Technology

How to Utilize an Incident Response (IR) Plan

Learning how to utilize an incident plan to prepare an organization to respond to cyber-attacks including phishing, ransomware, and wire fraud attempts it’s crucial for any organization.

The internet has become an increasingly dangerous place, and we hear stories day to day for cybersecurity breaches happening seemingly to everyone. Most people don’t understand, though is that when the security incident happens you have to be fast to respond since every second does matter. A compromised computer can infect the others in an organization in a matter of seconds if not found and stopped at the right time. Ransomware can cause immense damage if it gets to the correct computer, and it may be catastrophic for the entire organization. Phishing also it’s really scary since they can use the accounts that are compromised to gain privileged access, which in some cases can give the attackers full access.

Even if you are a new company with a small group of people working, you should have a security incident protocol in place. It should take off immediately after an alarm goes off and should follow the necessary procedures to stop the attacks. This could be crucial to the prosperity of your company and would save headaches in the future.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

What is considered a cybersecurity incident?

There are many types of information security breaches that could be classified as cybersecurity incidents. They are from severe cybersecurity attacks on critical national infrastructure and major organized cybercrime, through hacktivism and basic malware attacks, to internal misuse of systems and software malfunction. However, there is no way to definitively help organizations decide what is and what isn’t a security incident, breach, or attack.

The original government definition of cybersecurity incidents as being state-sponsored attacks on critical national infrastructure or defense capabilities is still valid. However, the industry which is fuelled by the media has adopted the term. Now the term cybersecurity incident is often used to describe traditional information security incidents.

The below graph will help you understand better, which are considered traditional information security incidents and which are cybersecurity attacks.

What is Incident Response?

Incident Response or shortIR is a detailed plan for managing security incidents, violations, and cyber threats. A clear incident response plan allows you to effectively recognize, reduce the damage, and decrease the cost of a cyberattack while finding and fixing the cause to prevent attacks from happening in the future.

When faced with a cybersecurity incident security teams are often in a chaotic environment and this hinders their ability to take the right measure at the right time. This is bad for the business since one second could mean millions of dollars worth of information stolen. That’s why we plan incident responses so that the security team does know what the most important tasks are and not get bullied around by the attackers. Having an incident response plan checklist will tremendously help. Having an IR Policy in place will help your team get the best support from the organization so that they can do their work most efficiently.

Main challenges with a cybersecurity incident response.

In today’s commercial world, governments and large organizations often overlook the importance of being able to respond fast to cybersecurity incidents. They assign more resources when the cyberattack is happening and after the danger has passed, they go back to thinking that won’t happen again and they pull back. This happens a lot more then you can imagine and even to bigger companies with huge reputations. Top management in organizations does not believe that they are at risk of these cybersecurity incidents, or in some cases, they aren’t aware of the negative impact that could cause to the company.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

A research shows what the most common difficulties organizations face in responding to a cybersecurity incident in a quick, efficient, and logical manner are in:

1. Identifying a suspected cybersecurity incident.

2. Establishing the objective of any investigation and clean-up operation.

3. Analyzing all available information related to the potential cybersecurity incident.

4. Determining what has actually happened.

5. Identifying what systems, networks, and information have been compromised.

6. Determining what information has been disclosed to unauthorized parties, stolen, deleted, or corrupted.

7. Finding out who did it and why.

8. Working out how it happened.

9. Determining the potential business impact of the cybersecurity incident.

10. Conducting sufficient investigation to identify the perpetrator.

Preparing for a cybersecurity incident.

When dealing with a cybersecurity incident, one of the most important actions is to be properly prepared. This will help you to recover your systems more quickly, minimize the impact of the attack, instill confidence in your customers, and even save you money in the long term.

Conduct an assessment of critical information

Basically you need to define which information does your company considers critical and also other assets. Then you need to determine what kind of cybersecurity threats can affect these critical assets and raise awareness to the employees.

Do a cybersecurity threat analysis

You need to understand the level of threat to your organization from different types of cybersecurity incidents. To do this, you should first have produced a definition of what a cybersecurity incident means to your organization and created a set of examples of the types of threats associated with these incidents, such as phishing, ransomware, and hacking.

Consider the implications of people, technology, processes, and information

It’s difficult identifying the culprit, and as we saw from the research conducted, this was the main challenge that companies faced when responding to cybersecurity incidents. However, in the earlier stages, nothing is left out of the investigation.

Responding to a cybersecurity incident.

When dealing with cybersecurity incidents the security team usually should have a detailed plan with tasks that they should complete in order to handle the situation in the best way. This plan should already be in place and can’t be implemented in times of crisis. While the organizations most typically think that an incident is a one-time thing a lot of the times for the most sophisticated incidents they have been going for months or even years. To provide you with a broader understanding of a typical live situation, the four following steps have been developed.

Identify the cybersecurity incident

For most organizations, identifying the cybersecurity incident was the most challenging thing to figure out. The incident response team is responsible for the process to accurately detect and figure out possible cybersecurity incidents while determining whether an incident has occurred and, if so, the type, extent,

and the magnitude of the problem. They need to detect cybersecurity incidents and analyze them at a high level while in real-time so it’s not an easy thing to do but also crucial. Sometimes there are no hints that something is going on but the experts still must be able to figure it out.

Define objective and investigate the situation

Once a cybersecurity incident has been recognized, the next step is to define what the objectives are for the response team. They have to investigate the situation in a serious manner. The response team should be able to understand clearly what the most valuable information they have to protect first is and whether any critical assets have been compromised. Sometimes it can be very useful to have access to cyber threat intelligence, to be able to research into the attackers to determine their capabilities, motives, and likely actions that they will take.

Taking appropriate action when responding to attackers

One of the first and most important actions to be taken after the initial investigation is to contain the damage being done by the cybersecurity incident. For example, by stopping it from spreading to other networks and devices both within your organization and beyond. Containment usually includes a number of concurrent actions aimed at decreasing the immediate impact of the cybersecurity incident, primarily by exterminating the perpetrator’s access to the systems. The objective of containment is not always to get back to business as usual, but to make sufficient efforts to return to function as a normal business while continuing to analyze the incident and plan long term remediation.

Recover systems, connectivity, and data

The last step in responding to a cybersecurity incident is to restore systems to normal operations as soon as possible. The teams have to confirm that the systems are functioning normally, and remediate vulnerabilities to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future. It’s important to validate the systems as soon as possible, and sometimes internal penetration testing needs to be done so that you know for sure that you are well protected.

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