What happens in the moments proceeding a cybersecurity incident will greatly impact the amount of damage your organization sustains. Your incident response methodology dictates how quickly and efficiently your IT and security teams manage a security breach.
Losses resulting from an intrusion extend beyond stolen or destroyed data. Upon the first signs of a breach, it is necessary for organizations to shut down certain parts of their infrastructure so as to contain the incident. The hours spent during containment results in lost functionality for the business which can delay client-facing services and deliveries.
The better a company’s incident response process, the less chance the organization loses data and efficiency. A masterful incident handling and response is both security protection, and a competitive advantage.
Which Industries are Most Susceptible to Cyber Attack Incidents?
Businesses large and small are increasingly susceptible to cyber attacks. And with the advent of third-party vendors managing segments of another organization’s data or process, hackers are targeting those vendors as back-door intrusions. Among the most popular industries for cybersecurity incidents are:
- Government agencies and contractors
Institutions manage volumes of data related to students, including their personal, financial, and class records. Over the last ten years, universities suffered over 500 successful cyber attacks and exposed the personal information of hundreds of thousands of students.
The financial services industry is on the short list of targets and is susceptible to attacks mainly from inside actors. Thanks to trading and investment tools, along with financial advisor microsites and SaaS platforms, the finance industry has many attack vectors that affect banks and self-employed advisors alike.
The healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable because most organizations are not properly equipped to handle cybersecurity threats. The healthcare industry has been hit hard in the last five years as these organizations scramble to update their security systems.
Medical records are worth an average of four times more than a stolen social security number and are sixty times more valuable than a stolen credit card.
“Criminals want what they refer to as “fulls”, full information about their victim. Name, birth date, Social Security number, address, anything they can learn about their victim. All that information is in your health-care records.” – Etay Maor of IBM Security
Government Agencies and Contractors
Due to their possession of high amounts of personal data from millions of citizens and their reputation for specific cybersecurity deficiencies, government agencies are prime targets. But it’s not just government agencies. All contractors have access to portions of government data and become hacker targets.
Cybersecurity in the energy sector is critical since one attack impacts millions of people, businesses, and government agencies. Because nuclear facilities, power plants, and pipelines are so connected to the grid, hackers from around the world can threaten the integrity of these systems.
Categorizing Incidents and Events
One vital thing to understand about establishing your incident response methodology is that not every incident is critical or dangerous. Thousands of unsuccessful cyber attacks happen every day. Depending upon your current cybersecurity tools and teams, only certain incidents demand an escalated response.
With the help of IT managers and your cybersecurity team, you should establish a system for identifying and categorizing incidents by severity and threat. Doing so will help key personnel make better decisions in the moment of a cyber attack.
How Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Can Improve Incident Response
While developing an incident response process is often a task outsourced to managed security services providers (MSSPs), enlisting the help of managed detection and response, or MDR, can greatly enhance your ability to address incidents in a timely manner. MDRs have more advanced tools for tracking, containing, and eliminating cyber threats. If you don’t already have an internal cybersecurity team with MDR-level tools, partnering with an MDR can significantly lower your risk and ensure the effectiveness of your incident response.
What are Some Key Components to a Reliable Incident Response Methodology?
Our list of key components is by no means exhaustive, but it is a great place to start. The more components you can set in place prior to a cybersecurity incident, the more effective your response plan will be.
Though some methodologies place team selection as something you do after detecting an incident, a predetermined team that is already aware of the official incident response process will always perform better in the moment of crisis. And while some IT members should be a part of this team, it’s ideal to staff your incident response team with seasoned cybersecurity experts.
If you don’t already have the in-house security manpower to activate during an incident, you can partner with an affordable outsourced solution, such as an MDR, MSSP, or incident management provider.
As soon as your organization discovers an intrusion, your containment protocols keep the breach from affecting other parts of your network. Additionally, your containment efforts assist the diagnostics team to isolate the problem and find its root cause.
Incident Help Desk
Once you’ve contained the part of the network that’s been compromised, you’re bound to have limited functionality for some departments. As a result, employees may require assistance with system limitations.
Establishing an incident help desk allows you to help your employees while first responders focus on patching the intrusion and recovering your operations. In most cases, it makes sense to staff your incident help desk with IT personnel.
The next key component to your incident management process is diagnostics. It’s not enough to contain and fix the problem, it’s critical that your cybersecurity team understand what happened and why. Without proper diagnostics, you risk a recurrence of similar or identical security breaches in other parts of your network.
Incident Documentation and Reporting
Equipping your cybersecurity team with a system for documentation will help managers and decision-makers update your incident response methodology. Once the incident concludes, employing technical writers can further help your cybersecurity teams address future incidents and train employees with greater efficiency.
