Incident Response Management – Key Elements and Best Practices

incident response management

Incident Response Management – Key Elements and Best Practices

  Cyvatar | 05/05/2022

What is incident response management?

Incidence response management allows organizations to address cybersecurity threats and breaches in a systematic way with a strategic plan.

The purpose of incident response is to identify real security threats, perform damage control, and reduce the damage costs to the company while reducing recovery time and complying with applicable regulations.

Formal documentation regarding incident response procedures is usually included in incident response management.

These procedures should cover the entire incident response process, including planning, detection, analysis, containment, and clean-up after the incident.

What are the critical components of an incident response plan?

To build an effective incident response team, it needs to consist of three key components, namely:

  1. Incident Response Plan
  2. Incident Response Team
  3. Incident Response Tools

1. The Incident Response Plan

Incident response is a business process that allows for a quick and effective response to cyberattacks.

The incident response process entails identifying an attack, determining its severity and prioritizing it, investigating and mitigating the attack, restoring operations, and taking preventative measures to ensure it is not repeated.

An incident response plan (IRP) is a set of documented procedures outlining the steps taken during each phase of incident response.

It should include guidelines on roles and responsibilities, communication plans, and standardized response protocols.

Reasons why you need an Incident Response Plan include:

When you have a bolstered and regularly updated incident response plan, you can reduce the amount of damage a company can incur whenever there is a breach, threat, or attack.

An incident response plan distributes roles and responsibilities among your team to ensure that all bases are covered in terms of protection and recovery in the event of an attack.

An incident response plan is also important for detailed plans and actions for the entire organization during an attack or threat.

Here are some significant reasons to consider having an Incident Response Plan in place:

* Emergency Preparation

Security incidents can happen at any time and anywhere, so it’s always better to prepare a process beforehand.

* A Recurring Process

Without a contingency plan like an incident response in place, your team may not respond in a repeatable process, leading to lower efficiency and mismanagement of time.

* Improves Coordination

In the case of an attack on larger organizations, keeping employees in the loop can be pretty tricky. Having an incident response plan in place negates that and keeps everyone on their toes.

* Preservation of Critical Information

An incident response plan ensures that critical knowledge and best practices for dealing with a crisis are not lost over time and that lessons learned are gradually added.

* Proper Documentation

An incident response plan with clear documentation reduces an organization’s liability by allowing you to show compliance auditors or authorities what steps were taken to prevent the breach.

2. The Incident Response Team

An incident response team, or an incident response unit, is in charge of anticipating and responding to IT incidents such as cyber-attacks, system failures, and data breaches.

This team may  be in charge of creating incident response plans, identifying and resolving system vulnerabilities, enforcing security policies, and assessing security best practices.

They are also involved in initiating incident response procedures. An incident response team is required to carry out an incident response plan.

In a large organization, the roles may be filled by full-time employees or entire teams; in a smaller organization, the positions may be filled by employees with other full-time jobs who also participate in the incident response process.

Creating the incidence response team

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to creating an incident response team. 

To ensure maximum efficiency, you will need to include the following considerations when building/assigning members to your team.

* Available at all times

You want members who can respond to incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To make sure you can respond quickly, pick people who can access your systems quickly and who can respond during a wide range of hours.

A lot of the time, this means adding third-party resources to teams during off-hours or holidays so that there is always someone to cover for them.

* On-Call teams/Virtual Teams

If you have a limited number of employees, you may want to supplement your team with virtual or as-needed members.

This is a good option for members who have highly specialized knowledge that isn’t always required but can still provide valuable assistance in certain situations.

These individuals may be full-time or part-time employees in another capacity, but they can be called in as needed if an incident occurs.

Having skilled members adept in incident response procedures on standby is always beneficial in the case of a breach.

* Influential Advocates/ Sponsors

It is highly beneficial to have someone on your team act as a team advocate or sponsor, such as a CISO.

This individual can assist in managing communications between your team and C-level executives to ensure that the significance of cyber security response is understood.

They can also help you obtain the budget you require to operate effectively.

* Morale and seamless communication

Incident response teams are called in to handle high-stress situations requiring clear communication and collaboration.

It is critical to encourage team members’ professional growth and strengthen team relationships to avoid team burnout.

* Diverse teams

Technically diverse teams can handle a broader range of situations than limited teams.

Greater diversity can also assist teams in identifying threats more quickly and developing more innovative solutions for minimizing damage and preventing future attacks.

3. The Incident Response Tools

Incident response tools are vital to the entire process to ensure maximum efficiency in protecting against cyber attacks, threats, and breaches.

These tools allow incident response teams to monitor, detect, and respond to threats faster.

They also serve the purpose of automating protection, reducing the workload and burden on teams.

Several tools work in tandem to improve security. Some of these include:

* Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

These tools collect data and log it across applications, cloud and on-premises infrastructure, network security, antivirus deployments, firewalls, and so on. SIEM tools are used to report threats and potentially malicious activity, unknown threats, and can alert the team to noteworthy events that may necessitate additional investigation.

* Network Traffic Analysis (NTA)

NTA tools are used to capture, log, and evaluate network data and communication patterns to detect and respond to security incidents across the core, perimeter, cloud, and operational networks.

* Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

EDR tools, which run as agents on the organization’s laptops and workstations/servers, can detect threats and breaches on those devices and then isolate them from the network.

Go beyond the EDR/XDR detect and response approach and take the preventive path with Cyvatar’s Cyber Prevention & Cloud plan.

