In today’s digital landscape, it’s important to have contingency plans in place in the event of a cyberattack. This is where ITIL incident management workflow comes in, which is a set of protocols businesses need to follow should an incident occur. But what are they, exactly? And how are they implemented?
Implementing the ITIL Incident Management Workflow
Effective Incident response and management can be the difference between surviving an attack and allowing it to do irreparable damage to your company. With a proper plan in place, being attacked is not the worst-case scenario. But falling victim to a hacker without a strong incident management program can be a death knell, even for otherwise secure companies.
Given this crucial importance, the ITIL workflow for incident response streamlines the process into a relatively straightforward set of steps prioritizing efficiency. When attacked, the most important considerations are restoring service and minimizing harm.
In the sections that follow, we’ll break down how to do that. We’ll discuss the five steps necessary to implement an incident management workflow per ITIL standards.
But first, let’s cover what exactly the ITIL is:
ITIL Primer: More than Major Incident Management Workflows
The ITIL, also known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, encompasses much more than the incident management workflow. It’s a collection of volumes that comprise the best practices for a wide range of IT services.
Collectively, the library offers guidance on every element of IT management for businesses, focused on the following principles:
- Risk management
- Customer relations
- Stability and growth
- Cost efficiency
The ITIL was originally developed as a 30-book set during the 1980s by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) of the British Government.
It has evolved and risen to prominence alongside the rapid advancement of computing technology.
After being condensed in 2000, ITIL became part of the UK’s Cabinet Office in 2001. Then, in 2005, ITIL became integral to the world’s first international standards for IT management.
What does this mean for businesses, namely here in the US?
Following ITIL principles and guidelines is the best way for businesses to keep up with worldwide standards for cybersecurity and general IT management. And the incident response protocols laid out by ITIL are among the most prominent of its controls.
ITIL Incident Workflow in 5 Steps
In a perfect world there would be no incidents to respond to.
In the real world attacks happen all the time. In the event that your digital infrastructure is attacked and a hacker is successfully able to breach your defenses, you need to know what to do to minimize the damage and regain control as soon as possible.
To that end, the ITIL has established a straightforward, five-step process:
Step 1: Identification
The first step involves registering and identifying that there is a problem and then what it is.
This process is initiated when a user reports some malfunction to your company’s IT resource. Reports may come in person, over the phone, or through messaging platforms such as email. In addition, some companies may field reports through specific incident report software.
Once a complaint is received, the service desk or other responsible party must identify whether it is a true incident or simply a request:
- According to ITIL 4, an incident must involve an “unplanned interruption,” “reduction in quality,” or “failure of a configuration” in an IT service.
- A request, on the other hand, is an inquiry regarding information or access. It follows expected patterns and processes, such as the creation of a new account for a user.
Once the incident has been identified, it’s time to log it.
Step 2: Logging
Both short term handling of the situation and longer-term analysis and prevention depend upon diligent logging of the incident. It’s essential to create a uniform system of tickets in which every incident is recorded and easily searchable.
No matter the scope, size, or type of incident, it must be logged as a ticket with:
- An in-depth description of the incident
- Detailed information about all user accounts involved
- Precise information about date, time, and location of occurrence
This logging process mobilizes your response team to be able to address the issue. It also enables you to understand the broader contexts of incidents that occur, tracking patterns and eliminating potentially dangerous loopholes that are most often exploited.
Step 3: Categorization
As a follow up to the logging process, the next step involves building on an incident’s ticket by assigning it a category, as well as at least one sub-category.
There are two main reasons categorization is a vitally important step:
- Categorization closes the loop on identification and logging, turning the data points collected in the previous stages into fully actionable resources.
- It makes prioritization possible and, in some cases, enables automatic prioritization and response planning.
Once categories have been established by your IT service provider, the act of sorting a new incident into a pre-existing category optimizes your efficiency. Whether re-using a previously successful response or correcting for past struggles, categorization makes history a resource.
Yet, there’s still one step before the response: prioritization.
Step 4: Prioritization
This stage may take care of itself.
If your identification, logging, and categorization processes are executed seamlessly, incoming incident tickets should be auto-prioritized. Individual priority systems will vary by company, but typically the scheme breaks down into three levels:
- High priority – These tickets have the most dire impact on the highest number of users and resources, often with significant financial stakes. They are to be addressed first.
- Medium priority – These tickets often entail minor inconveniences to staff or clients. They may be addressed immediately, in the absence of high priority tickets.
- Low priority – These tickets involve issues with little to no impact on regular use. They usually have relatively simple workarounds, and may not need to be addressed at all.
Within these levels, there may also be sub-levels or exceptions.
A response plan may deem it necessary to address a low-level incident first as a result of cost benefit analysis. For example, if a slew of lower-priority tickets can be resolved relatively quickly, and doing so would actually facilitate the response to one or more higher-priority items, you may plan accordingly and address the lower priority tickets first.
No matter the situation, the final step is where the response takes shape.
Step 5: Response
Finally, this step involves the creation and execution of a detailed response plan.
This plan makes use of all available internal and external data related to the ticket. This includes all logged information about similar previous incidents, or similar issues impacting the industry at large. Once all data is collected, the response process can commence.
Incident response breaks down into the following sub-steps:
- Diagnosis – The user’s description of the problem and troubleshooting Q&A.
- Escalation – Deployment of advanced support, should the ticket warrant it.
- Investigation – Application of initial patch or workaround.
- Resolution – Complete recovery of service and control.
- Closure – Confirmation and logging of ticket completion.
If the rest of the ITIL workflow has been followed diligently up to this point, the response step should flow smoothly. The purpose of the preceding steps is, ultimately, to streamline response.
For guidance implementing the entire workflow, RSI Security is here to help.
Professional Cyberdefense with RSI Security
The suite of Incident Management services offered by RSI Security is unique in that it incorporates a sixth step above and beyond what the ITIl incident management workflow protocol necessitates. Once we ensure that we’ve identified, logged, investigated, prioritized, and responded to the incident, we also dedicate an entire step to ensuring customer satisfaction.
That means both supporting our customers (you), and our customers’ customers—your own trusted clientele. RSI Security is dedicated to rehabilitating and maintaining the brand image of our clients, mitigating the often intangible long-term effects of the worst incidents.
Additionally, we offer comprehensive cyberdefense support at all stages of a company’s lifecycle. Whether you need help designing your entire security architecture, meeting compliance regulations, or conducting detailed analysis and pen testing, RSI Security is your first and best option. We’re industry leaders with over a decade of experience supporting companies of all sizes.
Contact RSI Security today to see how powerful your cyberdefense can be.