6 Guidelines for Establishing a Robust Cyber Security Incident Response System

Cyber Security Incident Response System (CSIRS)
Cyber Security Incident Response System (CSIRS)

A few CCTV cameras and a lock on the door. These used to be the only security measures an organization had to take to keep their business safe. Alas, those days are long gone. Now, having a Cyber Security Incident Response System (CSIRS) in place is critical.

The internet is playing a bigger and bigger role in business. This means organizations become more and more vulnerable to cyber threats. Today’s digital landscape poses myriad cyber threats to organizations, and an incident is almost inevitable. A cyber incident disrupts operations, compromises sensitive data, and loses customers’ trust. Ultimately, they affect the bottom lines.

That’s why you need a plan in place for the worst-case scenario.

In this article, you’ll find a guide to establishing and maintaining a resilient CSIRS. You’ll learn how to mitigate the impact of security incidents and protect digital assets. First, let's catch you up on the basics.

What is a Cyber Security Incident Response System?

A CSIRS is a framework that outlines what to do when a cyber incident occurs and whose responsibility it is to do it. It’s how businesses ensure they've dealt with every aspect of an incident.

It should include guidelines on how to prepare for threats, identify them, and contain them. It then needs to cover how to eradicate the threat, recover, and analyze it after the fact. It should also cover whose responsibility it is to take these steps.

Why is a Cyber Security Incident Response System so important?

Because cyber attacks are growing more and more prevalent, Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that by 2025, the financial damage of global cybercrime will reach $10.5 trillion. So, it's naive to think they won't affect your business at some point.

What’s more, the nature of cyber attacks is always evolving. Hackers are developing more advanced malware, convincing financial scams, and, worst of all, they are growing in numbers due to the increased accessibility of malware programs available on the dark web.

So, a CSIRS is now crucial to safeguard your business. They are how you can manage and mitigate the impact of cyber incidents. They’ll help you detect and respond to security breaches and minimize damage. Then, they'll help restore normal operations and protect sensitive data.

Without one, you risk prolonged downtime and financial costs. You also leave yourself vulnerable to the loss of sensitive data and damage to your reputation. The reputational damage a data breach could cause a small business could even be enough to force them to buy a hk domain name and reboot their business in Hong Kong!

Types of cyber security incidents

Cyber security incidents is an umbrella term. It describes a range of activities and events that target digital systems. Awareness of the different threats is essential to protect your business adequately.

Broadly speaking, the incidents you need to be aware of can be categorized thus:

  • Data Breaches - unauthorized access to sensitive information, potentially resulting in its exposure, theft, or sale on the dark web.
  • Malware Attacks - malicious software, such as viruses, worms, trojans, and ransomware. They're deployed to compromise systems and steal data or demand payment.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering Tactics - scams tricking individuals into revealing confidential information.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) - planned attacks that overwhelm systems with traffic, disrupting availability.
  • Insider Threats - employees or contractors misusing their access privileges to cause harm, steal data, or sabotage systems.
  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) - complex and targeted attacks that persistently breach a network to gather sensitive information.
  • Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts a victim's data and demands a ransom payment for release.

Putting together a cyber security incident response team

Ultimately, even the best-made plan will fall apart without a dedicated team to execute it. That's why an essential part of a CSIRS is assigning the staff members to take responsibility for it.

Obviously, the specific composition of the team will vary based on many factors. Typically, though, a cyber security incident response team should include:

  • Incident Response Manager - oversees the entire incident response process. An effective manager will coordinate team activities and make critical decisions.
  • Technical Experts - cyber security analysts, IT professionals, and network engineers. They investigate the incident, assess its scope, and implement technical solutions.
  • Communication Liaison - communicates with internal stakeholders, external partners, clients, and the public. They're responsible for managing information flow during the incident.
  • Legal Counsel - guides legal implications, regulatory compliance, and legal actions.
  • Forensics Experts - conduct digital forensics to identify the incident's root cause. They also help preserve evidence and support potential legal actions.
  • Public Relations/Communications Specialist - communicates with media and maintains the organization's reputation.
  • Human Resources Representative - addresses employee concerns and ensures adherence to company policies.
  • Senior Management Representative - keeps upper management informed and facilitates decision-making.
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The 6 stages of a cyber security incident response plan

A well-structured incident response plan is the backbone of your CSIRS. It should define roles, establish communication channels, and outline step-by-step procedures.

The plan should be comprehensive yet adaptable to accommodate emerging threats. Different organizations will likely have quite different incident response plans and approaches to cybersecurity. However, any effective incident response will cover these six vital stages:

1. Preparation

Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail! Preparation is the stage you are currently at. It's when you put the structure of your CSRIS in place.

The most important part of this stage is identifying the data that needs the most protection. Then it is critical to optimize the way you manage this data. If you can do this, you could even prevent an incident from occurring in the first place.

