In the world of information technology (IT) and cybersecurity, prevention is often the major focus. Companies need to have fully compliant, robust cyberdefenses in place to dissuade hackers and preclude any potential attacks. But attacks still do happen, and a vital part of security is knowing how to detect and respond to them when they occur. Thus, cyber security incident management is one of the most important areas of overall IT management.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about incident management. In the sections below, we’ll first break down the biggest challenges facing incident management in cyber security. Then, we’ll take a look at some of the best solutions for those threats, ways to mitigate and reduce harm and recover compromised resources.
Top 5 Challenges in Cyber Incident Response Management
There are many challenges facing incident response programs in any company’s internal or external IT management. Namely, the various vectors for attack and cybercrime all pose individual risks—there are at least as many threats as there are hackers out there willing to seize your assets. Plus, these compound with the various vulnerabilities facilitating attack.
The top five challenges we’ll take a close look at are:
- Volume of risks faced
- Shifting privacy requirements
- Threats posed by insiders
- Deficiencies in information
- Tight budget constraints
Some of these challenges have to do with the attackers; others have to do with the specifics of your company itself. But all of them interlock in insidious ways. Nevertheless, establishing a thorough understanding of what each challenge entails is the first step towards overcoming it. After defining each, we’ll discuss solutions for any and all challenges you face.
Challenge #1: Volume of Risks
The sheer volume of cybersecurity attacks is one of the biggest challenges facing both the cybersecurity industry as a whole and the IT management of individual businesses.
And it only gets worse over time.
According to one study of cyberattacks in 2020, a whopping 80 percent of firms have reported an increase of cyberattacks observed relative to 2019. That number increases for particular industries, with banks seeing an increase of over 238 percent.
Plus, there have been spikes in particular kinds of attacks over the first half of 2020:
- Phishing scams are up over 600 percent since March
- Cloud based attacks were up 630 percent in the first quarter
- A cyberattack happens approximately every 39 seconds
It’s important to note that not every incident turns into a successful attack, but every single attempt was an incident first. That means these numbers pale in comparison to the total number of incidents, which is potentially exponentially greater than even the figures above.
Unsurprisingly, all that volume can be too much for companies to handle.
Challenge #2: Privacy Requirements
Depending on the industry your business is in, it may be beholden to a number of regulatory compliance guidelines. These guidelines and protocols can differ widely, depending on the agency or institution that administers and enforces them.
However, they do entail a great deal of overlap, especially when it comes to one area: privacy.
Companies responsible for storing, processing, or transporting sensitive client information need to be careful about the way they do so. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires stringent standards for all handling of personal health information, like medical records. Likewise, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) outlines rules for the handling of credit card and other financial information of clients.
Regulatory compliance is challenging enough with stable rules. Plus, these standards update over time in response to attacks, requiring constant patching of newly outdated privacy controls. These shifting privacy requirements make compliance difficult to maintain. More importantly, they also present a persistent threat to effective incident management.
Challenge #3: Insider Threats
Many cybersecurity frameworks are based upon an assumption that attacks originate from the outside—hackers are strangers trying to get in. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Another major challenge impeding successful incident management is the fact that many companies are ill equipped to deal with the threat of attacks from within. Some of the most common perpetrators of cybercrime are those with privileged access to a company’s network.
Some examples of individuals likely to perpetrate internal attacks include:
- Disgruntled current or former employees
- Contractors given seemingly temporary access
- Staff who unwittingly compromise security protocols
According to one roundup of 2020 insider attack statistics, about 2,500 internal security breaches occur in the US every day—just under 1 million per year.
These internal attacks impact over one third of all businesses worldwide, annually. Two thirds believe insider threats to be more dangerous than external ones. Why’s that? Insider attackers can remain undetected for longer, potentially wreaking far more havoc than an outside hacker.
Challenge #4: Information Deficiencies
One of the most critical aspects of a company’s ability to detect and respond to risks is information. But therein lies a key challenge: compiling, categorizing, and processing the various data required for effective incident management can be difficult. This is especially true for smaller to medium sized businesses with fewer resources dedicated to IT.
The most important information that needs to be catalogued and optimized for real-time analysis and decision making includes:
- An extensive list of all hardware owned or operated by the company:
- All computers and IT devices (mobile phones, etc.)
- All servers, switches, and other network components
- All software owned or utilized by the company:
- Applications, browsers, and programs
- Cloud storage and computing services
- Detailed records related to all personnel and select clientele, such as:
- User profile information (biographical data)
- Credit card and payment information
Not only is it essential to have extensive records and easy access to all data; it also needs to be protected with authentication, encryption, and other means. Knowing what information there is, where it is located, and how to quickly grant (or freeze) access to it is essential to risk detection.