Incident Response Models
Much of your incident response methodology can be broken down into incident response models. These decision-making frameworks allow response teams to act decisively in the moment of a crisis, as well as know when to escalate the incident to an expert third party.
What are the Most Important Incident Response Steps That an Organization Should Take?
Your incident response steps involve taking the key components above and putting them into action. The more specific your response plan, the more effective your response teams will be.
Establish incident handling and response process policies and procedures.
Preparation involves establishing your incident response team, agreeing on a methodology, and developing an incident response plan from your methodology foundation. Depending on your industry, you may have cybersecurity compliance standards that also dictate your incident response policies and procedures.
As you scale your business, your incident response plan will need to include new attack vectors and vulnerable systems. You may even need to update your team to accommodate the new plan.
Focus on protection and prevention.
The best preparation is prevention. Having the effective protective measures in place helps to ensure negative incidents don’t happen in the first place. You can use risk assessments and penetration testing to help you establish these preventative measures.
Implement incident response policies and procedures.
When it’s time to put your policies and procedures into action, your team should follow the plan as closely as possible. Veering from your incident response process could result in team members overlooking vulnerable networks and hardware.
Partner with IT staff to restore services as soon as possible.
While your cybersecurity team is responsible for containing and patching an intrusion, you will need cooperation from your IT department to restore operations once the initial threat is past. Part of this process is designating team members to oversee the help desk during the transition.
Establish permanent solutions to the incident.
Your incident response teams should think beyond the present crisis and develop solutions that are as permanent as possible. To do this properly, you will need tools to perform root cause analyses during and after the incident.
Ensuring that incident solutions are permanent also means testing that solution before applying it to other parts of your network. Once you’ve verified that your solution is ready for wider implementation, your incident response team can move forward to protect the rest of your network from a similar threat.
Update incident response policies and procedures.
In the wake of a cybersecurity incident, it’s common for you and your response teams to discover holes in your incident response process. While the intrusion and effective solutions are still fresh in everyone’s mind, it’s critical that you update your policies and procedures in preparation for the next incident.
What Tools/Resources Do Organizations Need to Implement an Incident Response Process?
Incident response will go smoother if you employ certain tools and resources. The list below is some of the more common tools that cybersecurity professionals use to improve their incident response methodology. That said, there is no “one size fits all” incident response plan, and it’s important that you collaborate with your cybersecurity and IT teams to develop the best approach.
Root Cause Analysis Framework
For the sake of optimal incident response, it bears repeating how helpful a root cause analysis framework can be. Without tools like a Fishbone Diagram or Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), it can be difficult to look beyond the surface problem and discover a deeper issue that caused the incident in the first place.
Fulfillment Requests Process
In the heat of containment and patching, your response teams will have specific needs to operate effectively. A fulfillment requests process ensures that you encounter no bottlenecks while your team puts your incident handling and response process into action.
The tricky part of maintaining a smooth fulfillment request process is that you will need buy-in from your executive leadership. It’s an unfortunate reality that most executives are more likely to invest in IT development over cybersecurity. But if you use a risk assessment like the FAIR model, you can explain cybersecurity vulnerabilities in real dollars and cents, and you’re more likely to get the tools and resources you need to fulfill requests during incident response.
Up-to-date Network Diagram
Your network diagram illustrates where your data comes and goes throughout your network. It’s critical that you keep this diagram updated, because without it, you will likely miss opportunities to improve your incident response methodology.
Network diagrams are especially important if you work with third-party vendors. These outside companies most likely have access to certain parts of your network. Hackers frequently attack organizations through their third-party vendors so as to sneak in undetected. An updated network diagram can outline which third-party vendors pose a risk to your network. As such, a key part of your incident response process should include third-party risk management.
Most cybersecurity audits occur to fulfill industry or government compliance standards. However, performing security audits can also inform your incident response methodology. Combing through your network in detail can expose potential threats and prepare your incident response team in the event that any part is compromised.
Penetration tests, or pen tests, provide your incident response teams with a real-life simulation of what a breach could look like. The main goal of performing pen tests is to identify network vulnerabilities. However, a side benefit can be to give your cybersecurity teams a taste of what a cyber attack is like. By treating the pen test incident as real, you can train your staff and uncover any policy and procedural oversights.
In Conclusion: Understanding Incident Response Methodology
Your incident response methodology depends a great deal on your industry, the scope of your business, and the amount of attack vectors you manage. As such, it’s important to think carefully about your incident response plan. The more experts you have in your corner, the better your plan will be.
RSI Security exists to help small, medium, and large businesses create and maintain effective incident management response. Our managed detection and response team is fully equipped with the latest in incident response technology, experience, and resources. And best of all, you can scale your MDR to accommodate your budget and organizational risk.