For instance, a law firm might identify its legal documents as its most critical assets. They would then look for ways to handle these sensitive assets better - by employing legal document management tools from Assembly Software, to help keep their documents confidential and secure.

Better management of their data will help with identifying and containing incidents. Moreover, such software comes with its own security measures. So, it further bolsters your defense against cyber attacks.

2. Preparation Stage Checklist

  • Develop an incident response plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, and procedures
  • Identify critical assets, systems, and data that require protection
  • Establish incident response teams and designate team members' roles
  • Set up communication channels for internal and external notifications
  • Ensure necessary tools and resources are available for investigation and containment

3. Identification

Having an adequate setup is paramount to the ability to identify that an incident has occurred. You’ll identify the incident with a proper setup by an alert from your Intrusion Detection System (IDS) or Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system. At this point, you’ll deploy the software’s inbuilt solutions.

The identification of an incident must be fast but also thorough. You need to identify not just the threat but the extent of its impact. To this end, it's important to identify the extent of the breach in terms of criticality and sensitivity and the systems involved.

4. Identification Stage Checklist

  • Monitor network and systems to detect unusual or suspicious activities.
  • Deploy IDS (Intrusion Detection System) and SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) solutions.
  • Identify potential indicators of compromise (IoCs) and anomalous behavior.
  • Use threat intelligence sources to stay updated on emerging threats.

Containment aims to stem the threat and prevent further damage. You want to ensure that the incident doesn't reach other systems as you find the solution to the incident.

This stage will need different actions to be taken depending on the particular threat. You can block the attackers in your firewall and change your passwords. You may have to cut off connectivity to affected systems and turn them offline.

It is pivotal that you ensure the threat is fully contained and there are no other data or assets at risk before eradicating the threat.

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5. Containment Stage Checklist

  • Isolate affected systems or networks to prevent further spread of the incident
  • Disable compromised accounts and remove malicious files
  • Implement access controls to limit unauthorized access
  • Collect and preserve evidence for analysis and potential legal actions

6. Eradication

Now, knowing that the incident is contained, you can take your time to eliminate all presence of the threat from your IT infrastructure. This can be one of the most complex stages in the incident response process.

Crucially, it requires forensic analysis to determine the extent of the presence of the threat actor. This means tracing the incident back to its root cause so you can eliminate all vulnerabilities. It also means ensuring you have identified all the attacker's artifacts so that you can fully disarm them.

Again, proper preparation can help with this stage hugely. If you keep regular backups of all your most critical systems, eradicating the incident might be as simple as restoring from the most recent.

In this case, it's important to remember that any changes and reconfiguration you implemented as part of your containment will be undone. So, you may reexpose yourself to a threat.

Eradication Stage Checklist

  • Identify the root cause of the incident and eliminate vulnerabilities
  • Apply patches, updates, or fixes to prevent the same attack vector from being exploited
  • Remove malware and backdoors from affected systems
  • Conduct a thorough security assessment to ensure all traces of the attack are removed

Final Recovery Stages of Cyberterrorism

In this stage, you want to return fully to normal operations of the affected systems. Getting up and running again as quickly as possible is important to mitigate the monetary loss related to the downtime of the infected system.

You will have applied the necessary patches and updates to software and systems and addressed the initial vulnerabilities that were exploited during the eradication phase. A critical part of the recovery stage is to thoroughly test the restored systems and validate the integrity of your security.

Another important aspect of this stage is endeavoring to recover the potential loss of trust from customers and stakeholders. You may want to consider a press release or public announcement of the incident's resolution and the recovery process's state.

Recovery Stage Checklist

  • Restore systems, applications, and data to normal operation.
  • Validate the integrity of restored data from backups.
  • Monitor systems closely after recovery to ensure no residual threats exist.
  • Communicate with stakeholders about the status of recovery efforts.

Identify & Log Lessons Learned

This is one of the most essential stages but one of the easiest to overlook or rush over. This is where your business actually stands to benefit from an incident. You can apply the knowledge gained from the incidents to other aspects of your cyber security and bolster defenses for the future.

So, conduct a thorough analysis of the incident after the fact. Cover the initial vulnerabilities that caused the incident and how your incident response plan performed. Then, update incident response and security measures accordingly.

Critically, this stage shows customers and stakeholders that they can trust you not to fall foul of a similar incident.

Lessons Learned Stage Checklist

  • Conduct a post-incident analysis to understand the incident's scope and impact
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of the incident response process
  • Document lessons learned, recommendations, and improvements for future incidents
  • Update incident response plans, playbooks, and security measures based on the analysis
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Get your cyber security incident response system today!

A robust Cyber Security Incident Response System is necessary for a digital landscape fraught with cyber risks. More than this, it's a strategic advantage.

By following the guidelines in this blog, organizations can handle cyber incidents and minimize damage. This means they can secure their data and their reputation. Remember, the key to success lies in proactive planning and continuous improvement.