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Incident Response – A Complete Guide

Event response is a systematic way to deal with and manage the aftermath of a security breach or cyber-attack, which is also known as a security incident, computer incident, or information technology incident (IT incident). A cyber-attack, such as a data breach, can wreak havoc on an organization, and as a result, it should be handled in such a way that the damage is limited, as well as the related expenses and recovery time, are minimized. To prepare for the future, a thorough study of the specific situation is carried out.

The advancement of technology has resulted in a rise in the number of security issues occurring. Organizations are being targeted more frequently as technology advances and black hats improve their abilities and strategies, meaning that organizations are being targeted more frequently than previously. Developing a repeatable incident response procedure is, thus, the most effective method of securing your organization.

It is preferable if the incident response is handled by the organization’s computer security incident response team. This group has been selected to include information security and general information technology professionals, as well as members of the C-suite. In addition to human resources, public relations, and the legal department, the team may include members from other departments. When there is an incident or a breach, organizations have a set of standard operating procedures that they must follow: In this case, the Incident Response Plan (IRP).

This plan is designed to help organizations anticipate and respond to a security breach in their system. After it has been well developed, an incident response plan can assist an organization in making a timely decision based on trustworthy information. The approach does include IT professionals as well as experts from other critical areas of the company’s operations.

Importance of Incident response

A failure to properly handle an incident puts an organization at risk of a future attack, which could result in negative consequences such as significant financial loss, data breach, or the complete failure of the entire system. A quick response can aid in the restoration of denied services, the minimization of losses, and the mitigation of exploited vulnerabilities.

In the case of incident response, it is a defense technique that is used to protect an organization from the unknown and the known, which is likely to recur. The ability to implement incident response also allows an organization to establish a sequence of best practices to stop an incursion before it does significant damage.

The majority of enterprises rely on sensitive information for the operation of their day-to-day businesses. Incidents can range from hacked computers owing to poor passcodes and security policies to simple malware, all of which can have a negative influence on the overall success of the firm. Damages produced by security incidents can be expensive, and if they are not mitigated swiftly, they can result in significant financial loss.

Types of security incidents

Various types of occurrences occur depending on a variety of conditions. According to the intensity of the impact and how it affects day-to-day operations, organizations categorize incidents in a variety of different ways. The following is a list of some of the most common types of fraud that have negative consequences for businesses.

Ransomware, often known as malware, is a type of cyberattack that targets important corporate files throughout an organization.
A misplaced laptop containing sensitive client information that has not been encrypted.
Unscrupulous phishing attempts that have resulted in the disclosure of valuable client information A distributed denial of service assault on crucial cloud services
Security situations that are deemed urgent require fast response, and they must be addressed as soon as possible. When it is anticipated that the negative impact on the business, information system, or network would be severe, a timely response must be carried out.

It is also possible to define incident response in greater detail by emphasizing the distinction between threats and vulnerabilities. Generally speaking, a threat is any entity, such as a hostile individual within an organization, that seeks an opportunity to exploit a vulnerability for nefarious purposes or financial benefit. A vulnerability, on the other hand, is a flaw in a network system, workforce, or business process that can be easily exploited by a black hat. When a threat exploits a vulnerability, it can result in a variety of consequences, including legal and compliance issues, identity theft, and unauthorized access to critical data assets.

Incident response plan

When an incident happens, the incident response plan is a set of instructions that must be followed by the response team. The plan describes a process to be followed in the event of a security issue to respond effectively and minimize the consequences. Instructions on how to respond to potential attack scenarios such as distributed denial of service assaults, insider threats, malware outbreaks, and data breaches are included in the detailed instructions.
An inadequate incident response plan may prevent the business from implementing an effective strategy to contain and recover from a security breach in the event of an attack on its network. A well-documented response plan assists an organization in responding to a crisis rather than reacting to it. The absence of a formally recorded crisis response strategy simply serves to exacerbate the problem, and it may become indefensible if legal counsel is engaged.

According to the SANS Institute, there are six important phases to a successful incident response plan:

In preparation for an attack, employees, information technology professionals, and users are trained to be prepared to deal with an incident in the event of an assault.
Identification is the process of determining whether an event is a security incident or not.
Containment is the process of separating the impacted systems to reduce the scope of the harm.
Removal of the initial cause of the problem by eliminating the impacted section of the system, the vulnerable employee, or a hiccup in the system is known as eradication.
The recovery phase begins once the threat has been eliminated, and the impacted parts are carefully re-introduced back into the system or the production environment.
Making final adjustments to the documentation process, conducting a thorough investigation to learn from the issue, and possibly making recommendations on how to update the system are all priorities right now.
Developing an incident response strategy
It is recommended that an incident response plan be established in advance by the incident response coordinator or the relevant incident response team and that it include the components specified in the chart below.

