Companies Are Failing at Incident Response: Here Are The Top Reasons Why

Discussions about security breaches often focus on the planning elements, but simply talking about planning is not enough. Comprehensive plans need to be drawn up, fully executed and regularly reviewed in order to be successful. This is the only way to potentially contain the breach and limit the impact it could have on the organization. Properly planning and implementing is the difference between success and failure for companies when it comes to security and incident response.

As the ever-evolving cyber security landscape poses new challenges, companies are pushed even more to fight back the growing number and even more sophisticated levels of cyber attacks. Organizations across all sectors and industries are potential targets and could become victims at any time. With attacks escalating in all areas, whether via phishing or malware, for example, security operations teams need to be prepared to respond to existing and new types and strains of threats, in order to fully defend and protect their company assets and networks.

Along with prevention becoming increasingly difficult for security teams, some organizations also tend to have a weakness when it comes to incident response. Below outlines some of the main reasons why this failure is happening today and if this a true representation of your organization, it is important for action to be taken in order to improve it.

Inadequate Resources

With the number of sophisticated cyber threats in the past several years growing at a phenomenal rate, the security industry has been facing an explosion of security tools available in the market. Many of these though have adversely resulted in creating more tasks for security teams and analysts in terms of monitoring, correlating, and responding to alerts. Analysts are pushed to work on multiple platforms and generate data from every single source manually, while afterwards then needing to enrich and correlate that data which can take many hours or even days.

Security budgets are often limited, and while it is often easier to gain support and approval for additional security apps and tools than it is for additional staff members, this means that many security teams often are forced to search innovative ways to perform many different tasks with extremely limited personnel resources.

Another important point to note is that with increased market competition for experienced and skilled analysts, companies are often forced to choose between hiring one highly skilled staff member versus a couple of less experienced, junior level ones.

Task Overload

Over the years, organizations have witnessed an increasing number of security tools to fight back the growing number of security threats. But even though these tools manage alerts and correlate through security information and management system, security teams are still overwhelmed by the volume of alerts being generated and in many instances are not physically able to respond to them all.

Every single alert must be verified manually and triaged by an analyst. Then, if the alert is determined to be valid, additional manual research and enrichment must take place before any other action to address the threat. While all of these processes take place, other potential alerts wait unresolved in a queue, while new alerts keep being added. The problem is, any one of these alerts may be an opportunity window for an attacker while they wait to be addressed.

Risk of Losing Skilled Analysts

Security processes are performed manually and are quite complex in nature, therefore training new staff members takes time. Organizations still rely on the most experienced analysts when it comes to decision making, based on their knowledge and work experience in the company, even with documented procedures in place. This is commonly referred to as tribal knowledge, and the more manual the processes are, the longer the knowledge transfer takes. Moreover, highly qualified analysts are considered a real treasure for the company, and every time a company loses such staff member, part of the tribal knowledge is also lost, and the entire incident response process suffers a tremendous loss. Even though companies make efforts to keep at least one skilled analyst who is able to teach other staff members the skills they have, they aren’t always successful in that.

Failure to Manage Phases

Security teams work with metrics that could be highly subjective and abstract, compared to other departments which often work with proven processes for measuring the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a program. This is largely due to the fact that conservative approaches and methods for measuring ROI aren’t applicable, nor appropriate when it comes to security projects, and might give misleading results. Proper measurement techniques are of utmost importance when it comes to measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of a security program, therefore it is necessary to come up with a measurement process customized according to the needs of the company.

Another important issue that should be mentioned here is the one concerning the management of different steps of the incident response process. Security incidents are very dynamic processes that involve different phases, and the inability to manage these steps could result in great losses and damages to the company. For the best results, companies should focus on implementing documented and repeatable processes that have been tested and well understood.

In order to resolve these issues, organizations should consider the following best practices.

Orchestration

The coordination of security data sources and security tools in a single seamless process is referred to as orchestration. Technology integrations are most often used to support the orchestration process. APIs, software development kits, or direct database connections are just a few of the numerous methods that can be used to integrate technologies such as endpoint detection and response, threat intelligence, network detection, and infrastructure, IT service and account management.

