Incident Response and the Responsibility of Your Organization for Protecting Data

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As the recent Ivanti security breaches indicate, the existence of a strong and effective incident response isn’t an option but a necessity. An incident response plan (IRP) is essential to prepare an organization to respond to any security incident effectively and on time. This plan spells out processes that an organization should undergo in case of a cybersecurity incident while reducing damage and time for recovery.

The IRP is at the heart of effective cybersecurity and effective compliance management. This article will cover the basics of these plans and IR best practices. 


Planning and Preparing for Incident Response

An incident response plan is the policies, resources, and procedures an organization has “on the books” to help it navigate the likely occurrence of a security incident such as a data breach, insider threat, or ransomware. 

Some broad and often necessary best practices for incident response include:

  • Security Operations (SecOps): SecOps also presents a tool suite that equips successful incident response teams to field timely detection, in-depth investigation, and effective mitigation measures. Key to such functionalities are security information and event management (SIEM) systems, endpoint detection and response (EDR) platforms, and forensic tools.
  • Automation and AI: Automating the repetitive duties allows the IR teams to focus on the complex duties and make decisions rather than manual or time-consuming tasks. AI increases the depth and accuracy of the detected issues.
  • Well-Understood Indicators of Compromise (IoCs): Recognition of IoCs is critical to security incident detection. These may manifest as abnormal outbound network traffic, user privilege escalation spikes, or unexpected sensitive data access. IoC monitoring can be done through various devices, including SIEM and EDR platforms.
  • Initial Assessment and Prioritization: Once the incident has been discovered, evaluating its scope and impact is essential to prioritize the response process. The key things should be considered, such as what type of data is involved, how many systems are compromised, and what sort of impact it would have on the normal business process.

Containment and Recovery

After the incident has been contained, the next step should be removing the threat from the system. This involves the deletion of malicious files and the stopping of unauthorized processes. The application of patches to the vulnerable systems should also be affected.

  • Containment Strategies: The overall objective includes efforts that should be applied to control the incident and prevent its further spread. It may require the isolation of the affected network segments, disabling the compromised accounts, and blocking malicious IP addresses.
  • Recovery Process: This usually entails data restoration from backups, system rebuilding, and cleaning up any remaining artifacts from the attacker’s presence. Systems must be fully remediated before returning online to ensure they don’t get re-infected, a process that can include isolation, auditing, data cleaning, and system analysis.
  • Internal Communications: Effective communication within the incident response team and with executive leadership is essential for a coordinated response. Clear protocols for information-sharing and decision-making will accelerate response, including defining roles, required meetings and reports, and documentation standards.
  • External Communication: Many compliance standards require organizations to communicate with external stakeholders, including affected customers or patients (HIPAA being a prominent example). 


Review and Monitoring

Post-incident review should underline the areas that went well and those that went awry. The review should encompass the entry point, detection capabilities, response efficacy, and recovery process.

  • Create a “Lessons Learned” Report: Documentation of results in a post-incident review report may help spread that knowledge across the organization in an actionable way. This report should become the basis for any changes in the incident response plan and the security policy.
  • Compliance Requirement Overview: Is the organization meeting compliance requirements post-incident? A secondary review of compliance standards can ensure issues are resolved before they become finable offenses.
  • Routine Testing: Routine exercises, case studies, and simulated attacks (penetration testing) become necessary to test the team’s readiness and strength. Any drills should be based on the current threat situation and involve all the parts of the organization that are at risk.
  • Ongoing Monitoring: It’s critical to include monitoring for the issue to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and to catch any IoC’s of continued infection or threat that might remain. System scanning and analysis are at the ground level for this activity but can also include regular audits.


Maintaining Knowledge of the Modern Threat Landscape

Staying current on threat intelligence is essential for any organization since it informs the organization about new types of attacks. The organization can anticipate attacks and defend against them when they come in new ways against new targets. 

Threat intelligence sources include industry reports, security forums, government advisories, and threat intelligence platforms. It can also include working with a strong security partner well-versed in these threats. 


Understanding the Threat Landscape

incident response plan

We’ve beat this drum for a while. Still, the reality is that the increasing volume and sophistication of modern threats means that any data-driven business must have more extensive security support than they’ve ever had before. Understanding the current threat landscape is the initial step toward outlining incident response strategies that would be effective.

Some of the most common and damaging threats include:

  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a category of malware that encrypts the victim’s files and is intended for criminals to demand money for the key to decrypt the files. The action can cause tremendous financial damage and stoppage of operations in the case of critical infrastructure. 
  • Phishing and Social Engineering: These are attacks in which the attacker tries to let others reveal sensitive information or perform actions that compromise security. Sophisticated attacks would be spear-phishing and business email compromise (BEC) targeting specific individuals or organizations.
  • Insider Threats: A source of critical security incidents in which internal stakeholders, whether through malicious intent or unintended access, give rise to security incidents within an organization. 
  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): These are sophisticated and long-lasting threats against a hardened target, the aim being stealing information or disrupting operations. More often than not, targets are governmental, military, or corporate entities. 
  • Cloud Security Threats: Cloud security threats are another implication of organizations’ increasing dependency on cloud services. Some significant cloud security threats involve misconfigurations, insecure interfaces, and account hijacking. 
  • AI and Machine Learning: Advancement in AI makes machine learning available to attackers to mutate or create malware so it doesn’t get easily detected. Organizations should defensively use AI to identify and respond to these emerging threats.
  • Supply Chain Attack: An attack is that eventuality when a third party, such as a partner or service provider, who accesses such systems and data is compromised by the attacker. A good example is the SolarWinds attack. 
  • IoT Vulnerabilities: The distribution of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is growing exponentially; it increases the attack surface, mainly due to poor security on such devices. Securing the IoT ecosystem encompasses implementing security by design, firmware getting frequent updates, and network segmentation.


Make Sure Your Incident Response Is on Point with Continuum GRC

Continuum GRC is a cloud platform that can take something as routine and necessary as regular vulnerability scanning and reporting under FedRAMP and make it an easy and timely part of business in the public sector. We provide risk management and compliance support for every major regulation and compliance framework on the market, including:

We are the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP-authorized compliance and risk management solution worldwide.

Continuum GRC is a proactive cyber security® and the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP-authorized cybersecurity audit platform worldwide. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization protect its systems and ensure compliance.

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