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A Security Incident Response
The Basics

Before we dive in any further, let’s take a moment to properly define what a security incident response plan actually is.

Then we can have a firm knowledge base before going on to discuss types of security incidents, in particular, a cybersecurity incident or breach of your protections. Because to figure out what should happen at the end of the process, we need to understand the beginning!

What is a Security Incident Response Plan?

In its essence, a security incident response plan is a set of rules and procedures for your company to follow in the event of a security threat or breach.

Incident response planning also means that if your company is indeed breached by outside forces, there is a response already set up to mitigate the damage and prevent any lasting data loss, information pirating, or spread of internal malware.

Not only does having a good security incident response plan mean that your reactions to a sudden and possibly highly dangerous attack will be more organized, but if you already have the measures in place to protect your digital infrastructure, the likelihood of such an event occurring successfully can be lessened.

But does every business really need incident response planning?But does every business really need incident response planning?But does every business really need incident response planning?But does every business really need incident response planning?But does every business really need incident response planning?

Surely, only the big Fortune 500 corporations are at risk of being hacked or sent ransomware.

Unfortunately, virtually any company can become the victim of a cybersecurity incident.

Because data is one of the most coveted forms of currency to exist in today’s digital world, it is also at the highest risk for people with malicious intent stopping at nothing to obtain it.

As has been said, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

From small businesses to global firms, if your company contains sensitive information, financial data, or client records, you are in danger of a cybersecurity incident, and thus, you need a cybersecurity response plan. It’s as simple as that!

How Can I
Detect Security Incidents?

These days, hackers are very good at what they do. Some cybercriminals can gain access to a company’s network and information and remain undetected for a long time, but thankfully, that is not always the case.

Indeed, if you know what to look for, and your IT cybersecurity team is trained on detecting security threats and breaches before they become catastrophic, then you are a step ahead!

There are several key takeaways for how to detect security incidents, as different types of incidents tend to have particular markers to look out for.

That is due to hackers and cybercriminals having to rely on certain common attack vectors to gain entry to your systems, which can tip off an observant security team to the oncoming assault.

Types Of
Security Incidents

So, detecting security incidents is possible, which can take some panic out of initiating your cyber incident response.

However, identifying such threats is made easier if you know what to look out for to better your computer security incident handling. So, let’s go over the most common types of security incidents to become familiar with them, as well as some real-life examples of such events.

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)

This is a fairly dire event, as the offender mounts a targeted attack that is prolonged and direct. Most commonly, it occurs when a hacker is able to slip into a company’s network and systems without being immediately detected, and can remain there for an uninterrupted amount of time.

It’s a slow, methodical type of attack, where the hacker must balance their efforts to remain anonymous while simultaneously siphoning out crucial company data, like financial information or client details.

Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks

Primarily taking the form of a coordinated and distributed offensive on a company’s cloud services, you might notice a DoS attack by a sudden onset of traffic across your website that floods the servers and effectively disables the cloud functions, if not combatted quickly with ISP blocking.

Internal Security Breach

As previously mentioned, the easiest point of access for cyberattacks can be at the employee or user level. That can be unencrypted passwords, misplacing a work laptop with critical information, or accessing privileged data outside of the company infrastructure.

To keep employee access levels locked down, it’s important to have a reliable authorization system such as zero-trust security in place to discourage any attempts to gain entry or share access to corporate and client data from those within the company.

Malware Infection

Taking the form of a digital virus or infection, both malware and ransomware are detrimental to a company’s data, including any encrypted files.

These types of security threats can remove or leak files, locate privileged access credentials, or even prevent you from accessing your own system while the perpetrators wreak havoc on your infrastructure.

Phishing

One of the most common cybercrimes to affect business across the globe, phishing relies primarily on human error to be effective.

For example, an official-looking email might come across an employee’s inbox, containing a link. And if they open the link, the virus contained there can spring into action, quickly creating a data breach as employee access is used to collect company, client, and financial data.

Privilege Escalation Attack

Oftentimes, when a hacker is able to get into a company’s network via a low-level or entry account, they need to rapidly increase their access privileges within the network in order to locate the real informational jackpot.