Automation

Orchestration and automation might be related, but their end goals are completely different. Orchestration aims to improve efficiency by increased coordination and decreased context switch among tools for a faster and better-informed decision-making, while automation aims to reduce the time these processes take and make them repeatable by applying machine learning to respective tasks. Ideally, automation increases the efficiency of orchestrated processes.

Strategic and Tactical Measurement

Information in favor of tactical decisions usually consists of incident data for analysts and managers, which might consist of indicators of compromise assets, process status, and threat intelligence. This information improves decision-making from incident triage and investigation, through containment and eradication.

On the other hand, strategic information is aimed at executives and managers, and it’s used for high-level decision making. This information might comprise statistics and incident trends, threat intelligence and incident correlation. Advanced security programs might also use strategic information to enable proactive threat hunting.

If these challenges sound familiar within your security operations team, find out how DFLabs’ Security Orchestration, Automation and Response solution can help to address these to improve your overall incident response.

9 Key Components of Incident and Forensics Management

Incident and Forensics Investigations Management

Security incidents and digital forensics investigations are complex events with many facets, all of which must be managed in parallel to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. When investigations are not managed and documented properly, processes fail, critical items are overlooked, inefficiencies develop, and key indicators are missed, all leading to increased potential risk and losses.

Investigation management can be broken down into a number of key components and it is important that an organization is able to carry out all of these elements collectively and seamlessly in order to properly handle and manage any incident they may potentially face.

This blog will briefly cover 9 key areas that I believe are the most important when it comes to incident and forensics management. Ensuring these are firmly in place within your security operations or CSIRT team will ensure more efficient and effective incident management when an incident does occur.

If you would like to learn more about each of the components in more detail and how DFLabs has incorporated them into its comprehensive and complete Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platform to enable organizations to improve their security program, you can download our in-depth white paper here.

Case Management

Every investigation must be organized into a logical container, commonly referred to as a case or incident. This is necessary for several reasons. Most obviously, this container is used to identify the investigation and contain information such as observables, tasks, evidence, notes and other information associated with the investigation, discussed in greater detail in the subsequent sections. Many investigations contain sensitive information which should only be accessible by those with a legitimate need to know. These containers also serve to enforce a level of access control.

Observables and Findings

Investigations generate a large volume of data, from simple observables such as IP addresses, domain names and hash values, to more complex observables such as malware and attacker TTPs, as well as findings such as those made from log analysis, forensic examination and malware analysis. All this information must be recorded and shared with all appropriate stakeholders to ensure the most effective response to a security incident.

Data gathered from previous incidents can be an invaluable tool in responding more effectively to future security incidents. As individual data points are associated with each other, this information is transformed from simple data into actionable threat intelligence which can inform future decisions and responses.

Phase, Expectation and Task Management

Investigations generally progress through a series of phases, each of which will contain a series of management expectations and a set of tasks required to meet those expectations. As the complexity of an investigation increases the tracking of these phases, expectations and tasks become both more critical and more difficult to manage. Failing to properly track and manage investigation phases, expectations and tasks can lead to duplicated efforts, overlooked items and other inefficiencies which lead to an increase in both cost and time to successfully complete an investigation.

Evidence and Chain of Custody

Documenting evidence and tracking chain of custody can be a complex process during an investigation of any size. Documentation using older paper-based or spreadsheet systems does not scale to larger investigations, is prone to error and is time-consuming. Failing to maintain a full list of evidence or maintain chain of custody can result in lost evidence, duplication of efforts and inability to use critical evidence during legal processes.

Forensic Tool Integration

Security operations use a multitude of tools and technologies on a daily basis with different ones being utilized for varying types of investigations. Logging into several platforms individually to collect data is often a manual process and can be tiresome and painful, as well as extremely time-consuming, and time is always of the essence. It is critical that security tools are connected and integrated to improve efficiencies and to fuse intelligence seamlessly together so that all data can be analyzed and documented in a single location and immediately shared with relevant stakeholders.

Reporting and Management

Reporting and the management of reports is a vital function during any investigation. Once information is documented, it must be able to be accessed easily and in multiple formats appropriate for a wide variety of audiences. As the scale of an investigation grows, so does the number of individual reports which will be generated. This can result in many complexities, including sharing logistics, proper access controls and managing different versions of reports. To reduce the impact of these complexities, a single report management platform should be used to act as the authoritative source for all reports.

