At the heart of incident response, and by extension of Security Automation and Orchestration technologies, resides the Cyber Incident. A typical definition of a cyber security incident is “Any malicious act or suspicious event that compromises or attempts to compromise, or disrupts or tries to disrupt, a critical cyber asset”. Almost everything we do in a SOC or a CSIRT is based on incidents, and there are a variety of potential incident sources, for example:
- Alerts from cyber security detection technologies such as Endpoint Detection & Response or User Entity Behavior Analytics tools
- Alerts from Security Information & Event Management Systems (SIEM)
- Emails from ITSM or case management systems
- Website submissions from internal stakeholders and whistle-blowers
- Phone calls from internal users and external 3rd parties
This diversity of incident sources means that a solid SAO solution must offer a variety of different methods to create incidents. Regulatory frameworks also frequently mandate being able to originate incidents from different sources. DFLabs IncMan offers a rich set of incident creation options.
There are three primary ways to create incidents in IncMan, offering flexibility to accommodate a variety of incident response process requirements and approaches.
Option 1: Automated Incident Creation
We will feature automated incident creation in a more detail in a future post. In the meantime, I will show you the location of this feature.
Select settings menu, then head to the external sources:
You will see that under the external sources option there are 3 options available to use as sources to automate incident creation:
- Incoming events automation, for CEF/Syslog
- Incoming Mail automation, for a monitored email account
- Integrations, for all QIC integration components.
Automating incident creation supports a variety of filters to support a rules-based approach. In addition, it is also possible to create incidents using our SOAP API. Certified 3rd party applications use this mechanism to create incidents within IncMan, for example, Splunk.
Option 2: Manual Incident Creation
Click the incidents menu option, then click the + symbol selecting the incidents screen
Fill out all mandatory fields (these can be defined in the custom fields screen) then step through and complete the incident wizard to create the incident:
Once all relevant fields have been completed, click save and this incident will then appear in the incident view and apart of the queue you assigned in the details screen.
Option 3: Incident creation from source
Select an incident source for the incident you want to create, for example, a Syslog or CEF message, an Email, or a Threat intelligence source (STIX/TAXI, ThreatConnect):
In this screen, you can then convert this source item to an incident, or link the source to an existing incident.
Today, we will talk about our dashboards in IncMan. We will see how to add, delete and generally organize the dashboard widgets. IncMan widgets can display charts, graphs and tables to display and track Key Performance Indicators. IncMan supports role-based dashboards. This is a key requirement for any SOC, facilitating that the right information is available to the right person based on their role, duties, and needs. Which information is required for any individual or team will differ from organization to organization, so we support customization to create unique and dedicated dashboards for every persona.
How to use IncMan Dashboards and Widgets
This default screen displays a number of out of the box charts to get you started. But you will want to customize the dashboard with the widgets you need for your role.
1. To begin creating your unique dashboard, select “Customize” to open the menu.
2. The dashboard screen is split into 4 distinct parts: top, left, right and bottom. By selecting the “+” symbol, you can add an additional widget from a number of pre-defined templates. For this example, let’s add the “Incident Overview” widget:
3. You can change the name of the widget in the configuration screen, for example, “GDPR” or “Urgent Incidents”. You can also specify the applicable timeframe for the widget, and the refresh rate, to determine how often the widget will be updated.
4. Next, we will configure the widget filters to determine the data that the widget displays.
We can apply search filters to narrow down the displayed incidents. You can filter by a variety of attributes, including tags, incident priority, the Incident Response process stage, and any custom fields you have defined. Every filter that is selected will also need a corresponding value assigned to it in the values tab.
5. Once you’ve selected the values you want to add into the table, the final step allows you to define which columns will be displayed in the widget.
We released our Machine Learning Engine PRISM in our most recent 4.2 release. The first capability that we developed from PRISM is our Automated Responder Knowledge (ARK). This capability will change the way incident responders and SOC analysts respond to incidents, and how they share and transfer their entire knowledge to the rest of the team. The key to this capability is that it learns from your own analyst’s responses to historical incidents to guide the response to new ones.
We are not re-inventing the wheel with this feature. SOC and Incident Response teams have been doing this the old-fashioned way for a long time – through 6-12 months training. What we’re doing is providing a GPS and Satellite Navigation, guiding the wheel and giving you different paths to choose from according to the terrain you are in.
We do this by analyzing incidents and their associated attributes and observables, to work out how closely they are related. Then we can suggest actions and playbooks based on your organizations’ historical responses to similar threats and incidents.
