Article

incident response

Master Incident Response Process: Prepare, Respond, Recover

Imagine waking up one morning to discover your entire network has been compromised. Sensitive data is exposed, systems are down, and chaos reigns. This chilling reality of a cyberattack is a nightmare scenario for any organisation, with the potential for devastating consequences. However, with a robust incident response (IR) plan, also known as a cybersecurity incident response strategy, you can quickly minimize the damage and get your business back on track. 

Incident response involves an organised, strategic approach to detecting and managing cyberattacks. It becomes your defence plan in the face of cybersecurity threats, helping to minimize damage, reduce recovery time, and lower overall costs. Whether you’re dealing with cybercrime, data loss, or service outages that disrupt your daily operations, a well-defined incident response strategy can address these challenges head-on. 

This comprehensive guide dives deep into the world of incident response, equipping you with the essential strategies and top tools to navigate even the most challenging security situations. By the end, you’ll be prepared to protect your organisation and respond effectively to various cybersecurity incidents. 

The incident response process 

The incident response process typically starts when the security team receives a credible alert from the security information and event management (SIEM) system. They must first verify the event as a genuine security incident. Once confirmed, the focus shifts to containment—isolating infected systems and removing the underlying threat. Severe incidents may require restoring from backups, handling ransom demands, or notifying customers of a data breach.  

The incident response process triggers the involvement of privacy experts, legal counsel, and business decision-makers alongside the cybersecurity team. This cross-functional collaboration is crucial for an effective and comprehensive incident response.

Key steps of incident response 

An incident response plan demands defined phases. This phased approach ensures a coordinated and efficient response that helps minimize the overall damage and impact. The key phases of the plan include: 

Preparation

The key incident response phase is preparing for an unavoidable security breach. This phase involves establishing a comprehensive plan, selecting and training a dedicated team, and acquiring the necessary tools and resources. Such proactive measures guarantee that the organisation can act quickly and efficiently during an incident. 

Identification

When a potential incident occurs, this phase focuses on quickly detecting and identifying the nature and scope of the threat. This may involve IT staff collecting data from various sources, such as log files, monitoring tools, error messages, intrusion detection systems, and firewalls, to identify and assess the extent of incidents. 

Containment

This stage aims to prevent the incident from escalating and spreading further throughout the organisation. Containment efforts are divided into two main categories:  

  • Short-term containment prevents the current threat from spreading by isolating the affected systems. This can involve taking infected devices offline, disabling compromised user accounts, or blocking access to specific network segments. 
  •  Long-term containment revolves around securing systems that have not been affected by enhancing security measures, such as isolating critical databases from the broader network infrastructure. 

Recovery

After eliminating the threat, the recovery phase focuses on restoring normal business operations. This phase could be time-consuming, especially in cases where substantial alterations are required, like recovering data post-destruction. Following a cybersecurity incident, it’s crucial to conduct testing to verify that the production environment is no longer susceptible to the previous vulnerability. 

Lessons learned: The final phase involves a comprehensive review of the process to identify areas for improvement. This includes reviewing, documenting lessons learned, and updating the plan to incorporate any necessary changes or best practices. 

Execution 

The plan is typically executed by a specialized team, often called a CIRT (Computer Incident Response Team), CSIRT (Computer Security Incident Response Team), or a computer emergency response team (CERT). A typical incident response team includes the following key members: 

  • Incident response manager: Often, the IT director supervises all phases of the response and keeps internal stakeholders informed. 
  • Security analysts: Responsible for monitoring security events, detecting incidents, and performing initial analysis. 
  • Threat researchers: Skilled in collecting external intelligence to provide additional context about the incident.  
  • Management representative: This person, such as the Chief Information Security Officer or Chief Information Officer, provides guidance and liaisons with other executives.  
  • Resources specialist: Helps manage any insider threat-related aspects of the incident. 
  • General Counsel: Provides legal guidance and ensures proper collection of forensic evidence. 
  • Public Relations Specialist: Coordinates accurate external communication to media, customers, and other stakeholders. 

This cross-functional team approach provides a comprehensive and coordinated response to security incidents. 

Distilled 

In conclusion, while making any system completely impervious to attacks is impossible, having a comprehensive, well-drilled incident response plan offers the best defence against cyber threats. It’s not just about protecting data but ensuring the resilience and continuity of your business in the face of evolving cyber challenges. 

Nidhi Singh