Through a swift takeover of increasingly privileged accesses, the hacker is suddenly within the deepest recesses of your company’s data mines and taking everything they want.

Third-Party Scanning

Determining the threat level of third-party scanning can take some detective work, but it’s worth checking out if noted.

This happens when an external entity is carrying out security reconnaissance on your company’s infrastructure, effectively searching for weak spots, leaving behind repeated IP hits on your servers.

Of course, these IP hits might be from a perfectly valid source, using your site for inauspicious purposes, but it could also be a cybercriminal preparing to strike.

Unauthorized Access

Typically characterized by some sort of brute-force attack, unauthorized access essentially involves the cybercriminal forcing their way into your company’s systems. Password exploitation is a favorite way of doing this, particularly if your infrastructure access points are not protected by multi-factor authentication processes.

Real-Life Examples Of Information Security Incidents

So, those are the most common types of cybersecurity threats that plague the digital corporate world today. But what about some real-world incidences where these events actually did occur? Let’s go over three such examples.

2019

Back in 2019, the shopping platform Alibaba experienced a massive data leak. Over a billion records of customer information and user details were gained by using web-crawling software against the e-commerce company’s online information vaults.

2020

In July 2020, Twitter suffered a spear-phishing cyberattack where hackers were able to gain access to influential Twitter users, including celebrities and other well-known individuals, staging a scam Bitcoin giveaway designed to lure personal information and financial details from followers.

2021

Most recently, in June of 2021, LinkedIn was targeted by hackers who acquired millions of users’ information to sell on the black market. Not only did this data include users’ full names and profile URLs, but also their geolocation records, email and home addresses, and even more critical information.

How To Manage A Data Breach With The 6 Phases In The Incident Response Plan
Incident Response Phases:

By now, you are likely to agree that protecting data is one of the top priorities for any company. It is essential not only to maintain good business practices and reputations, but also to safeguard yourself, your employees, and your clients from those who would do them harm.

how to create an incident response plan?how to create an incident response plan?how to create an incident response plan?how to create an incident response plan?how to create an incident response plan?

So, the question is, how to create an incident response plan? Let’s start with 6 key incident response phases that comprise the main body of your cyber incident response plan.

PHASE 1
Prepare

Preparation is the first step in any major undertaking, and it’s no different when ensuring your company’s incident response plan is airtight.

Begin with introducing your employees to incident response, allocating roles to your IT team, and indicating where responsibilities will rest in the event of a security threat.

Then, make sure everyone trains and practices their allocated roles! The last thing you need is a panicked team forgetting the plan in the middle of a catastrophe. Run drills and practice response scenarios to get everyone comfortable with their responsibilities, and use this data to evaluate your response plan and make necessary changes.

A well-trained and prepared response team is one that can handle a crisis professionally and efficiently.

PHASE 2
Identify

From training, your team should be able to assess network or system activity and determine whether it poses a threat or might cause an imminent breach.

Before any forward action can be taken, you need to know if anything has been compromised and what kind of attack it is, to properly launch your mitigating factors, so focus on answering these queries:

  • When did it happen?
  • What areas have been affected?
  • How was it found?
  • Does it impact operations?
  • Who found it?
  • Has the point of entry been detected?
  • What is the scope?
  • What could the likely point of entry be?

Answering these questions should help your team narrow down the type of threat and the possible source of the attack.

PHASE 3
Contain

Next, it’s time to contain the breach and prevent further incursion into your systems. Once they can successfully quarantine the compromising factor, your team can work to further determine exactly how and why it occurred.

It’s a good idea to have both a long-term and immediate plan at the ready for containing a breach, in case the threat has seeped deeper within the system by the time you find it.

But in general, the first action should be to remove the affected devices from the server and internet connections to prevent further spread. If you catch it at the right time, you can isolate the breach and keep it contained.

PHASE 4
Eradicate

Once the threat has been successfully contained, it’s time to figure out the cause and eradicate it from the system. At this point, you should start eliminating any infected files, user accesses, and any other system components that the malware attached itself to.

It’s important to ensure that all traces of security compromise or malware code is removed, or else you risk future compromise of data after the event.