Using Automated Responder Knowledge (ARK) in IncMan
Step 1: Not really a step – as it’s done automatically by Automated Responder Knowledge (ARK), but this occurs in the background for every incoming incident. Every Incident possesses a feature space1 that contains all the information related to it, composed of every attribute, associated observable and attached evidence. ARK analyses the feature spaces associated with every incident ever resolved. When a new incident is opened, it is scored and ranked and then compared by ARK to the historical model to identify related incidents or actions based on similar and shared attributes. The weighting of the ranking can be customized by analysts.
Step 2: Open the incident, selecting the applicable incident type. To save time, you can create an incident template to prepopulate some of the contexts automatically in future.
Step 3: Select Playbooks, and PRISM.
In the next screen, you will see a variety of suggested related actions and related incidents based on the feature space that your incident type is matched with. The slider at the top is used to determine the weighting in ranking for actions that are suggested. For example, if I move the slider to the left, the entire feature space actions appear, then if I move the slider to the far-right only a few actions appear from highly ranked incidents.
Step 4: Determine which automation and actions you want to use from the suggestions. After saving, you will be presented with options such as Auto-Commit, Auto-Run, Skip Enrichment, Containment, Notification or Custom Actions. You have the ability to select only the actions you want to automate. If you are concerned about running containment automatically, for example, you just deselect those options.
Step 5: The automated actions are executed, resolving the incident, based on prior machine-learning generated automated responder knowledge.
In this short blog series, I will be discussing and discussing IncMan management features to demonstrate some of the power user functions in our most recent IncMan 188.8.131.52 SP release. Today we will be focusing on how to use the queues feature in IncMan. This functionality has been designed for a SOC team that manages large volumes of incidents with a flexible assignment schedule. This is typically used by SOC’s with a large amount of alerts and incidents, Managed Service Solution Providers and Managed Detect and Response Providers.
- Let’s begin by navigating to “General Settings” which is found in the Settings section.
- Select the section titled “Queue Settings”. Add a new queue by clicking the “+” symbol. The queue will need an email address. This will be used to email the relevant group of users when this incident type is selected.
- Now create a queue name and add the required mailing list for this queue. Click save.
- Navigate to the incident view to start using this queue. Select the Tree Options in the top right of the incident list.
- You will see the new queue that we have created “My New Queue”, in this example. For this queue to become visible, please add it to the selected items list by clicking on “My New Queue”
- The new queue will now be available for usage. See below:
- When you create incidents or update your incident templates you will be able to select this new queue option, expand the queue to see the incidents assigned to it, or be able to click on the queue to show an overview of associated incidents.
In this blog series, I will be discussing DFLabs IncMan management features to highlight the really powerful capabilities that have become available to IncMan users as part of our latest 184.108.40.206 SP release:
Today we focus on the creation of user groups. This useful feature allows the creation of groups of related users, for example, Tier 1 analysts or IT Operations teams. The benefit of this is that a defined group can be assigned specific tasks. This could be for a variety of different reasons:
- To assign a task or incident that require a specific skill set
- To assign task or incident to a specific stakeholder group for review or further investigation.
- To notify specific stakeholders about an incident or investigation
- To escalate an incident to the next tier
The Group functionality can be leveraged in many features across IncMan. We will now step through the process of adding a User Group.
- Let’s create a group. You will need administrator privileges and the required group creation permission to do this. Once you have verified this is the case, please head to User Management -> Groups
- In this section, you can view or modify existing groups and create additional groups of your own. Click the ‘+’ symbol above the user list to create a new group.
- Enter the name that you want to use to identify the Group. It is generally a good practice to assign the associated user profiles and general profiles to the group. For this example, we only need the group name, so please complete that.
- You will now be able to see the newly created group. You will also be presented with a number of additional options. For instance, adding users or editing the existing group information.
- Next, lets add users to the group that we have just created. You can select the users you wish to add to the group from the user list. If you have a lot of users, you can use the filter to quickly search for users. Then save and continue.
- Now that we have created our group and added our users we can begin assigning tasks to this group. Let’s head to an incident and into a playbook to start using this.
- Within the incident playbook, we can assign tasks to individual users. As you scroll down now, you will also notice that a new option is available, with the group name that we created.
- Having created our user group, we can assign Ownership and Authorization to our group instead of to a single user.
Alert fatigue is the desensitization when overwhelmed with too much information. The constant repetition and sheer volume of redundant information are painful and arduous but sadly often constitutes the daily reality for many people working in cyber security. Mike Fowler (DFLabs’ VP of Professional Services) discusses several best practices to help with some of the challenges involved in this in his recent whitepaper “DFLabs as a Force Multiplier in Incident Response”. I am going to discuss another one, but looking at it from a slightly different angle.