* The NIST and Incidence Response cycle

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a government agency run by the U.S. Department of Commerce that provides recommendations and standards for many sectors related to technology.

A department within the NIST called the Information Technology Laboratory (ITL) is responsible for developing standards and measurement methods for IT and information security.

They are responsible for creating a renowned model for incident response titled- Computer Security Incident Handling Guide

This department has detailed a consolidated list of incident response procedures to ensure companies know what to follow when building a plan.

We will now look at the NIST 4 step incident response model provided in the Computer Security Incident Handling Guide:

NIST 4 Step Response Model

NIST defines a 4 step model, which implies that incident response is not a linear process, rather cyclical. Because of this, they’ve detailed steps to ensure that there is continuous growth and learning from every incident.

Here are the steps for incident management procedures you need to take for an efficient incident response:

Step 1: Preparation

Compile a list of IT assets such as networks, servers, and endpoints, identifying their importance and holding sensitive data to prepare for incidents.

Set up monitoring so that you can establish a baseline of regular activity. Determine what security incidents should be investigated and develop detailed response procedures for common types of incidents.

Step 2: Detection and Analysis

Detection entails gathering data from IT systems, security tools, publicly available information, and people both inside and outside the organization, as well as identifying precursors (signs that an incident will occur in the future) and indicators (data showing that an attack has happened or is happening now).

Identifying a baseline or regular activity for the affected systems, correlating related events, and determining if and how they deviate from normal behavior are all part of the analysis process.

Step 3: Containment, Eradication, and Recovery

The primary objective of containment is to halt an attack before it depletes resources or causes severe harm.

Your containment strategy will be determined by the severity of the incident, the need to keep critical services available to employees and customers, and the duration of the solution—whether it is a temporary solution for a few hours, days, or weeks or a permanent solution.

It is critical to identify the attacking host and validate its IP address as part of the containment process.

This enables you to stop communication from the attacker while also recognizing the threat actor, understanding their mode of operation, and searching for and blocking other communication channels they may be using.

After the incident has been successfully contained, you should remove all elements of the incident from the environment during the eradication and recovery stage.

This could include locating all affected hosts, removing malware, and closing or resetting passwords for compromised user accounts.

Finally, once the threat has been eliminated, restore systems and resume normal operations as soon as possible, taking precautions to prevent the same assets from being attacked again.

Step 4: Learn & Grow

A core part of the NIST methodology is learning from the process and growing and evolving. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to investigate via the following questions and document the answers for future reference:

  • What happened, and when did it happen?
  • How well did the incident response team handle the situation?
  • Were procedures followed, and were they adequate?
  • What information was required earlier?
  • Were any mistakes made that resulted in damage or hampered recovery?
  • What could staff do differently if the same incident occurred again?
  • Could staff have shared information with other organizations or departments more effectively?
  • Have we figured out how to avoid similar incidents in the future?
  • Have we discovered any new precursors or indicators of similar incidents that we should be on the lookout for in the future?
  • What additional tools or resources are needed to assist in the prevention or mitigation of similar incidents?

Using the analytics and answers to the questions, you can revise and fine-tune your response policy to increase efficiency and improve your security for the future.

Response Best Practices

When preparing an incident response plan, you need to consider making it clear-cut and thought out to ensure maximum efficiency.

The key information, instructions, procedures, and details need to be kept to a bare minimum when informing employees.

This is to ensure that these instructions are very easy to follow and can be carried out in the case of an emergency.

Let’s look at some of the best practices for Incident Response in the cloud:

* Setup a Simple Process

Even if an incident response plan is well thought out, it must be simple and straightforward in order to be effective. 

Keep details, procedures, and explanations to a minimum, ensuring staff can follow the plan in the midst of an actual security incident’s urgency and confusion.

* Strategize Communication

Determine who should gets notification of a security breach, which communication channels one should use, and how much detail should be provided.

There should be clear guidelines for informing operations, senior management, affected parties both inside and outside the organization, law enforcement, and the media. This is an often-overlooked step in the incident response process.

* Use a Template

Always begin your incident response plan by adapting a template created by others in the industry to your specific needs.

Start with this template, which includes incident scope, planning scenarios, a logical sequence of events for incident response, team roles, notification, and escalation procedures.

* Test Test Test!

Conduct accurate drills and exercises to see how the incident response plan is applied in practice, and be prepared to adapt the plan based on lessons learned.

Test your tools to ensure they can detect an attack as early in the kill chain as possible, and that the team can identify and contain a threat before sensitive information leaves your system.

* Use a Centralized Approach

During an attack, organizations should not be logging into multiple tools and aligning information between them.

all your security issues in one dashboard
Cyvatar’s single dashboard incident response manager to monitor all your issues

Processes and tooling should support a centralized incident monitoring in which an analyst can view all incident information in one place.

Cyvatar’s proactive 24/7 cybersecurity team is your extended team

Cyvatar’s fully managed incident response service identifies incidents, leads the required analysis, and responds on your behalf. We deliver alerts and insights from endpoints, users and networks. Thanks to the automation, our service is easily deployable and scalable, and our response is much faster.

Responding to incidents even before they happen is what sets our cloud based cybersecurity apart from the rest. See it for yourself with our no risk, free forever trial.

Cyvatar’s Freemium membership includes:

  • Monthly External Vulnerability Scan
  • CIS Assessment
  • Business Risk Tool
  • Cybersecurity Policies

Circa Las Vegas

Thurs. Aug 5th

Cybersecurity Reunion Pool Party at BlackHat 2021