What are the principles of incident response?

  • November 18, 2021
  • By Cyberarch Admin

It is not a mere coincidence that the global economy has grown in sync with the development of information technology. The information age, powered by all things digital, increasing internet penetration and smart devices have transformed the business world like never before by opening opportunities galore for everyone to thrive. Today, the IT phenomenon is integral to each and every individual life. 

However, along with all the positives, the IT influence has given rise to large scale cybersecurity incidences which include cyber attacks, phishing, ransomware, extortion etc. Recently, cyber breach cases have grown exponentially with more sophisticated, well-planned and persistent attacks from cybercriminals, resulting in loss of wealth, intellectual property, brand image, shareholder value and trust worldwide. Therefore, it is high time that organizations, decision-makers and individuals recognize the grave threat posed by cyber security lapse and the irrevocable damage it can cause, and nurture highly effective and robust incident response measures. 


What is Incident Response?

Incident response can be defined as the process which an organization deploys to manage a cyber attack or data breach. It also includes the measures to counter the effects and consequences of the cyber breach. The main goal of incident response for any organization is to eventually control the damage caused by the cyber security incident, effectively and efficiently. It should also help organizations to achieve quick recovery, save time as well as cost. 

Thus, organizations should have an incident response plan in case a cyberattack occurs. Comprehensive details such as what should be considered as an incident, guiding principles and processes to be followed, the appointment of a team leader, a dedicated team, employee awareness and immediate actions to be carried out, should be established.

Cybersecurity is no longer limited to an organization as it affects every stakeholder associated with it. The chances of recurrence are also high with cyber threats. Thus, the incident response team needs to be multi-dimensional and must include information security professionals, company leaders, human resources, IT staff, legal experts and law enforcement officials. A collaborative approach between the incident response team should be a force to reckon with to keep cyber threats at bay. 

Those organizations with a well-prepared incident response strategy are always at an advantage over those who are not. It helps organizations to better detect and analyze incidents, update and upgrade response capabilities all the time, buy tools and learn how to use them and boosts their efforts. Without a solid incident response plan, the response is slowed down, giving the attackers more time and opportunity to perform the nefarious cyber activities.  


Security Incident Types

There are several types of security incidents that may range from minor to critical for different organizations. However, some of the most common security incidents that affect organizations include a malware or ransomware attack, where the essential business files are encrypted. Secondly, a phishing attack that steals and releases personally identifiable information of business customers online. Critical cloud services are now a target where cybercriminals conduct distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.          

Six-Step Incident Response Plan from SANS

SANS, launched in 1989, is one of the leading collaborative professional organizations in the cybersecurity industry. It provides a six-step effective incident response plan.

  1. Preparation 

As discussed before, putting in place a concrete incident response plan is one of the most important steps to counter security breaches or data loss. Preparation should include various components such as creating policy strategy, documented plan of action, clear communication, access controls to team members, tools as well as employee training. The actions taken should also be recorded for better preparation in the future.

  1. Identification 

Identification is a process through which organizations detect security incidents and assist in the quick response to control the damage caused, save time and reduce expenses. To accomplish this, the IT professionals use threat intelligence, detection systems and firewalls, gathering other data such as error messages, log files to analyse the scope of the incident. 

  1. Containment

Containment, as the name indicates, is aimed at preventing any further damage, cost and time of an organization. It has to be noted that the first step of preparation can ease the containment process. To achieve success in this step, organizations can follow several steps to maintain the operations which can include taking sub-networks offline and keeping system backups. Also, effort should be made to achieve long-term containment goals. 

  1. Eradication 

This step aims to remove or neutralize the cyber threat that has affected the organization completely. The secondary goal is to restore the affected internal systems to their previous state as effectively and as much as possible. Make sure to minimize data loss during this process. Eradication may involve secondary monitoring to ensure that the organization and the systems are no more vulnerable to the particular threat and prevent any subsequent cyber-attacks.

  1. Recovery

When a cyber-attack happens, the whole system is disturbed and a lot of work has to be done to ensure full recovery. Thus, this step entails various processes such as monitoring, testing, validating all the restored systems to make sure that it is not compromised in any manner. This should include timelines, allocation of duties and continued monitoring. 

  1. Lessons Learned

This is perhaps the most important part of incident response. The incident response team comprising of different experts and leaders should come together to study the different aspects of a cyber incident, and work on improving future efforts to prevent cyber security threats. Some components which should be put up for discussion include policies, processes, team members, actions etc, and a final report must be made for training purposes. Thus, constant learning will help better understand the motivation and action of threat actors. 


Incident Response Tools

Besides the policies, procedures and people, it is essential to equip the organization with necessary incident response tools which power the security program, detect threats and other response functionalities. There are highly advanced methodologies such as the OODA loop which are derived from the military. It promotes organizations to observe, decide and perform the action when an incident happens. You can gain invaluable insights by utilizing real-time threat indicators, threat intelligence solutions, packet analysis, system resource monitoring and examination of files. Forensic experts use tools to extract details about the source location, technical data and event replays which can be crucial for the investigation. 

Automation is another tool that can be used to streamline incident response functionalities that can reduce detection times, system errors and boost the recovery process. Other technologies help in training and awareness among the employees, security management, firewall prevention, DoS mitigation, forensic analysis, vulnerability handling and much more. 

The main highlight of using tools and technologies is that it provides greater visibility and control to the organization. It empowers professionals with highly valuable information to detect any discrepancies or faulty behaviour or characteristics in the system. It reduces the overall risk and improves response efforts. Of course, the existing technologies need exceptional budget allocation and other costs, but the advantages are immeasurable and far outweigh the expenses incurred. The organizations should make sure that efficient team leaders use it effectively and keep themselves updated with the changing cyber security landscape. 

Incident response is fast gaining recognition, and businesses, irrespective of whether small or big, should make it an integral part of their security program. Quick action with the help of the best and talented professionals can help in mitigating cyber security risks. At no point in time can organizations take the existing and emerging cyber threats lightly today. Regular up-gradation of skills, tools, and other cyber security incident response elements should be a priority. Incident response testing every year can also help. The organizations can also seek the help or partnership of information security firms to make the incident response stronger and better. 


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