Make sure to keep a detailed log of all these processes, including the incident and response times, location, and damage. This will help you learn from the attack and better enhance your security for the next time something like this happens.

PHASE 5
Recover

Now that you have identified the threat, contained it, and eliminated the source from your systems, you need to take inventory of what was damaged and if any information was accessed or leaked. Ask these questions as you evaluate whether or not your systems can get back up and running:

  • Have the systems been patched and tested?
  • Can the systems be restored via a backup?
  • How long will you monitor the affected systems?
  • What tools have you put in place to prevent another such attack?

This is also the time to run a full system-wide vulnerability sweep to ensure there are no other areas where a breach can easily occur, in case the hacker was not deterred. You don’t want to get so distracted by dealing with the fallout of one attack that another one can occur in a different location!

PHASE 6
Review

Figuring out how to better your incident response planning and reaction time is essential to coming back from a cybersecurity incident.

Go through the full event and examine the steps that were taken, as well as the response of the hacker. Gather your team for a check-in, incident action planning, personal responsibility, and debriefing discussion to get their input, too.

Don’t forget to finish off your incident report and submit it through the proper channels for follow-up. This could become important evidence for shareholders or legal proceedings if the situation escalates.

Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan
Checklist

Are you prepared for your company to be hacked? What would happen if a breach was detected tomorrow?

These are important questions that you need to answer honestly, and only after assessing your readiness can you have confidence in system security and peace of mind. As such, the following items form points that all good cybersecurity incident response checklists should have:

Focus response efforts

As soon as crisis strikes and a cybersecurity threat is detected, all members of your response team should be ready to spring into action.

Time wasted during such an incident can be detrimental, even down to the minutes it takes to respond.

And to do this, you need to have updated risk assessments of the weak points and possible entries into your system for your team to study.

If they know where the targets likely lie as soon as a threat arises, then no time will be wasted on guesswork and the response efforts are laser-focused.

Identify Key Team Members And Stakeholders

Your plan needs to take outside factors of your business into account, including stakeholders and partners, as well as the team members that will be directly responsible for handling the cybersecurity situation.

Make sure everyone is coached on the most recent protocols, and alert measures are in place to notify those who need to take action.

Define Incident Types And Thresholds

Instead of overreacting to a possible attack, it’s important to understand the types of security ncidents and their signs so that your response can be measured correctly.

For example, if you are dealing with a minor firewall probing issue, you likely do not have to shut down all operations to handle it. Being able to scale your incident response plan of action accordingly means that you avoid wasting resources and can focus on what needs to be done.

Inventory Your Resources And Assets

To know what might have been damaged or lost during a security incident, you first need to have a list of your assets.

Create an inventory of both the company’s business and process resources for reference early on, and keep it up-to-date as things change.

Recovery Plan Hierarchies And Information Flow

In the event of a security incident, what is the hierarchy of action? Who is responsible for what?

Make a clear outline that sequences the flow of information and management, from the top director of the cybersecurity incident response team to the bottom of the totem pole.

Prepare Public Statements

Meet with the company’s public relations team to ensure statements are drawn up before a breach even happens.

These should include how your team will solve the problem, and how it can be prevented in the future, and reassure the public of the corporation’s renewed determination to safeguard their data and details.

Prepare An Incident Event Log

As previously mentioned, keeping a detailed log of the security incident is wise, so that you can review protocols, examine mistakes that were made, and respond accordingly with new changes to the plan.

Record the type of security incident, as well as the time and location of its occurrence.

Keep it updated as you work through the phases of your cyber incident response plan, and add any relevant data that could be useful later.

The Importance of CSIRP

Having a cybersecurity incident response plan (CSIRP) is one of the best ways to protect a business from external forces.

And while you might not even need to use it, possibly for months or years, it’s a matter of time before an incident occurs and you’re called to respond appropriately.

Ability To Face An Incident Confidently

Face a cyberattack with the confidence of knowing that your incident response plan is airtight and that your team can quickly and effectively deal with the breach, without bringing your business’s entire infrastructure to its knees.

Mitigate Damage After An Incident

Handle the situation, evaluate the aftermath, and mitigate the damage— that’s what every good incident response plan should guarantee happens. If you have the proper steps to follow, cleaning up the breach shouldn’t be too drastic.

