08.12.2022 13:30

Cyber Security Incident Response: Industry Best Practices

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In today’s data-driven world, a data breach can easily affect billions of people at once. As global digital transformation continues, so will data breaches. What if your company was breached today? What does your business need to survive?

Incident response is one of the metrics by which an organization’s commitment to cyber security is measured. Other metrics include Insider Risk Management, Attack Surface Management. By implementing automated solutions that continually monitor networks and highlight cyber risks, organizations can greatly improve their cyber security posture.

Cyber Security Incident Response

It is well known in the cybersecurity industry that the best forms of cyber protection come from implementing various layers of defense and controls. These protections include physical and software-based firewalls, data and communication encryption, strong authentication policies, malware protection, and more. Sadly, no security paradigm is perfect, and organizations are always vulnerable on some level. The Cybersecurity Triad identifies the three main components of cybersecurity. Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Incident response belongs to the latter.

The incident response refers to the actions taken during and after an incident to stop the attack and minimize the damage. Utilizing real-time alerts and notifications of active threats and taking pre-planned steps to minimize the impact of a breach to protect your organization and manage liabilities. During and after a breach, response plans are essential since time is of the essence.

Best Practices for Effective Incident Response

Because implementing a comprehensive incident response plan is so crucial to the longevity of any organization susceptible to breaches, we have compiled a set of best practices for building an effective incident response plan.

Preparation is Key

As with any project, planning is a key part of preparation. Your organization needs to have a comprehensive policy in place that covers actions during and after the breach.

During and after a potential breach someone must be given the responsibility of dealing with the breach. This way, only key individuals drive the actions taken, minimizing chaos, and improving the effectiveness of the incident response. As part of the preparation for incident response, a team needs to be created who are assigned the roles of adjudicators and decision-makers, in the event of a security incident. In larger organizations, this role would typically be performed by their SOC.

Each team member would be delegated a specific task during the preparation phase. The breakdown of these tasks is referred to as the Incident Response Playbook. It outlines exactly how the infrastructure is designed and configured along with key directives about what needs to be done by each team member during and after a breach. A collective representation of knowledge, so to speak.

Threat Identification

Threat identification can be partitioned into two main priorities. The first is that of detection. While solutions can be implemented to identify when a threat event is currently taking place, threat detection needs to start much earlier than that. Security teams need to proactively scour the media looking for threats that might have a legitimate impact on the organization. Once identified, these threats then have to be addressed in advance securing assets and SaaS ecosystems to prevent a possible breach.

The second part of threat detection relies on real-time monitoring. Traditionally security specialists would have needed to pour time into logfiles. Scrubbing these files to identify possible breaches in progress by identifying transaction and authentication anomalies. This way of doing things had its clear limitations. Autonomous network monitoring tools, however, can inspect and validate all activity present on both the internal and external attack surface of the organization, in real time. Not only are these tools far more efficient than a human, but they can also run 24 hours a day, not taking weekends or personal time off. Accurate and timely threat detection is crucial to incident response.

Breach Containment

Once a breach is detected, time is of the essence. It can mean the difference between a mild, containable incident and a catastrophic event with far-reaching fallout such as litigation and even business liquidation.

Breach containment requires a rapid triage to assess the severity of the breach and prioritize assets placing the most vulnerable. Possible mitigation strategies include isolating servers and systems to lock down sections of the network. Stopping the spread of the attack and any lateral movement of the attacker through the network.

Address Security Violation

Once the threat is contained, the incident response team can focus on eliminating it. This includes identifying and removing malware, applying updates and patches, and deploying more restrictive and secure configurations, amongst other steps.

Disaster Recovery

After the threat has been dealt with the incident response team needs to assess the damage the breach has caused. Once it is possible, recovery options must be enacted. Deleted, encrypted, or otherwise corrupted data may need to be restored from backups if available. Organizations need to have detailed disaster recovery plans in place to deal with this process.

Learn From Past Mistakes

Each breach or threat is an opportunity to learn from the experience and apply it to future security measures. For example, if a breach occurred because of phishing, educating all employees must become a priority.

In Conclusion

Cyber breaches can have a significant impact on an organization if there isn’t a comprehensive incident response plan in place. As important as defending against a breach is dealing with its aftermath. This requirement is guided by industry frameworks, such as the ones published by NIST.

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