Imagine the scenario where we have tens of thousands of alerts. Visualize these as Jigsaw pieces with a multitude of different shapes, sizes and colors and the additional dimension of different states. We have alerts from a firewall, anomalies from behavioral analytics, authentication attempts, data source retrieval attempts or policy violations. Now, there are a lot of ways to shift through this information, for example by using a SIEM’s to correlate the data and reduce the some of the alerts. The SIEM could identify and cross-reference the colors and shapes of the jigsaw pieces so to speak.
The next question once that I’ve got the all the pieces I need for the puzzle is how do I put this together? How do I complete the puzzle and unlock the picture?
The “what does the jigsaw picture?” question is something that will often puzzle the responders, pun intended. How do you prioritise and escalate incidents to the correct stakeholders? How do you apply the correct playbook for a specific scenario? How do you know which pieces of information to analyse to fit the jigsaw pieces together and make sure the puzzle looks correct?
Automation process can speed up putting that puzzle together, but making sure you automate the right things is just as critical. If skilled staff are running search queries that are menial, repetitive and require little cognitive skill to execute, you should ask yourself why they are performing these and not instead focused on analyzing the puzzle pieces to figure out how they fit together?
Remove the menial tasks. Allow automation to do the heavy lifting so your teams are not only empowered by the right information they need to successfully manage the response to an incident but also to give them more time to figure out the why, how and what of the threat.
We also welcome you to join us for a webinar hosted by Mike Fowler on this topic on the 6th of September.
Over the past few months during the post-hoc analysis of WannaCry-Petya, we have spoken in great lengths about what should have been done during the incident. This is quite a tricky thing to do in a balanced way because we are all clever in hindsight. What hasn’t been spoken about enough is understanding more generally what we need to do when things go wrong.
This question isn’t as simple as it appears, as there are a lot of aspects to consider during an incident, and only a brief window to identify, contain and mitigate a threat. Let’s look at just a few of these:
– Response times
This is often the greatest challenge but of utmost importance. The response is not only understanding the “how” and “why” of a threat but is also about putting the chain of events into action to make sure that the “what” doesn’t spiral out of control.
– Creating an effective playbook
A playbook should be a guide on how your incident response plan must be executed. Orchestration platforms contain these playbooks/runbooks. Also, note that these are not generic plug and forget policies. They need to be optimized and mapped to your business and regulatory requirements and are often unique to your organization. Otherwise, the incident will be controlled by an incorrect playbook.
– Skills and tool availability
Do you have the correct skills and tools available and are you able to leverage these. Do you understand where your security gaps are and do you know how to mitigate them?
On paper, incident response always works. Right until the moment of truth during a data breach that shows that it doesn’t. To avoid relying on theory only, it is best to run breach simulations and simulate some of the attacks that may affect your organization to find out if your processes and playbooks also work under more realistic conditions.
We’re always playing catch‒up for many reasons—new technologies, new vulnerabilities, and new threats. Software and hardware may possibly always be at the mercy of hackers, criminal actors and other threat actors, so prevention alone is futile. We have to become more resilient and better at dealing with the aftermath of an attack.
The key summary for me is this: How do you respond? Can the response be improved? Utilize the lessons learned in breach simulations to understand how you make the response better than before.
I have often talked about the benefits of employing flexible playbooks to deal with evolving cyber incidents and unique threat scenarios, and in these series of blogs, I am going to explore some of the points of emphasis when creating a new playbook.
The advantage to Security Automation and Orchestration (SAO) platforms, and in particular our IncMan platform, is the ability it provides to tailor playbooks or runbooks to deal with all manner of cyber incidents. These Playbooks are defined by three key factors:
1.Phases: Determine the number of phases for the response process based on the incident scenario. The phases are really a placeholder for what you are trying to achieve in your response.
2.Automation: How much automation will benefit the given scenario without hindering or otherwise adversely impacting your business.
3.Actions: What actions apply to each phase and what is the benefit to each action.
Wash, Rinse, Re-playbook.
Play books, or runbooks, should never be static and hard-coded for a fixed set of events. Ultimately, incidents will differ and you should always remain in control, ready to adapt and adjust the response workflow. This flexibility is vital should a Plan B need to be executed. The approach of IncMan to security playbooks & runbooks support both mature and emerging SOC teams by providing multi-flow advanced runbooks to the former, and for the less mature, a simplified playbook containing a dual mode where automation and manual actions can co-exist.
In talking with CSIRT/SOC managers, I have learned that they have typically aligned themselves with a particular standard. Most organizations follow the likes of ISO for Incident Response, NIST
800-62 or alternatives along the lines of CREST or NISA. Structured incident handling processes based on these standards are a great baseline, but how about also having actions and reactions pre-prepared and ready to respond immediately according to the threat you face? Can you see the instant advantage in having smaller, simpler playbooks and runbooks specific to an adversary or threat scenario?