Improve Cybersecurity

By running incident response tests, you can pinpoint weaknesses in your systems and improve security measures accordingly. This is a great reason to always update your response plan and security protocols to be proactive about safeguarding company and client information.

Maintain Customer Trust

A company that is prepared for the eventuality of a cyber threat is likely going to win more favor with the public than one that is not. Your customers will appreciate the lengths that your business goes to in order to protect their information, and a better bond of trust is created.

Top Reasons You Need An Incident Response Plan

If you are not already convinced that you need an incident response plan, then let’s go over a few more advantages of having one— apart from how it can save your company’s infrastructure and accounts from a lot of damage!

Reduce Downtime

Cyberattacks can greatly affect your company systems and cause shut-downs and server closures across the board. The bigger the risk, the more disruption it will cause— and this, in turn, creates excessive amounts of downtime where customers cannot access your business, and you are effectively losing money.

Remain In Compliance

For many industries, maintaining information confidentiality is essential not only to the welfare of the customers, but also legally maintained, such as the healthcare, financial, and legal sectors.

When hackers target such data without a company response plan in place, the corporation is the one at risk for incurring potentially dire future ramifications if the proper steps are not taken to remain in compliance with due diligence regulations.

Maintain Public Trust

Businesses run on customers, no matter the industry. And if you lose the trust of the public in your corporation, then your business will inevitably suffer. By knowing that you have protocols in place, public trust can remain even after a breach, as they know that your company has done all in its power to protect their data.

Protect Your Data And Reputation

Cybersecurity breaches put your company’s data at risk, it’s as simple as that. From employee records to banking details, home addresses to product information, there are many items hiding in your company databases that can have an adverse effect on the entire business if things go badly.

And if a hacker is able to tap into financial records or revenue processes, your company can lose a massive amount of money very quickly, damaging not only your business’s future but its reputation in the eyes of the public, as well.

Best Practices For Building Your Incident Response Plan

As we have seen, it is much wiser to have a proactive response at the ready, than having to deal with a cybersecurity threat without proper planning.

And having a good incident response plan lies at the center of best business cybersecurity practices, which includes the following ways to ensure your plan and team are ready.

1

Set Up An Incident Response Team

Establishing a team to deal specifically with incident responses is key. Each member needs to know and be comfortable with their role, which means training can be in order. Alternatively, you can outsource to an external team of experts who specialize in such responses and mitigating disasters.
2

Threat Analysis

Figure out what comprises a threat or attempted security attack, so that you can identify such occurrences quickly and be ready to respond before the situation gets worse. If an attack rises above this baseline, you’ll know it's time to call in reinforcements.
3

Outline Responses

Instead of wasting time deliberating on what the best course of action is, it’s important to have an updated cyber incident response plan ready for immediate steps to be taken. Prompt action is essential in a cyberattack.
4

Procedures For Outside Communication

A cybersecurity incident does not just affect you— the customers, partners, and even investors of your business are all influenced by the event. So, make sure you have appropriate information measures in place to keep everyone else updated with the breach and subsequent security measures, too, for total transparency.
5

Training

Employee training shouldn’t just be a one-time thing— make sure your staff stays sharp and ready for another cybersecurity threat. And if you alter your incident response checklist, re-train employees on the changes and how to implement them.
6

Testing

Running drills and practice tests of various cyberattacks is a wise idea, and will help your staff to rehearse their roles, and test out new security measures, such as enhanced firewalls, better user authentication, and other safeguards for your business.

Conclusion

Now that we have gone over the absolute and critical importance of maintaining your data’s integrity, and the best method in which to do so, it’s time to assess your own business. Do you have a cybersecurity incident response plan? And if so, does it need to be updated?

Do you have a cybersecurity incident response plan?Do you have a cybersecurity incident response plan?Do you have a cybersecurity incident response plan?Do you have a cybersecurity incident response plan?Do you have a cybersecurity incident response plan?
does it need to be updated?
does it need to be updated?
does it need to be updated?
does it need to be updated?

And having a good incident response plan lies at the center of best business cybersecurity practices, which includes the following ways to ensure your plan and team are ready.