Cyber Security Tabletop Exercise and Its Benefits?

Written By Sambita Panigrahy  
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh 
Published On November 2nd, 2023
Reading Time 6 Minutes Reading

Cyber security tabletop exercise allow organizations to prepare and train for potential cyber incidents or attacks. It gives your company the opportunity to practice incident response plans. 

In today’s digital era, every now and then an organization has faced some form of cyberattack. Frankly, it has become the new reality of life but at the same time, it has raised concern among the business industries. So, the best way to protect organizations from such attacks is to be prepared beforehand. And, that’s where the cyber tabletop exercise fits in.

Now, let’s dive deeper and understand what exactly happens in a tabletop exercise.

cyber security tabletop exercise

What is Tabletop Exercise in Cyber Security? Definition

A tabletop exercise is sometimes referred to as TTX or TTE. It is an informal discussion among your team members where they decide their roles and responsibilities to combat a cyber emergency situation. 

Basically, it is an evaluation process that allows you to see how your organization and the staff react under pressure. Besides testing an organization’s security policies in real-life scenarios can help you improve your IT security posture.

The cyber security tabletop exercise is conducted by highly experienced cyber experts. They create a relevant attack atmosphere for the organization. The exercise forces the participants to think and respond as they would if a real incident were to occur.

The basic notion is that you may already have a variety of cybersecurity policies and processes in place. However, if they have never been put to the test and the important decision-makers are unaware of what’s in them, they are useless. So, contact our experts now to plan and design a tabletop exercise.

Know The Purpose of Conducting Tabletop Exercise

Generally, tabletop exercise in cyber security involves the discussion of attack scenarios that focus on risks and incidents that could actually affect the business. 

Anyway, the participants’ true reactions are elicited when a relevant topic is covered in the workshop. They start to appreciate how seriously a situation like that may affect their company.

As a result, they are also able to fully understand the necessity of proper incident response planning. They begin to understand their own roles and responsibilities better and begin to seriously consider how they would react in the event of a genuine catastrophe.

Cyber Security Tabletop Exercise – Where to Begin?

Nothing to worry about, follow the 8 steps mentioned below to execute the tabletop exercise effectively.

  1. Set Your Objective: First of all, you need to define a specific exercise goal that will provide a framework for cyber security tabletop exercise scenario development.
  2. Determine the Participants: After deciding the objective, you need to determine who is going to participate in the exercise. Basically, you have to decide on the intended audience.
  3. Create Probable Scenarios: The tabletop exercise is just like a role-playing game. So, create an environment where a conversation can be built, open-ended questions are welcomed with a focus on the decided objective.
  4. Don’t Overlook Scheduling: Now you have an objective, participants, and a scenario created, the next thing you have to do is to provide enough time for active participation. The exercise lasts somewhat between two to eight hours.
  5. Set Ground Rules: Once you are all set to begin the cyber security tabletop exercise, the first thing you need to do is to define ground rules i.e. what is the purpose of the exercise.
  6. Review the Objective: Once all the objectives are met, it’s important to sit down with the team, review the objectives, identify what went well, and find some best practices. Most importantly, it is crucial to define what did not go well. Then, give the participants the opportunity to suggest improvements
  7. Create an After-Action Report: After reviewing the cyber tabletop exercise, you need to write an after-action report describing the entirety of the exercise, highlighting best practices, and proposing an improvement plan. 
  8. Prepare an Implementation Plan: Having an implementation plan is also important as it will act as written guidance to ensure that every step is correct. Also, it gives opportunities to introduce new ideas and solutions.

Things to Consider While Planning Tabletop Exercise in Cyber Security

There are various things you should keep in mind while preparing for a tabletop exercise.

  • The first thing to consider is if a tabletop exercise is suitable for your company. Starting the procedure only makes sense if you already have a reaction strategy in place for the hypothetical situation you’ll be practicing with.
  • Tabletop exercises are excellent for evaluating plans, but they can’t tell you anything if everyone is just winging it. There is no use in performing the exercise if management won’t allow you to adjust plans and policies based on the results. You will also need institutional buy-in for the process.

Cyber Security Tabletop Exercise Benefits

Tabletop cybersecurity exercise scenarios can help your organization’s cyber maturity in a number of ways. A few of these are:

  • Proving the effectiveness of your incident response plans.
  • Defining each person’s obligations to the Board and the Executive.
  • Making it simpler for the IT/security teams to obtain business support for upcoming cybersecurity budget decisions.
  • Highlighting potential problem locations and staff personnel who could require additional incident response training.
  • Improving collaboration and communication across departments
  • Increasing cyber resilience in the long run.
  • Improving cyber defenses over the coming few months.


The way sophisticated data breaches are happening these days, it’s hard to predict when and what type of cyberattack your organization may face. So, to be on the safer side it’s important for key members of the organization to get fully prepared for a cyber incident. Thus, your organization can conduct a cyber security tabletop exercise that can help them prepare & react to a theoretical cyber attack.


Q- What is a tabletop exercise?

A tabletop exercise is a scenario-driven, discussion-based exercise that mimics an emergency. To debate and evaluate the scenario, come up with response plans, and practice making decisions in a safe environment, participants assemble around a table.

Q- What makes tabletop exercises so crucial?

By testing reaction plans, finding gaps in preparation, and enhancing participant cooperation and communication, tabletop exercises assist teams and organizations in getting ready for emergencies.

Q- Who takes part in activities at the tabletop?

Tabletop exercises usually involve important decision-makers, emergency responders, subject matter experts, and pertinent stakeholders. The particular goals of the activity will determine the group’s makeup.

Q- What are tabletop exercise objectives?

A tabletop exercise may have many goals, but it usually aims to evaluate and validate emergency response plans, enhance cooperation and communication, and pinpoint areas that require improvement.

Q- How are tabletop exercises done?

In tabletop exercises, a designated exercise leader or facilitator facilitates a scenario. As the scenario develops, participants make decisions and talk about their roles and responsibilities.

Q- What kinds of situations are appropriate for tabletop exercises?

Scenarios can include artificial events like cyberattacks, chemical spills, or pandemics as well as natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. The scenario selected should take the risks and weaknesses of the organization into consideration.