Detecting security events quickly is one of the most important aspects of network security for most companies. Without a full-spectrum overview of all cyber activity, it can be nearly impossible to coordinate defenses and take down threats on the spot. Thankfully, companies can implement a security incident management plan to effectively handle these types of security events if they should arise.
By quickly detecting potential incidents via a security incident management plan, companies can consistently ensure clarity in all viable cybersecurity functions. Without further ado, let’s review the finer points of a security incident management plan and how it can help your organization increase its ability to detect and mitigate cyber threats without breaking a sweat.
What is Security Incident Management?
Security incident management focuses heavily on resolving incidents quickly to ensure that employees and users alike aren’t hit with too much downtime. By identifying, managing, recording and analyzing security threats or incidents in real-time, security incident management provides a robust and comprehensive view of any security issues within an IT infrastructure.
Security incident management usually begins with an alert that an incident has occurred. This prompts the organization to rally its incident response team to investigate and analyze the incident to determine its scope, assess damages, and develop a plan for mitigation.
Once the incident response team is in place, the security incident management plan helps to guide the team to correctly detect security incidents and provide a technical response to address the problems promptly. Security incident management plans also take into account other departments to work in conjunction with the technical teams to ensure a coordinated effort is made to tackle the service or legal-related issues that may arise during an attack.
How Do Security Incident Management Plans Work?
Security Incident Management plans function as general steps that are often taken to manage threats. Think of it as a type of playbook that features a series of maneuvers a team member needs to follow to respond to a cyber threat much like a football player would follow a play to score a touchdown. After a threat has been identified, the plan goes into action and all the necessary personnel come together to tackle the task as a team.
The first step that most security incident management plans begin with is to start a full investigation of the incident based on how it is affecting their system, data, or user behavior. After scanning all pertinent areas, the security response team should be able to pinpoint the location of the threat based on the operating efficiencies of portions of a specific server. From there, the incident response team would then assess the issue to determine whether the behavior is the result of a security incident or if there is an internal software or hardware issue at hand.
If the issue is the result of a cyber threat, then the incident would be analyzed further with all pertinent information being collected and documented. After this information is accumulated, the incident response team can identify the scope of the incident and make preparations for resolving it. Following resolution, the team would then submit a detailed written report of the security incident to the appropriate department heads to be distributed amongst their teams to ensure that everyone is in the loop.
The Key Steps Towards Successful Incident Response
With the cost of cybercrime growing from $3 trillion in 2015 to a potential of $6 trillion by as early as 2021 worldwide, we can see that the cost of not maintaining a security incident management plan can be devastating for any organization. A recent study found that having a security incident management plan supported a consistent response that was the single biggest factor in reducing the cost of a data breach.
But just having a plan on paper isn’t enough. Plans take fast action from all corners of your company for a variety of reasons. The most positive tasks that you can carry out for your organization to combat cyber threats is to focus on five key approaches to effectively respond to cybersecurity incidents before they become too big of a threat to handle.
This might come as a no-brainer to most cyber aware organizations, but unfortunately, it is not second nature for a good majority of companies. Being proactive and getting your security incident management plan on paper ensures that you’re one step closer to complying with the pertinent regulatory bodies and fulfilling your contractual requirements. Being proactive by configuring the necessary security controls shows these organizations that your organization can demonstrate due diligence with respect to compliance.
Of course, being proactive and being prepared are two very different things. This is true with even the best incident response teams. Without predetermined guidelines, these teams cannot effectively address an incident.
This is why it’s imperative that your organization develops a strong plan to support your incident response team to ensure they can successfully address security events. This can be accomplished by establishing policies, procedures, and agreements for incident response management and creating communication standards and guidelines to enable seamless communication during and after an incident.
Above and beyond this, your organization should be performing ongoing collection, analysis, and synchronization of its threat intelligence feeds. This is a preventative measure to ensure that nothing slips past your defenses and also allows your team to learn more about the functioning intricacies of their system.
Another preventative measure to take a more proactive incident response by conducting operational threat hunting exercises to find incidents occurring within your environment. By assessing your current threat detection capability and updating your risk assessment and improvement programs regularly, your organization can become more cyber aware and prepare for the possibility of a future incident.
Incident Response Training and Team Management
Of course, all of these preventative measures are for naught if your team does not have the right training, skills, or knowledge of incident response best practices. Per a recent survey, 65 percent of security professionals expect they will need to respond to a major breach in the next year. This means that not enough proactive measures are being put into place from a process implementation standpoint; thereby leaving IT personnel to handle the brunt of the incident response tasks.