Dealing with incidents with tailored playbooks will ultimately provide better threat coverage as each has enrichment and containment actions that are concentrated on the tasks specific to a given scenario. Additionally, allowing your SAO product to tie the dots to bring enrichment to the observables and the indicators encountered in incidents will bring measurable value to the increased speed of the incident response process. Allowing analysts dynamic interaction at all phases of the workflow will help also help your reactions become more efficient. This mix of structured playbooks and dynamic response capability can also help push the CSIRT teams into a more pro-active mindset, allowing system and network-level security policy and infrastructure configuration changes to be handled on the fly while leveraging current and accurate information, and all from a single response console.
One of my favorite sports, American football, uses a term which has always fascinated me. This term is ‘situational football’ and its whole concept is to react according to the scenario in which you find yourself. American football clubs split their squads into essentially three teams.
–Attack, which is the offensive team and the guys that typically score points.
–Defense, which is the opposite team tasked with stopping the attacking team from scoring points.
–Special teams, which is an often overlooked team. This team can be part of the defense or offense and is typically used for every other play that is not defined as an offensive or defensive setting.
Now, you may be wondering why I am talking about sports in a cyber security blog?!
Well, I always like to relate cyber security industry to other industries and to try to think outside of the box when discussing some of our approaches. That said, I’m going to make a beeline for this idea and start relating this to our thinking:
–Attack, or Red teams, can have a positive impact on your response strategy. Relating your response plans and playbooks directly to common attack methods is advisable and should be used in conjunction with the relevant compliance standards. The actions taken in response to specific attack vectors will usually have a higher success rate than a generic catch-all cyber incident response plans. I would take a lot more comfort knowing I have playbooks designed for a specific threat vector than I would be hoping that one of my generic playbooks would cover it.
–Defense, or Blue Teams, are already a big part of response plans, and ongoing refinement of these plans should coincide with every incident lessons learned. A successful response should still have lessons to consider!
Special Teams are a mix of Red and Blue, of offense and defense. They are best positioned to engage in ‘situational football’ and to enable you to define your approach with more than one mindset, even, in some cases, conflicting mindsets. Using this combined approach will ensure an attackers methodology when searching for enrichment information during incident identification, and the pragmatism of a defender during containment and eradication activities. Having a defined response to each phase of IR is important, but engaging special teams and having the ability to refactor your playbooks on the fly is a key capability when orchestrating an effective cyber security incident response to a dynamic incident.
Unique situations can present themselves at every moment of the game. Our playbook features allow you to make your defense attack-minded by feeding in all the information gathered from your playbooks and allowing you to not be restricted by baseline actions alone. We want your defense to run actions at every point and to allow you to call an audible in any situation that presents itself. The freedom to apply this mindset will drive your incident response teams above and beyond what they see in front of them.
At DFLabs, we not only create playbooks specific to compliance standards and cyber security incident response standards, we also enable you to create and to actively amend your own custom playbooks. Our flexibility ensures that your playbooks can be built on the experience of your Red and Blue teams, in line with adversarial thinking specific to your organization or industry, and to the satisfaction of your corporate, industry and regulatory policies.
Contact us to find out more at [email protected]
At DFLabs, we typically find our financial clients saddled by regulations which, although important, add layers of complexity to the already complicated process of incident response. We want our clients to be able to feed the compliance measures, not be eaten by them, and we support this end by providing a simple, clear and easy to use playbook editing functionality within the IncMan automation and orchestration platform.
I often point out how IncMan adaptable playbooks are of benefit to companies when determining incident response steps in consideration of regulation. IncMan offers a number of measures to enforce regulatory policy on playbook actions.
Let us take a look at some quick examples:
–Authorization levels: Effective use of the authorization chain means that personnel are engaged only for the tasks for which they have clearance.
–Timed response: Playbook action enforce the urgency when dealing with a particular notification, action or identification, i.e. 72 hours to alert a particular authority about a breach.
–Mandatory tasks: Prescribed tasks are essential for any organization to take the regulatory actions necessary whilst following corresponding incident response workflows.
This list is not exhaustive and IncMan offers lots of possible incident response workflows and points of use for regulatory compliance.
Beyond these measures, it is important to remember that the information gathered in the case record as part of the incident should be fully utilized. The post-mortem analysis of the incident and how it was managed, is as critical as the immediate response. This analysis will help you to define, restructure and organize the ongoing policy changes, and continually fine tune your incident response playbooks.
Our new correlation engine will give you the ability to not only see the entire picture, but also to learn how the picture was built over the course of a timeline of events. Correlation Engine 2.0 helps you to redefine your approach for incident trending and identifying relationships in incident data.