What you’ll learn
- The importance of detailed security procedures to prevent security incidents
- Steps businesses should take to respond to an information security incident
The average business fends off near-constant cyber attacks by global threat actors. This risk is compounded by negligent or unaware employees, according to a Stanford study that determined human error causes 88% of data breaches.
In the face of this onslaught, an effective and well-thought-out incident response plan is a necessity for your organization. The plan outlines your process for responding to cyberattacks, which can range from minor user mistakes to deliberate attempts to gain access to sensitive networks or databases. From drafting an incident response plan to executing it seamlessly, touch up your knowledge to ensure your organization’s resilience in the face of cyber threats.
1. Preparing for Information Security Incidents
Mounting a rapid incident response requires dedicated resources and well-documented procedures. Here's how your organization can prepare.
Creating an Incident Response Plan
In the realm of cybersecurity, the adage, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” holds true. The fallout from security incidents can lead to financial losses, legal liabilities, and reputational damage. Preparing your organization for the worst case scenario can save everyone a headache. A well-crafted incident response plan should act as a roadmap to guide your team through the chaotic first moments after a security incident.
Defining Incident Response Goals and Objectives
An incident response plan begins with defining goals and objectives. These goals and objectives will help you determine what you are aiming to achieve with the plan. Are you looking to minimize downtime, protect customer data, or preserve your reputation? Your team may need distinct plans for specific threats depending on the goals you have for each. IBM's 2021 Cyber Resilient Organization Study discovered that most firms create discrete incident response plans for DDoS attacks, phishing, and other known risks.
Establishing a Response Team and Assigning Roles
Next, it's time to engage your team. Create a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) built of members from the IT, HR, Legal, and Public Relations departments. Each of these team members will play a designated role and take on clear responsibilities for responding to security incidents. Ensure every team member understands their role and the chain of command, enabling swift decision-making and execution.
Documenting the Incident Response Procedures
Finally, document your incident response procedures. The more detail you include in these processes, the easier it is for staff to understand their roles and respond quickly when the stress of an attack kicks in. A well-documented response plan should include instructions for:
- Communication Protocols: Your team should have internal protocols for exchanging information and escalating incidents to the proper personnel. There should also be clear instructions for how to communicate with external stakeholders. If your company uses SafeBase, you can quickly publish a Trust Center Update to share incident and response details buyers and customers.
- Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly define who is responsible for what during an incident, ensuring a coordinated and efficient response. Make sure to assign a capable incident response coordinator who can oversee the entire process, and ensure every team member understands their role.
- Containment and Eradication: Provide a step-by-step guide for isolating and neutralizing the threat to prevent further damage within the organization.
- Forensic Investigation: Once a threat has been eradicated, doesn’t mean it should never be thought of again. Set out a defined set of instructions for preserving evidence crucial for identifying the root cause and preventing future incidents.
With a complete incident response plan in place, your organization stands armed to respond swiftly to the storm of cyber threats coming its way.
2. Responding to Information Security Incidents
When an incident strikes, time is of the essence to minimize damage. Start by immediately activating the CSIRT, who should assess the severity of the breach and create a timeline outlining the steps for containment, analysis, mitigation, and recovery.
Confirming Incidents and Assessing Impact
Once an incident is detected, each member of the incident response team must verify its authenticity. Questions to consider include:
- Is this incident related to a known risk?
- Is it isolated or part of a more significant attack?
Gaining a clear understanding of the incident’s scope is vital to efficiently containing the incident. After the incident has been confirmed as authentic, the CSIRT should assess the extent of the damage to data, systems, and operations. The team should also identify what types of data may have been compromised and how the attackers gained access. All these factors will help to determine what the steps to eradicating the risk will be.
Containing and Mitigating Incidents
Containment and mitigation strategies depend on the type of attack and its impact.
Immediate containment steps include isolating affected systems and implementing temporary fixes to minimize further damage. These workarounds can restore critical services while investigations are ongoing. Other quick and efficient methods for eliminating the threat include removing malicious code or software and patching vulnerabilities.
Long-term containment may involve network segmentation and toughened access control policies.
3. Recovering and Learning from the Incident
Once the threat is neutralized, focus on getting your systems back online as soon as possible. Teams should spend time after operations have returned to business as usual investigating the attack and learning from it for the future.
Restoring Normal Operations
Restoring systems and services can take a long time. Removing malware, validating system integrity, and conducting post-incident reviews all take effort. Restore systems using clean backups and ensure they are secure before reconnecting to the network.
As your organization slowly resumes normal operations, it's important to reassure clients your network is secure. Keep interested parties and your customers updated with SafeBase's Trust Center Updates. This feature seamlessly publishes transparent updates about incidents on your Trust Center by email to your subscribers, so users can stay informed.
Legal obligations or regulatory reporting may be required depending on your risk assessment. Ensure that your incident response efforts align with these requirements.
Investigating an Incident
Every incident must be investigated thoroughly. Collect evidence and system logs from impacted systems. Store the data in an isolated environment to prevent changes.
Forensic analysis can discern if files and systems were accessed by threat actors or internal personnel. This analysis helps determine the root cause of the attack and provides context for your team when they file incident reports.
Once a cause of the incident has been determined, gather the incident response team one last time to discuss their response.
Learning from Incidents
Incidents offer valuable learning opportunities. Collect data from affected systems, review network logs, and analyze incident reports to understand how your team responded to the attack. Have your CSIRT identify anything that went wrong during their response effort and discuss how it can be improved.
After you identify areas for improvement, update incident response procedures and plans accordingly to improve effectiveness in future incidents.
Information security incidents are pretty much inevitable, but you can limit their impact with a strong incident response plan. Start by taking inventory of your assets and categorizing the types of attacks that may occur.
Your incident response plan should include procedures for investigation, containment, recovery, and communication. Consider using a tool such as SafeBase to easily publish Trust Center Updates for customers to easily access information about your security protocols and incident response procedures. Get in touch to learn more about our Trust Center platform today.