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By Pavel Kukhnavets

Incident Response

Introduction to Incident Response: responsible people, processes, and tools.

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Reputation, customer trust, and revenue are the factors that should be constantly monitored and taken care of. When they are at stake, it is critical for any business to identify and timely respond to security incidents and events.

Regardless of the size, Agile software development companies need to have an incident response plan in place to reduce the risks of being a victim of any cyber-attack.

A well-prepared incident response strategy defines a breach, steps that will need to be taken to address a security incident, roles and responsibilities of the security team, appropriate tools for managing the problem, and the notification requirements following a data breach.

Below we describe the incident response methodology, all essential incident response procedures, best practices, and benefits of an incident response plan. Dive in and learn more about this important process for any software development company.

The basics of Incident Response

What is Incident Response?

Incident response is an organized process of addressing the aftermath of a security breach or cyberattack. This also includes the way the company attempts to manage the consequences of the breach or attack. This approach is also known as an IT incident, security incident, or computer incident.

What is the goal of incident response?

First of all, to effectively manage the incident, limit damages, and reduce recovery time and costs, as well as to keep at minimum collateral damage such as brand reputation.

In fact, IR is about making a plan before it is necessary. This is about an overall business function that helps ensure a company can make quick decisions with reliable info.

Who is the incident response team?

Cyber incident response activities should be ideally conducted by a company’s computer security incident response team (CSIRT). It is also known as a cyber incident response team.

This team should include information security, general IT staff, and members from top management. However, representatives from the HR, legal, and public relations departments can be also involved.

The team follows the company’s incident response plan (IRP) – it contains written instructions that outline the company’s response to network events, confirmed breaches, and security incidents.

What is the importance of incident response?

Any incident activity that is not handled properly can escalate into a bigger problem. This problem will definitely lead to a damaging data breach, system collapse, and large expense, of course. When an organization responds quickly, it has a chance to minimize losses, restore services and processes, mitigate exploited vulnerabilities, and reduce risks.

This process helps companies to be prepared for both the known and unknown. It is a reliable way to identify a security incident immediately when it occurs.

Most businesses rely on sensitive information that would be detrimental if compromised. Incidents may range from simple malware infections to complex problems. And any incident may have short- and long-term effects that can impact the success of the entire company.

Pay special attention to the things that can be done in advance to brace for the impact of a security incident.

The incident response team

Consistent Steps for Effective Incident Response

There six steps for successful cyber incident response, proposed by the SANS Institute:

1. Preparation

This is the first stage of incident response that is really important. With thorough preparation, companies can determine how well their CIRT will be able to respond to incidents. It should contain determining the CIRT members, a policy, response plan, documentation, access control, and tools.

2. Identification

This stage includes the process through which incidents are detected to enable rapid response and therefore reduce damages and costs. The IT staff gathers events from log files, intrusion detection systems, monitoring tools, error messages, and firewalls to detect and manage incidents and their scope.

3. Containment

The key goal of this stage is to contain the damage and prevent further damage from occurring. The earlier you detect incidents, the sooner they can be contained to minimize damage.

4. Eradication

This stage entails removing the threat and restoring affected systems to their previous state, ideally while minimizing data loss. The measures that not only remove the malicious content but also ensure that the affected systems are completely clean should be taken in place.

5. Recovery

Recovery includes testing, monitoring, and validating systems while putting them back into production with the aim to verify that they are ok. Recovery is also about decision-making in terms of the time and date to restore all-important operations.

6. Lessons learned

The final phase of IT incident management helps to educate and improve future incident response efforts. Lessons learned reports are a clear review of the entire incident, They can be used during recap meetings, training materials for new CIRT members.

What is IRP – the Incident Response Plan?

What is Incident Response?

An incident response plan is a set of documented procedures that detail the steps that should be taken in every phase of IR. This plan usually contains the guidelines for roles and responsibilities, communication, and standardized response protocols. Creating IRP, use clear language, and determine ambiguous terms.

Incident response plan management

Incident response requires thoughtful planning, ongoing oversight, and clear metrics that will let efforts be properly measured. Your IRP must be periodically tested to ensure its effectiveness. You should also consider training all the necessary parties on applicable incident response procedures.

What are the specific metrics used to measure the effectiveness of incident response initiatives?

  • The number of incidents detected
  • The number of repeat incidents
  • The number of incidents missed
  • The number of incidents that require action
  • The number of incidents that led to breaches
  • The remediation timeframe

Five steps to creating an incident management plan

1. Identify all critical components of your network

Prioritize their backup, and note their locations. It will help you to recover the network quickly.

2. Determine single points of failure and address them

Having a plan B for every critical component of your network is actually a good idea. Single points of failure may expose the network when an incident strikes, so try to quickly address them with redundancies or software failover features.

3. Generate a workforce continuity plan

Remember that employee safety has a top priority. Ensure their safety and limit business downtime by enabling them to work remotely.

4. Write an IR plan

The incident response plan may include a list of roles and responsibilities for the IR team members, a summary of the tools and physical resources that must be in place, a business continuity plan, a list of critical network and data recovery processes, etc.

5. Train the staff

It is crucial that everyone in your company understands the importance of the plan. Do not forget to educate your staff about IR.

Incident Response Best Practices

Creating playbooks

Creating playbooks will teach your CSIRT team how to sort different kinds of incidents and gather proper evidence. Just accent your attention on the common attack scenarios that organizations face (DDoS, Malware, Unauthorized access, Phishing, etc.). Outline in this doc what triggers an escalation to the incident management team and recommend what evidence needs to be gathered.

Performing cyber threat exercises

You should be prepared for the real things by playing various attack scenarios. This can even be as simple as doing some training exercises.

Generating different attack scenarios is a good way to test any playbooks that have been put in place. Additionally, it will help to define any gaps in an incident response plan.

Initiating threat hunting

A proactive search of suspicious activities is the point where your incident response team begins to mature. People who perform these ad hoc investigations really develop their investigative mindset.

These skills are exactly what is required during the identification phase of an incident. If your team has a clear understanding of what normal looks like it becomes easier to spot malicious activities.

What are the tools for an incident response procedure?

Nowadays you can easily find a variety of powerful and competitive tools and methods that can be used to assist with incident response. They are typically categorized by detection, prevention, and response functionalities.

Some companies actively use the military-derived OODA loop for this aim. This is an approach that encourages a business to observe, orient, make proper decisions, and act when an incident occurs applying commonly used IR tools for assistance.

There are also special tools that allow companies to act against threats by stopping them from spreading or minimizing the impact they have on the computing environment. Modern technologies can be successfully used to automate and streamline specific incident response functions to minimize detection times and system errors.

Incident response tools and services are usually divided into the following categories:

  • security incident and event management
  • endpoint security management
  • employee awareness and training
  • vulnerability management
  • forensics analysis
  • firewall, intrusion prevention, and DoS mitigation
  • net flow and traffic analysis

These robust tools provide businesses with both visibility and control providing security teams with the essential info they need to know to handle the anomalous behavior.

After all, the IR tools assist with direct response efforts — allowing companies to minimize the risks involved.

Conclusion

No one wants to go through a data breach or any security risk, but it’s essential to plan for them. Prepare for it, and be aware of what to do when it happens.

The faster your company can detect and respond to a problem, the less likely it will have a serious impact on your data, reputation, customer trust, and a potential loss in revenue. If there is no incident response process in place in your organization, consider leveraging a third-party managed security tool to implement a customized approach for your business needs.