Once your team is fully trained and understands the nuances of your security incident management plan, it’s time to appoint a team leader who will have overall responsibility for responding to the incident. This person will essentially be the liaison between the incident response team and management as well as the person carrying out the plan so make sure to choose this individual wisely and give them the tools to quickly and effectively communicate and respond if/when the time comes.
Detect, Pinpoint, and Report the Source
A recent survey found that 22 percent of organizations (more than one in five) said they have limited resources to respond to a security incident. But if you have a focused security incident management plan that details how to detect, alert, and report on potential security incidents, then managing those incidents becomes less of a headache.
Detection of potential security incidents may call for your team to monitor firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and data loss prevention using a SIEM solution. Once an incident is detected, your team can create an incident ticket and document their initial findings. From there, a team member is assigned to classify the incident for regulatory reporting escalation purposes.
Once your team has identified the cause of the breach, they should make sure that it’s contained or can be contained quickly. If file integrity is beginning to fail, then you need to have an anti-malware program detect which files (if any) have been altered and work towards remediating the incident. Following remediation completion, the details of the incident should be logged for audit-related purposes according to a variety of data points that account for the current status of network storage, memory, operating systems, applications, and more.
Assess the Damage via Analytics
After the smoke has cleared, it’s time to review the accumulated data to understand if the incident was driven by a successful external attacker or malicious insider. The data will reveal how severe the incident was and how your team responded according to the threat level attack. If you’re not able to piece together the entire story from this data, then you can always launch a full investigation that can ensure that no stone is left unturned.
Depending on the comprehensive nature of your investigation, you may be able to divulge if the hacker performed a web application layer intrusion, a SQL Injection attack, or even hijack a web server to take control of your critical backend systems. All in all, your efforts will mainly be focused on properly scoping and understanding the security incident that takes place during this step. Through your investigation, make sure that your incident response team has the appropriate resources to collect this data from tools and systems for further analysis and to identify indicators of compromise (IOC).
Contain and Neutralize the IOC
If you do find that your system has been infiltrated by an IOC, your next step is to escalate your efforts to contain and neutralize the threat quickly. Use all pertinent intelligence that you have gathered on the IOC during your analysis sweep to restore your security and resume normal operations.
Once your system has been alleviated of all traces of IOC damage, perform a coordinated shutdown of all devices connected to your network. Your next step is to install all pertinent security patches that help to resolve all malware issues and network vulnerabilities. If you find that specific accounts have been compromised (especially ones with administrator access), make sure to change all pertinent passwords to stymie the hacker’s access.
If you have identified an IP address that your threat actor had been using to carry out their attack, make sure to issue threat mitigation requests to block the communication from all egress channels connected to this IP. While these mitigation efforts are being carried out, your incident response team should back up all affected systems to preserve their current state for later forensics.
Once the incident has been resolved, make sure you properly document all information that may be of use to combat future incidents. If you’re looking for a silver lining to your incident, you can find it in the documentation which can be incredibly helpful in improving your security incident management plan as well.
After using your data intelligence to update your security incident management plan, make sure to bolster those efforts by monitoring activities post-incident (threat actors often hit the same target multiple times). If any data has been stolen during the incident, make sure that you immediately notify the affected parties in a timely fashion that is in line with regulatory body requirements. If the incident involves exposure or theft of sensitive customer records, then you may also need to make a public announcement that is made in coordination with your executive management and public relations teams.
Preventing the Same Type of Incident in the Future
A security incident management plan isn’t the end-all solution to handle your cyber threats; it’s merely a guide that will keep you more organized and consistent with your incident response efforts. If you’re hit with a cyber-attack and want to improve your organization’s remediation efforts, it’s best to sit key members of your organization down and examine lessons learned to prevent recurrences of similar incidents.
If the cause of the incident stemmed from your systems being out of date, it would be in your best interest to patch any server vulnerabilities quickly. If the quality of your team’s response led to the incident getting out of hand, then make sure to prioritize training your employees on how to avoid phishing scams, or rolling out technologies to better monitor insider threats.
Lastly, update your security incident management plan to reflect all new preventative measures that your organization plans to take if an incident occurs again in the future. Make sure that your plans call for a collaborative effort to respond to cyber threats and not just putting the efforts all on the hands of your IT team. By doing this, you’ll be able to maintain your organization like a well-oiled machine well into the future.