Element of the incident management plan

Creating an incident response plan

A succinct explanation of what the strategy is all about, including the objectives to be attained, the scope, and the underlying assumptions.
a description of the jobs and responsibilities
Describe the particular roles and responsibilities of each team member.
A comprehensive list of incidents that should be addressed Lists exploits, threats, and situations that necessitate the implementation of official response procedures. A variety of threats and exploits are available to systems; these range from virus attacks to email phishing, lost laptops with weak passwords, and denial-of-service attacks to name a few examples. This component is the most important portion of the incident response plan since it involves the most people.
The process of detecting, investigating, and containing an incident
The first stage in the actual response procedures that you intend to implement is to determine what they are. Among the responsibilities are activities such as assessing the situation, alerting team members, including external parties, eliminating threats, confirming the occurrence, gathering information, reporting results, and preparing documentation.
In this section, you will learn about the general techniques for cleaning up after an event, such as system log and network traffic analysis, forensics assessment, and subsequent testing to ensure that the incident has been resolved.
Phase of recuperation
In this section, you will learn about tasks performed during the recovery phase, such as reimaging hosts, configuring firewalls, and reinstalling hosts and other associated configurations.
Breach notifications Specify how the warning should be triggered and when it should be transmitted to the appropriate parties.
Tasks that must be completed in the future
This step may result in further reports, advanced documentation, and lessons learned, all of which are included in this section.
The call list contains the contact information for members of the incident response team as well as suppliers who may be engaged, such as cloud service providers or internet service providers.
Testing scenarios outline the specific testing scenarios that will be carried out during the testing process.
Organizations’ internal audit plans may differ from one another depending on their requirements. The elements stated above, on the other hand, are critical and should be included in the structure of every business. To make it more specific to your organization, you should combine the goals and objectives of other organizations into it.

In addition to security plans and procedures, business continuity plans, and disaster recovery plans, an organization’s incident response plan should not be coupled with other papers. Instead, it functions as a stand-alone document that is known by all members of your incident response team and that they can easily access both in hard copy and on the network.

What’s the role of a response team?

A successful incident response program necessitates the formation of a cross-functional team comprised of representatives from several departments within the organization. The failure of the response execution plan will result solely from the failure to include the appropriate individuals. When it comes to planning and executing strategies, the team may assist with ongoing oversight and maintenance, such as administering the day-to-day technological control procedures. In this case, these are the actions that take place both while and after the incident takes place. Members of the organization’s entire security staff may also be included in the task force.

Who is accountable for incident response?

Forming an incident response team might be seen as a proactive method to deal with events before they occur. The team is tasked with the responsibility of studying security occurrences and responding properly. The team may consist of the following individuals:

Typically, an information technology director prioritizes and supervises actions during the identification, analysis, and containment of an issue. As a result, the manager serves as the organization’s top management and is responsible for communicating high-severity occurrences and other essential information throughout the business.
Security analysts – are professionals who assist in top management by providing technical assistance and working directly with the impacted network research to determine the location, time, and other critical details of the incident. They are also known as incident investigators. Triage analysts filter out false-positive threats and identify possible breaches by marking them on a threat map. Forensics analysts collect and analyze essential artifacts that have been left behind and that may serve as tangible clues in the investigation.
Threat researchers – provide incident response context and intelligence in the event of a threat. This group does thorough research to uncover any external information that may have been reported in the public domain. In conjunction with data from within an organization, such as records of previous occurrences, data is integrated to create and maintain a database of internal intelligence that is accessible to everybody. If this form of intellect does not exist within the house, it can be obtained from external sources.
When an inquiry reveals that an employee was involved in an incident, a human representation may be included on the incident response team. Vulnerability assessments, threat measurements, and advocacy for the organization’s best internal auditing and risk management procedures can all be developed by management professionals in audit and risk management.

