Key Elements of Every Successful Incident Response Program

Nowadays, businesses face the fact that cyber attacks are part of the overall picture, and will happen at any given moment. Nobody is in doubt about this, and the question has shifted from ‘if they happen’, to ‘when they happen’. Along with this, cybercriminals have become much more sophisticated, raising the costs of fighting back on all industry levels.

Managing cyber security issues can pose a real challenge within a company. The new and complex networks, business requirements for innovation and new ways of delivery of services require new methods and approaches to the way security is handled. Traditional security management methods no longer work. Today, cyber security management should aim towards efficiency when it comes to possible future threats.

Serious data breaches can cost a company hundreds of millions of dollars. Often, what makes a breach serious is the effectiveness and speed of the incident response process.

This being said, creating an incident response program is of utmost importance. It has to excel in the following areas: visibility, incident management, workflows, threat intelligence, and collaboration/information-sharing. Below we’ll take a closer look at each of these areas and discover their importance from a systems level perspective.

Visibility

Having in mind the number of security products in an average company, visibility should be the core of any incident response system – this means aggregating data feeds from commercial and open-source products. When setting up an incident response system, specialists should consider platforms that offer support for security products out of the box. Although not all of them support everything by default, the one you choose should be flexible to add bi-directional integrations with security products not supported by default. But even though bi-directional integrations are important for the support of full automation and orchestration, these are not always necessary for each technology. For example, with simple detection and alerting technologies, unidirectional event forwarding integration will do the work. Just check that common methods of event forwarding and data transfer (such as syslog, database connections, APIs, email and online forms) are supported.

Incident Management

A well-structured incident response program should enable orchestration and automation of the security products that the organization uses. Above everything else, it should include the ability to manage the entire incident response process, starting from the basics, such as tracking cases, recording actions during the incident, as well as reporting on critical metrics and KPIs.

Furthermore, a more advanced incident response system should provide the following:

  • Phase and objective tracking
  • Detailed task tracking, including assignment, time spent and status
  • Asset management — tracking all physical and virtual assets involved in the incident
  • Evidence and chain of custody management
  • Indicator and sample tracking, correlation and sharing
  • Document and report management
  • Time and monetary effort tracking
Process Workflows

One of the key capabilities that should part of the incident response system is the automation and orchestration workflows. The result is more efficient processes and heavy reduction in repetitive tasks for analysts.

These are the core methods for a codification of process workflows: linear-style playbooks or flow-controlled workflows or runbooks.

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and as each is suitable for different use cases, they both should be supported by the incident response system. In both cases, workflows should be flexible and support almost any process, and should support the use of built-in and custom integrations, and creating manual tasks that should be completed by an analyst.

Threat Intelligence

The capability of incorporating threat intelligence feeds is one of the most basic requirements for an incident response system. Moreover, with the ability to correlate threat intelligence, it’s easier to discover attack patterns, vulnerabilities, and other current risks without manual analysis. Adding the automated correlation also helps identify whether an ongoing incident shares common factors with any previous incidents. But even though automated correlation is crucial for analysts to make decisions, visual correlation is also important. Visualizations of threat intelligence and correlated events are particularly useful for threat hunting and detecting attacks/patterns that could not have been detected using other methods.

Collaboration and Information-Sharing

Incident response is never a one-person show. Generally, it requires the participation of many people, and often of multiple teams. To be highly effective in such an environment, an incident response system should support seamless collaboration and information-sharing between all stakeholders and team members.

This means that authorized staff members should have access to the status of the incident and other generated information, including team members actions. Also, all staff members should communicate in a secure fashion, using out-of-band communications mechanism.

Furthermore, information-sharing and cooperation should be a regular practice with external entities, especially with law-enforcement agencies. Information-sharing, such as threat intelligence reports, is vital in the fight against cybercrime.

Conclusion

Most companies will experience data breach sooner or later, and how they respond will affect the future of the business. These essential components will help ensure that an organization’s incident response program can detect, contain and mitigate a breach before it can reach more serious status.