The Importance of Incident Response Planning in Cyber Security
September 22, 2023, 8 min read
The variety of cyberattacks is rising, as is the difficulty of responding to them, and the disruption and damage they cause. Businesses need to be ready for these shifts and have a solid incident response plan to keep their systems secure.
The fastest way to detect and counteract an attack is to be well-prepared for it. An inexpensive and robust security system is possible with a solid foundation from which to launch cyber incident response planning operations.
Preparing for an incident means less danger and more effective treatment.
There are typically six phases to an effective incident response plan: prevention, detection, containment, elimination, recovery, and lessons learned.
During a cyberattack, IT teams execute incident response plans, and the level of preparation in this phase ultimately dictates the operation’s success and the extent of harm to the organization.
What is Incident Response Planning?
In the event of a security incident, such as a data breach, a leak of sensitive information, or a cyber assault, your company should have an incident response strategy in place.
Cybersecurity risk can be reduced, recovery time shortened, and more damage avoided with proper incident response planning. Organizations might benefit from thinking ahead about potential security breaches and developing incident response protocols to help them bounce back quickly.
Without a clear IR plan, businesses may miss assaults or be unprepared to contain, clean up, and prevent future attacks. It’s important to have a plan in place in case your company is unable to recover any stolen data, as procedures like IP attribution aren’t always effective.
The Benefits of Incident Response Planning
Planned responses to security incidents help businesses recover more quickly from disruptions, limit the likelihood of more attacks, and keep customers from defecting in droves. Data breaches lost data, and halted corporate activities can result from even relatively minor cybersecurity incidents, such as malware infection.
A robust incident response strategy can reduce losses, patch exploitable vulnerabilities, restore systems and processes, and close the attack vector.
Plan for new and existing threats, trace breach origins, and recover from incidents using an incident response plan. Create a communication strategy to involve law enforcement, employees, and set incident management practices.
To effectively manage a business that handles sensitive data like personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), or biometrics, incident response is essential.
There are both immediate and long-term consequences that can result from a security breach. In 2022, the average cost of a data breach was $4.35 million, as reported by IBM and the Ponemon Institute.
Especially when businesses rely more and more on outside suppliers, issues like company continuity, customer loyalty, and brand protection become major problems.
While it is impossible to eliminate all security vulnerabilities, the most significant ones can be reduced by a well-developed incident response procedure.
Key Components of an Effective Incident Response Plan
A well-structured opening setting objectives, scope, and principles are pivotal, not just superficial. A plan’s purpose statement guides the document, like a hospital’s aim to safeguard services and patient data. Especially in early plan versions, note its intended actions and limitations in the introduction.
Second, determining what happened and taking action to fix it. An appropriate understanding of when and how to implement the plan is crucial. Who can call for the implementation of the strategy? When an incident occurs, where and how does the reaction team coordinate their efforts? In the post-COVID-19 era, when help might not be “just down the hall,” it’s more important to plan for situations like this.
In the case of an emergency, rescuers will commonly keep “go kits” on hand. Offices, branch offices, and hosting facilities should stock spare cables, chargers, contact cards, notepads, and other miscellaneous items. This section can detail the necessary components of these “go kits,” as well as review and replacement intervals.
Responsibilities and Roles
There is never a good time for a crisis to occur. It could be a shortage of staff or an impending deadline. There should be a clear understanding of who does what on the incident response team, and who to reach out to in case someone is unavailable. In the event of a cyber incident, everyone must be aware of their roles and responsibilities immediately. Everything from contacting customers to alerting support staff to performing hands-on technical triage falls under this category.
Analysis and Detection
This is, without a doubt, an important part of the overall strategy. This section covers event definition, identification, reporting, investigation, and containment. Its scenario-based approach adapts recognition and response to the attack’s nature. Templates, web examples, or professionals can aid in the absence of experienced partners. The playbooks that provide the meat of this part of your strategy can be derived from these concepts.
Recouping from the Situation
This section offers in-depth explanations and technical specifics. The “Containment” section outlines methods to mitigate the incident impact, distinguishing responses according to the threat’s nature, be it external or internal.
It outlines steps to remove the danger and restore systems, prioritizing recovery while considering customer services, relationships, and dependencies. Solutions range from ransomware backups to malware extraction tools. Adjusting configurations addresses vulnerabilities.
This part emphasizes setting recovery times and points, influenced by risk tolerance and impact assessment. It prompts questions about acceptable downtime and data loss, shaping subsequent recovery plans.
Cyber forensics considerations are stressed; improper malware removal could destroy vital evidence, and incomplete threat removal risks further vulnerabilities. Capturing system snapshots, securing logs, and preserving timestamps aid in tracing attack origins.