Incident response plan management

Incident response is no different than any other component of information security, and it should be treated as such. To properly measure efforts, it is essential to have deliberate planning, clearly defined metrics, and constant oversight throughout the process. Some of the ongoing measurement initiatives include periodically analyzing the response plan to ensure that it is effective, training all response team members to be relevant to the response procedures, and monitoring the response plan. The following are some of the specific metrics that were utilized to determine the effectiveness of the response initiative:

  • The number of occurrences that went unnoticed
  • The number of incidents that need to be addressed.
  • How many times do the same situations recur?
  • The number of occurrences that went unnoticed
  • The total number of instances that resulted in security breaches
  • Timetable for remediation
  • Problem-solving in the aftermath of an incident
    The ability to problem-solve is an essential component of incident response. While putting the IR methodology into action, it is easy to get sidetracked. As a result, one must prioritize what should receive attention and what should be ignored. This can be accomplished efficiently by analyzing incidents based on their need for a response, evaluating the importance of the specific regions affected by the intrusion, and evaluating the response methods necessary for distinct occurrences. For this reason, the most effective method of achieving the desired preference is to approach security-related incidents, breaches, and confirmed assaults from the following perspective:

Incident response problem-solving

What is urgent but not as important as it should be?
What is both significant and urgent at the same time?
Suppose a malware assault is carried out on a branch office sales workstation that connects exclusively to the office network through a guest Wi-Fi network. Such an attack would be considered urgent but not similarly essential. The loss of a recently purchased laptop that contains no significant data, on the other hand, may be regarded as vital but not urgent. As an example of a problem that is both critical and urgent, malware attacks on production servers, phishing attempts on executives that result in the compromise of network passwords, and denial of service attacks on an e-commerce website are all possibilities. When a severe attack on a critical component of the system occurs, an urgent and crucial scenario occurs.

The majority of the time, the security challenges you are confronted with fall into one of the first two categories. While these issues must be addressed, they can also serve as a source of distraction. To achieve success, organizations must filter out the “noise” and concentrate on the most important aspects of the aim. The third group, which includes both urgent and important events and issues, is where the majority of your occurrences and issues will fall. The most important thing to do is to take a step back and focus on the issues that have the most impact on your critical network resources first and foremost.

With technological improvements, where decisions are frequently made for us, it is difficult to locate qualified information technology and security personnel who will be dependable in the event of an emergency.

Incident response plans vs. business continuity plans

The incident response job helps to keep threats at bay and the business running at minimal risk of being exposed to external threats. As a result, it should be regarded a component of business continuity because it seeks to mitigate the negative consequences of unplanned events in a proactive manner. Because of the importance of the issues at risk and the numerous variables involved, such as technologies, business processes, and people, incident response is the most visible function within a company. An incident response plan is primarily concerned with security breaches and intrusions affecting applications and databases, networks and computers, and other relevant information assets, among other things. As a result, most firms maintain their incident response plan as a separate document from their business continuity plan, even though they are both mentioned. It is critical to make sure that the response plan is easily available by all team members if it is required.

Tools used for incident response

There is a wide range of tools and techniques that are used to minimize concerns and assist in the response plan. These tools and methodologies are classified according to whether they are used for detection, response, or prevention functions. The OODA loop, which is utilized by the military for incident response, has been adopted by several organizations. A methodology that promotes an entity to observe, orient, determine, and act upon the occurrence of an incident is referred to as the “OODD loop.” In the case of a security issue, a company may choose to observe it by doing system resource monitoring, investigating various file integrity technologies, or performing simple packet analysis. To acquire understanding, it may be necessary to use real-time threat intelligence or indications.
Using artificial intelligence to automate and streamline response provides for a reduction in system faults and detection time as a result of the development of artificial intelligence. Incident response tools equip professionals with the knowledge they need to know what to do if an abnormality is found within a particular system.

Conclusion

When it comes to incident reaction, prevention is essential. Create a great incident response program with the primary goal of mitigating cyber-attacks as well as dealing with other system vulnerabilities and exploits. Your first line of defense, on the other hand, is to ensure that your system is secure and that your staff is empowered to defend and react in the event of an incident or security breach.

When it comes to security issues, those that can directly affect your personnel are the most critical and urgent. Malware, phishing assaults on executives, and misconfigured computer systems and software are all examples of ways in which black-hat hackers might gain deeper access and enumeration. With all of our computer security knowledge and an associated A-class tool at our disposal, there is no need for us to provide hackers with easy pickings. Using unencrypted data, failing to apply fixes, or using weak passwords can all result in an incident or security breach. Even though this is the most common way for breaches to occur, it is the responsibility of every incident response team to step up their game and identify where the gaps and opportunities are.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.