Challenge #5: Budgetary Constraints
This last challenge is less its own category than the underlying reason that all other challenges are challenges in the first place. Too often, incident management programs are difficult to theorize and implement because businesses lack the necessary budget for IT.
Forbes’ reporting on prospects for IT budgets indicates that chief information officers (CIOs) anticipate a halt in growth for IT budgets worldwide. A year without growth always equals a net negative, relative to inflation across other markets. But this year’s stagnation is especially stark, as these same experts had initially anticipated upwards of 4 percent increase year-on-year.
And, per a Wall Street Journal report on companies’ IT spend, these shrinking budgets aren’t being used for incident management. Instead, cloud and AI services are the priority.
What these cuts to expected IT spending mean in practice, is that departments who were already spread thin now have even less bandwidth for all cyberdefense operations. That includes incident management, which is already challenging due to the reasons above.
Key Incident Management Cyber Security Solutions
An all-in-one managed detection and response plan is the best way to solve the challenges outlined above. It simplifies both the identification and response to incidents, helping your organization get back on its feet quicker and stay stable for longer following an attack.
In total, there are five steps in the incident management lifecycle outlined by the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL):
ITIL’s recommended process front-loads most of the response into planning. The first four are all dedicated to the work of preparation; the final one is dedicated to active response.
However, a more progressive and efficient all-in-one solution to managed detection in response follows a pared-down process involving four key areas. This collapses all of identification, logging, categorization, and prioritization into one initial procedure of threat detection. Then, later steps are dedicated to immediate response, further analysis, and patch management.
The broadest area of incident management is detection. As noted in the information challenge above, it’s essential to create robust sets of data cataloging all relevant resources that might be compromised (or used) in an incident. If your organization doesn’t presently have adequate access to information, the process of collecting and optimizing it for action is the first step.
If the data does exist, detection begins with regularly monitoring and updating that data. Detection is less a one-time analysis than a continuous, ongoing process.
To detect threats, it’s imperative to establish a baseline of what your system looks like when there are no present incidents. Once that baseline is established, you’ll be able to easily notice and immediately categorize and begin responding to a threat as soon as it appears.
When threats have been detected, categorized, and prioritized, the plan for how to deal with them takes shape. Then, the response phase is where it goes into action.
The response phase comprises two levels or forms of response:
- Immediate response – This entails any and all emergency tactics needed to halt the progress of an attacker and prevent further damage. It may involve modifications to or even full suspension of given procedures than your business depends on.
- Long-term recovery – This involves the processes of recovering compromised assets, patching up vulnerabilities, and installing preventative measures to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.
An incident may or may not force a business to suspend some or all of its normal procedures. In cases where things have been paused, you’ll need to complete at least the immediate response before returning to normal.
Root Cause Analysis
This area may be considered a part of the long-term recovery process named above.
It involves in-depth analysis of your company’s cybersecurity infrastructure and the history of a given attack to determine how it happened. Attackers often take advantage of vulnerabilities that were not known to the company at the time of attack. Understanding the depth and breadth of one’s own (mis)understandings is key to eliminating as many such unknowns as possible.
To that end, a strong offense can be the best defense.
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is a form of ethical hacking that helps an institution understand what a hacker would do if it attacked you. By simulating an attack and carefully studying the hacker’s moves, you’ll be better prepared for future attacks.
As noted in challenge #3 above, regulatory compliance involves some of the biggest challenges to incident detection and response. However, the flip side of that equation is that companies who maintain and exceed compliance guidelines are well prepared to manage incidents.
If you’re not sure what particular elements you need to reach full compliance, analytical tools like a patch availability report can identify the various hardware, software, and practices you need to implement. This goes for all guidelines, included but not limited to:
- PCI-DSS and ASV for all businesses processing credit cards
- HIPAA and HITECH for all businesses working with medical records
- CMMC / NERC CIP for contractors with the DoD or critical power infrastructure
Comprehensive compliance advisory services can help you achieve optimal incident management, as well as overall cybersecurity fidelity.
Professional Cyber Defense You Can Trust: RSI Security
Here at RSI Security, we’re committed to making premium cyberdefense solutions available to companies of all sizes, across every industry. We know how important it is to detect and respond to incidents in real time. Having a plan of action when you are attacked can be the difference between recovering or suffering irreparable damage.
We also understand that immediate response is far from the only cybersecurity you need.
You also need to have preventative measures in place—an infrastructure that protects all your digital assets long-term. When it comes to planning and implementing any part of your cybersecurity framework, our dedicated team of experts is your first and best option.
To see just how big a difference professional cyber security incident management and overall managed security services can make, contact RSI Security today. Everyone with a stake in your company’s safety, from personnel to clientele, will benefit.