Include specifics such as event log retention duration, considering legal and regulatory needs.
Communicating During an Occurrence
We will incorporate information on handling communications and incident management into the two “hard lifting” sections above. Detailed alerting procedures include internal staff, trusted cybersecurity consultants, third-party providers, law enforcement, regulators, and breach coaches. Identifying and documenting these pieces beforehand ensures an effective crisis response.
A Look Back
After settling the event, take a two-step retrospective process. Step one involves identifying what went wrong, preventing its recurrence, and devising a strategy to implement safeguards against future security breaches. The plan’s actual implementation warrants a second round of thought. Your plan could work well for a major breach or worsen a minor one if not executed correctly. Stronger measures might be necessary for inadequate partners, while exemplary team members deserve acknowledgment. Treat any security breach as an opportunity for growth.
Attach reference materials to the plan or a separate document, based on plan size. With reliable essentials, you’re set. For system failure, paper backups remain crucial due to events like ransomware or power compromise.
Developing an Incident Response Team
Security issues shouldn’t be handled solely by the incident response team. In the event of an emergency, all company representatives and employees must be familiar with and supportive of the company’s incident response plan. During a crisis, different departments within the firm are responsible for different things.
To allocate time, money, and personnel for incident preparedness and response, management support is necessary. When an employee’s involvement in an incident is discovered, the incident response team contacts Human Resources.
Professionals in audit and risk management contribute to the creation of threat measurements and vulnerability assessments and promote best practices throughout the company.
In case the corporation decides to sue, the general counsel will work to preserve the evidence’s forensic value. When an incident impacts customers, suppliers, or the general public, they can also offer guidance on liability issues.
To ensure that stockholders and the press receive an accurate description of any difficulties, public relations will coordinate with team leaders.
Conducting Regular Incident Response Exercises
Doubts about the incident response restoration planning’s viability are a major source of anxiety. At the very least once a year, you should have a tabletop exercise to make sure everything works as it should. What are some examples of tabletop exercises?
Conduct discussion-based drills where employees gather in a classroom or small groups to discuss their responsibilities and emergency handling strategies. Exercise participants discuss their respective roles, duties, coordination, and decision-making after a facilitator presents a scenario and asks scenario-related questions. A tabletop exercise consists entirely of talk, with no actual resources being used in any way.
Tabletop exercises help the support team learn their parts, their priorities, the sequence of events, the functions of the various plans, the importance of good communication, and how to make the most of the resources at their disposal. Also included are responses to hypothetical situations, checking procedures, and spotting gaps in planning.
Introduce participants, discuss exercise scope and logistics, walk through a scenario, review test questions, conduct the exercise, and complete a post-exercise survey. The facilitator and data collector debrief after the event, recording findings in a report.
Incorporate exercise date, participant list, scenario descriptions, findings (general and specific), improvement suggestions, insights summary, and judgment overview (strengths, weaknesses, lessons). If asked, the executive briefing will also provide a summary of the exercise and an assessment of the team’s performance.
Incident Response Planning for Remote Workforce
As large-scale remote work rapidly becomes the norm, IT and cybersecurity teams need to prepare for the potential exploitation of new remote infrastructures. In particular, think about:
Recognizing where you fall short: Imagine a cyber worst-case scenario, like a virus attack on a remote worker’s IT system, as a basis for a tabletop exercise. Evaluate the exercise’s outcome, and delegate fixing CIBR strategy or implementation issues within your set timeframe. The resulting changes should be reflected in your CIBR strategy.
Inspecting your current default settings: Review baseline config for the remote IT system; limit operations. For instance, consider disabling USB ports or granting access only to necessary users. Once you test the baseline, apply it to remote workers.
Increasing the frequency with which logs from remote IT systems and other sources are reviewed: Consider using extra IT logs to collect and analyze data, spotting suspicious actions needing further inquiry for remote workers. Collect and analyze audit logs automatically.
The Role of Incident Response Planning in Compliance
In the event of an incident, having incident response planning in place will allow for a more rapid and effective response. An incident response strategy should clearly outline the steps to take in the event of a cyber incident.
By reacting swiftly, as outlined in an incident response plan, you can lessen the severity of these negative consequences. You can prevent the most successful incidents with the help of a well-thought-out response plan. Developing an incident response strategy from scratch is unnecessary. Instead, you can use the NIST incident response plan as a template to build upon.
It is important to define a cybersecurity event and examine the top business benefits of developing an incident response strategy before beginning to draught your plan. Executive buy-in is crucial to the success of any cybersecurity strategy, and understanding these benefits can help with that. Continue reading to find out why you need the plan to deal with an occurrence.