Preventive measures are the first line of defense against a cyber assault. To keep undesirable actors at bay, security teams employ encryption, passwords, anti-malware, firewalls, and other techniques. However, no defense is perfect, and even the strongest measures of security can be breached. This is when incident response enters the picture.
The collection of active steps performed during a breach to halt the assault and reduce the damage is referred to as incident response. It necessitates access to real-time notifications or alerts that indicate an active threat, followed by a pre-planned set of procedures taken to mitigate the impact of the breach, protect data, and re-secure the network.
Because every second matters when a breach is ongoing, incident response strategies must be created well in advance of a threat. Attacks can wreak havoc with each passing second, spending thousands of dollars and jeopardizing crucial data. The sooner it is halted, the less severe the consequences.
Incident response is often handled by a pre-defined incident response team. Roles are assigned within the team based on need. Security analysts, IT managers, threat researchers, risk management consultants, legal representatives, and even external or third-party security professionals may be part of this team.
The incident response team is responsible for building a robust incident response plan in addition to executing preventative measures such as fixing system vulnerabilities and enforcing security regulations. In the case of an assault, this strategy should specify who will do what. It is critical to allocate jobs based on availability so that the appropriate individuals can act regardless of when an attack happens.
Best Practices For Managing Cyber Attacks
As previously said, incident response begins with a plan. We’ve described the steps you take when building a successful incident response strategy here.
1. Prepare systems and procedures
Preparation and planning go a long way during an active threat. Start by building your incident response team and having them prepare an incident response plan.
Building out your incident response team includes identifying who will take on what role during a threat based on schedules and skills. There should always be someone identified as the go-to person regardless of what time a threat occurs so that precious minutes aren’t wasted figuring out who to call.
Preparing an incident response plan may include building on existing incident response knowledge and should clearly outline what procedures to enact during a threat. It’s often advisable to break the plan down into different threat-specific playbooks that prescribe exactly what to do for each scenario. These playbooks should be regularly updated and made accessible to anyone who might need them at a moment’s notice.
2. Identify security incidents
Identifying security incidents is a two-part activity. The first part consists of identifying potential threats so that a plan of response can be developed in advance. The second part involves using appropriate tools and monitoring software so active incidents are identified in real-time, and mitigation can begin as soon as possible.
But identifying active threats isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It’s not like cybercriminals want to be found, after all. Often, the clues are indirect and come in the form of unusual usage patterns that require advanced software to identify. However, if identification is too sensitive, the incident response team may receive so many “false alarms” that they might overlook the real deal when it arrives.
3. Contain incident activities and attackers
During an active attack, the top priority is to contain the nefarious activities and the attacker to protect as much of your existing data and network as possible. This requires rapid triage to assess the severity and prioritize the most valuable and vulnerable assets. This may require shutting down certain systems or segmenting those portions of the network under attack. In essence, the goal is to stop the spread first and foremost before directly addressing the threat itself.
4. Eradicate threats and re-entry options
Once the threat is contained, the incident response team can then focus on eradicating it. This may involve identifying and deleting malware, applying updates and patches, deploying a more restrictive and secure configuration, and more. If the means of attack and the location of the vulnerability can be identified at this stage, then closing up any holes or back doors should also be a priority.
5. Recover from incidents
With the threat eradicated, it is then time to assess the fallout. If the response to the threat was robust and rapid enough, it’s possible that recovery is nearly instant. If data was stolen or held for ransom, however, there may be financial consequences and breach of compliance issues to address. Deleted, encrypted, or otherwise corrupted data may need to be restored from backups if available.
6. Educate and improve future incident response efforts
Each time there is a breach or a threat, it is an opportunity to learn from experience and apply it to future security efforts. For example, if a breach occurred due to an employee clicking a suspicious link or falling for a phishing attack, then educating all employees on how to identify such threats is judicious. Lessons learned from how the attack was mitigated can also be applied to existing incident response playbooks to improve these strategies and eliminate risks moving forward.
Incident Recovery Process
An incident response plan is a document that details the security processes to be carried out in case of an incident, and those responsible for incident response. An incident response plan typically includes the following details:
- Incident response methods and strategies
- How incident response can support your organization’s broader mission
- Activities required for each stage of incident response
- Roles and responsibilities for completing incident response activities
- Communication channels between the incident response team and the rest of the organization
- Metrics for evaluating the efficiency of incident response
The benefits of an incident response plan don’t end when a cybersecurity incident is resolved. The plan continues to provide support for litigation, documentation to submit to auditors, and historical knowledge that enables a better response to similar incidents in the future.
A standard incident response plan that may be implemented by an organization includes the following steps:
- Step 1: Early detection
A security event occurs, and the system detects it. Typically, the security information and event management (SIEM) platform alerts the incident response team.
- Step 2: Analysis
Analysts review alerts, identify indicators of compromise (IoC), and use them to triage the threat. They will often perform additional testing, reviewing related alerts and ruling out false positives to get a complete picture of suspicious events.
- Step 3: Prioritization
Analysts need to understand the impact of security incidents on the organization’s business activity and valuable assets. Prioritizing incidents helps a team understand which security events to focus on, and how to best manage resources in subsequent steps.
- Step 4: Notification
First, the incident responder notifies the appropriate people within the organization. In case of a confirmed breach, organizations typically notify external parties, such as customers, business partners, regulators, law enforcement agencies, or the public. The decision to notify external parties is usually left to senior management.
- Step 5: Containment and forensics
Incident responders take action to stop the incident and prevent the threat from reinfecting the environment. They also collect forensic evidence as needed for further investigation or future legal proceedings.