Activity Tracking and Auditing

Tracking actions taken during an investigation is important to ensure a consistent response, identify areas where process improvements are needed, and to prove that the actions taken were appropriate. Not only must actions be documented, but it is also crucial to ensure that the integrity of this documentation cannot be called into question later. However, documenting activity during an investigation can be time-consuming, taking analysts attention away from the tasks at hand, and is often an afterthought.

Information Security

Investigative data can be extremely sensitive, and it is crucial that the confidentiality of such data be maintained at all times. Confidentiality must be maintained not only for those outside of the organization but also for those internal users who may not be authorized to access some or all of the incident information.

Asset Management

No matter the specific roles a team is tasked with, the team will require many different physical and logical internal assets to accomplish their tasks. This may include workstations, storage media, license dongles, software and other hardware. Regardless of the asset, an organization must be able to track that asset throughout its life, ensuring that they (and the money spent on them) do not go to waste.  As the team grows, managing the tracking of these assets, who they are issued, their expiration dates and more can become a full-time task.

Final Thoughts

These core components combined enable security teams to work more efficiently throughout the entire investigative lifecycle, reducing both cost and risk posed by the wide variety of events facing organizations today. Providing a holistic view of the security landscape and the organization’s broad infrastructure allows for better use of existing tools and technologies to minimize the time team members must spend on the administrative portions of investigations, allowing them to focus on the more important tasks that will ultimately impact the outcome of the response.

Streamline Incident Management and Issue Tracking Using DFLabs SOAR and Jira

Security incidents are complex and dynamic events, requiring the coordinated participation from multiple teams across the organization. For these teams to work with maximum efficiency, as a single body, it is critical that information flows seamlessly between all teams in real-time. Faced with a continued onslaught of security incidents, organizations must find ways to maximize the utilization of their limited resources to remain ahead of the attackers and ensure the integrity of the organization’s critical resources.

This blog will briefly discuss how your security operations team can manage security incidents in a whole new and efficient way by integrating DFLabs IncMan Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platform with your existing Jira solution, including a simple use case.

It is critical to bridge the gap between security teams orchestrating incidents with SOAR solutions such as IncMan and teams tracking other tasks with Jira, to ensure that all teams maintain a holistic view of the incident and function together as a single, unified body.

The Challenges

Today there are many challenges faced by security teams within their specific security programs. By integrating DFLabs IncMan SOAR with Jira you will be able to overcome the following key problems:

  • How can I ensure that all teams have the most up-to-date incident information?
  • How can I integrate the power of IncMan into my existing issues management process?
  • How can I enable all teams to work as a single unified body to increase the efficiency of the incident response process?
  • How can I quickly communicate critical information to those outside the security team?


Let’s discuss how in more detail.

How to Streamline Incident Management and Issue Tracking With The DFLabs SOAR and Jira Solution

Security operations teams struggle to gain visibility of threats and rapidly respond to cyber incidents due to the sheer number of different security technologies they must maintain and manage and the resulting flood of alerts. Aggregating these into a single pane of glass to prioritize what is critical and needs immediate attention requires a platform that can consolidate disparate technologies and alerts, and provides a cohesive and comprehensive capability set to orchestrate incident response efforts.

Jira’s industry-leading issue tracking solution has been battle-tested and becomes the core of an organization’s support, IT, incident response and project management processes worldwide. Jira allows teams from across the organization to collaborate and share information to plan, track and report projects and issues in real-time, maximizing efficiency and reducing impacts on the organization’s critical business processes.

By integrating with Jira, DFLabs IncMan extends these capabilities to Jira users, combining the orchestration, automation and response power of IncMan with the organization’s existing issue tracking process. IncMan’s R3 Rapid Response Runbooks can be used to automatically create issues within Jira and continue to update the issue as the incident progresses.

Allowing organizations to seamlessly share information between IncMan and Jira ensures that all involved in the incident response process are working with a unified set of information, enabling organizations to maximize security analyst efficiency, reduce incident resolution time, as well as reduce the number of incidents handled.