- Step 6: Recovery
Incident responders eradicate malware from affected systems, then rebuild, restore from backup, and patch those systems to restore normal operation.
- Step 7: Incident review
To prevent an incident from reoccurring and to improve future response, security personnel review the steps that led to the detection of the most recent incident. They identify aspects of successful incident response, opportunities to improve systems (such as tools, processes, and staff training), and recommend remediations for discovered vulnerabilities.
Phases of Cybersecurity Implementation
Putting a plan together to review cybersecurity policies and procedures and outlining who will be a part of creating your corporate cybersecurity plan, what will be encompassed within its criteria, and who will be in charge of implementing it are all important decisions to make from the start.
The following eight steps will help you create a comprehensive plan that works well with any size company’s current cybersecurity policies and procedures.
1. Perform a Security Risk Analysis
If you haven’t already, it’s important to assess your company’s security risks as they currently exist and how they might change in the future. Collaboration between various parties and data owners is necessary for thorough risk assessment. This ensures that the company’s overall security posture is evaluated, identified, and modified in preparation for any type of threat or attack.
Plus, a thorough security risk analysis can help secure management’s support for resource allocation and the implementation of the proper security solutions and accompanying tech.
2. Set Security Objectives
Making sure a cybersecurity plan is in line with your organization’s business goals is a crucial part of a cybersecurity strategy. To begin establishing a proactive cybersecurity program for the entire organization, it makes sense to align the security objectives of the plan with the business objectives determined for the year.
Here are three security objectives to keep in mind before, during, and after the cybersecurity plan creation process:
- Confidentiality: This element is frequently linked to privacy and encryption.
- In this case, confidentiality refers to the fact that only parties with permission can access the data.
- When information is kept private, it indicates that other parties have not compromised it; private information is not made available to those who do not need it or who shouldn’t have access to it.
- Integrity: Data integrity is the assurance that the data has not been altered or deteriorated before, during, or after submission.
- It is the knowledge that there has not been any unauthorized modification of the data, either intentionally or accidentally.
- Availability: This indicates that the data is accessible to authorized people at any time.
- A system needs working computer systems, security measures, and communication channels in order to demonstrate availability.
3. Assessment of Your Technology
An evaluation of the current technology in a company is a crucial part of any cybersecurity strategy. After identifying the assets, it’s a good idea to ascertain whether the systems adhere to security best practices, understand how they operate on your network, and identify who within the organization should support the technology, keep a record of the assets, and monitor any possible data breaches or threats.
The important thing to remember is that a group of IT professionals from a variety of specialties, including applications, cloud computing, networking, and database administration, may have to split up this workload to ensure the technology is monitored thoroughly and comprehensively.
4. Review Security Policies After Choosing a Security Framework
There are numerous frameworks out there right now that can assist you in developing and sustaining a cybersecurity plan. You can choose the framework you want using your findings from your cybersecurity risk assessment, vulnerability assessment, and penetration test.
The measures required to regularly monitor and assess your organization’s security posture will be outlined in the security framework you choose, so it’s important to look at these too, and determine if they are the right measures for your business and its assets.
5. Develop a Risk Management Strategy
A crucial part of a cybersecurity plan is the development of a risk management strategy, which analyzes potential hazards that can have an impact on the business. A corporation can proactively identify and assess risks that could have a negative impact on this part of the strategy.
A comprehensive risk management plan includes:
- Retention policy: This specifies where and how long different categories of company data should be stored or archived
- Data protection policy: This outlines how a company manages the personal information of its clients, suppliers, workers, and other third parties
- Incident response plan: The responsibility and procedures that must be followed to ensure a fast, efficient, and organized response to security occurrences are outlined in this part of the plan
6. Put Your Security Plan into Practice
The good news is that your cybersecurity plan creation is almost finished at this point. Now, it’s time to start using your plan and discover some improvements that need to be made for it to fully work. Prioritize your improvement efforts and divide up this work into teams.
Let your internal teams have priority in owning improvement items. Management can offer leadership, help with prioritization of the items, collaborate with internal teams on addressing them, and plan efforts to implement the improvements to help ensure success at this stage.
Setting a timeline with your internal teams for these improvement goals can help everyone stay on track, but make sure they’re realistic — too aggressive and they may result in failed protection and frustrated employees.
7. Review Your Security Plan
You’ve made it; it’s the final step in the creation of your cybersecurity plan and the beginning of ongoing support for your security strategy.
Threats and new security issues will continue to exploit vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity plan, regardless of the size of your organization. That’s why it’s crucial that the cybersecurity strategy is regularly monitored, reviewed, and tested to ensure the goals of the plan align with the emerging threat landscape of your industry.
Security Information And Event Management System
SIEM, or security information and event management, is a security system that assists organizations in identifying and addressing possible security threats and vulnerabilities before they impact business operations. SIEM solutions assist enterprise security teams in detecting anomalous user behavior and using artificial intelligence (AI) to automate many of the manual operations associated with threat identification and incident response.
The first SIEM platforms were log management solutions that combined security information management (SIM) and security event management (SEM) to provide real-time monitoring and analysis of security-related events, as well as tracking and logging of security data for compliance or auditing. (In 2005, Gartner developed the acronym SIEM to describe the integration of SIM and SEM technology.)
SIEM software has expanded over time to include user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), as well as other sophisticated security analytics, AI, and machine learning capabilities for detecting aberrant behaviors and advanced threat indicators. SIEM is becoming a standard feature in modern security operation centers (SOCs) for security monitoring and compliance management use cases.