Use Case

An alert of a host communicating with a potentially malicious domain has automatically generated an Incident within IncMan.This alert is automatically categorized within IncMan based on the organizations’ policies, which initiates the organization’s Domain reputation runbook, shown below:

incident management DFLabs


Through this runbook, IncMan automatically gathers domain reputation information for the domain which generated the alert. If the resulting domain reputation information indicates that the domain may be malicious, IncMan will use a Notification action to automatically create a new Issue within Jira, allowing Jira users to immediately begin next steps. Next, using additional Enrichment actions, IncMan will automatically gather additional information regarding the suspicious domain, such as WHOIS and geolocation information. IncMan will then automatically update the Jira issue with this information. Finally, a screenshot of the page (if applicable), is taken and added to IncMan.

The automated workflow of IncMan’s R3 Runbooks means that an IncMan incident and Jira issue will have been automatically generated, and these enrichment actions through the Quick Integration Connector with Jira and other enrichment sources will have already been committed before an analyst is even aware that an incident has occurred. Both IncMan and Jira users are now able to perform their respective tasks, knowing that they are each working with the same information, and can continue to do so as the incident progresses.  

By harnessing the power of Jira’s industry-leading issue tracking solution, along with the orchestration, automation and response capabilities of DFLab’s IncMan SOAR platform, organizations can elevate their incident response process, leading to faster and more effective incident response and reduced risk across the entire organization.

If you would like to see IncMan and Jira in action together in more detail, get in touch to request a live demo of IncMan with one of the team.

The Overlooked Importance of Incident Management

Whether you call it Incident Management or Incident Handling, most will agree that there is a distinct difference between responding to an incident and managing an incident. Put simply, Incident Response can be defined as the “doing”, while Incident Management can be defined as the “orchestrating”. Proper Incident Management is the foundation and structure upon which a successful Incident Response program must be based. There are numerous blogs, articles and papers addressing various aspects of the differences between Incident Response and Incident Management dating back to at least a decade. Why add another to the top of the pile? Because while most organizations now see the value in putting people, tools, and basic processes in place to respond to the inevitable incident, many still do not take the time to develop a solid Incident Management process to orchestrate the response effort.

Security incidents create a unique environment, highly dynamic and often stressful, and outside the comfort zone of many of those who may be involved in the response process. This is especially true during complex incidents where ancillary team members, such as those from Human Resources, Legal, Compliance or Executive Management, may become involved. These ancillary team members are often accustomed to working in a more structured environment and have had very little previous exposure to the Incident Response process, making Incident Management an even more critical function. Although often overlooked, the lack of effective Incident Management will invariably result in a less efficient and effective process, leading to increased financial and reputational damage from an incident.

Many day-to-day management processes do not adapt well to these complex challenges. For example, as the size and complexity of a security incident increases, the number of people that a single manager can directly supervise effectively decreases. It is also not uncommon for some employees to report to more than one supervisor. During a security incident, this can lead to mixed directives and confusion. During a security incident, it is critical that information flows quickly and smoothly both vertically and horizontally. Many organization’s existing communication methods do not adapt well to this.

When an ad-hoc Incident Management system is used, the response process becomes much less consistent and effective. A common pitfall of this ad-hoc management style is that it can create a flat management structure, forcing the Incident Response Coordinator to directly oversee the functions of many groups with vastly different objectives. A flat structure such as this also tends to inhibit the flow of information between the individual groups.

 

incident management 1

 

Another common pitfall of this ad-hoc management style is that it often results in a fragmented and disorganized process. Without proper management to provide clear objectives and expectations, it is easy for individual groups to create their own objectives based on what they believe to be the priority. This seriously limits the effective communication between individual groups, forcing each to work with incomplete or incorrect information.

 

incident management 2

 

There are numerous ways in which the Incident Management process can be streamlined. On Wednesday, January 31st, DFLabs will be releasing a new whitepaper titled “Increasing the Effectiveness of Incident Management”, discussing the lessons that can be learned from decades of trial and error in another profession, the fire service, to improve the effectiveness of the Incident Management process. John Moran, Sr. Product Manager at DFLabs, will also be joining Paul and the Enterprise Security Weekly Team on their podcast at 1 PM EST on January 31st to discuss some of these lessons in more detail. Stay tuned to the DFLabs website, or listen in on the podcast on January 31st for more details!