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How to Create an Information Security Incident Response Plan

A cybersecurity incident — is any event that violates an organization’s IT security policy and puts confidential information at risk, such as customer financial data. A detailed cyber incident response plan includes a set of instructions to help company employees identify and respond to cybersecurity incidents. Such a plan includes special measures that should be followed to prevent cyber-attacks and eliminate their consequences.

As a rule, companies try not to declare openly about the occurrence of incidents in the information security system, so as not to discredit themselves and not give additional “weapons” to competitors or criminal structures. However, some of these incidents can discredit the company in the eyes of customers or cause serious disruption to the organization. A disaster recovery plan should be established in advance so that IT staff can quickly isolate the problem and stop its spread if necessary.

Key players in the incident response process

Investigating and responding to cybersecurity incidents is a complex and complex process that requires the participation of employees of many departments of the company: HR employees, lawyers, IT system technical experts, external information security consultants, business managers, end-users of the information system, technical service support staff, security personnel, etc. Most companies create an Incident Investigation Team (CSIRT). This commission should include experts and consultants in the legal and technical fields.

Purposes of using a cybersecurity incident response plan

A response plan helps you and your team know exactly what to do in an emergency. At the same time, each employee will have a documented role and personal responsibility. You will not need to give additional instructions to your team in order not to waste valuable time.

Cyberattack preparedness check

You cannot 100% secure your network, but you can prepare your employees for various unforeseen situations. In addition to a detailed incident response plan, it is necessary to draw up instructions for quickly restoring the system to work. This way you can minimize the damage caused by the accident.

5 steps to create an optimal cybersecurity incident response plan

  1. Document the common types of security incidents.

To get started, create a document listing the potential threats to your business – it will help you prepare different strategies for responding to different types of cyber incidents.

  1. Prioritize security incidents based on their severity.

A damaged file on an employee’s laptop can be considered a lower priority than a DDoS attack, which can disable the entire site. Determine the severity of each security incident – to decide in what order to work on the problem.

  1. Create an incident response flow chart indicating the required actions.

The incident response plan will determine the steps you must take to contain the attack. Create your plan in a flowchart so your team can quickly understand which threat mitigation path to use.

  1. Test drive and train your employees.

An incident response program alone is not enough. You need to test its effectiveness by conducting simulation drills that will also train your employees in their role in managing security incidents.

  1. Update your incident response plan regularly.

Use information gathered from previous security incidents and simulation drills to identify opportunities for improvement and implement new controls for your security incident response plan (for example, be sure to look for steps that can be automated).

Key steps in the incident response process

A computer security incident is often a manifestation of a complex and multifaceted problem. 

The correct approach to solving this problem is, first of all, its decomposition into structural components and studying the input and output data of each component. The main steps in the incident response process include the following steps:

  • Prepare for the fact of the occurrence of the incident. Actions are taken to prepare the company for an incident situation (to minimize its consequences and ensure a quick recovery of the company’s performance). 
  • Formation of a Commission of Inquiry incident (CSIRT). This stage is one of the most important, it depends on the success in the investigation of a potential incident.
  • Incident detection – identification of an information security incident.
  • Priority actions — conduct an initial investigation, record the main details of the events accompanying the incident, assemble a commission of inquiry and inform those who need to know about the incident. 
  • Formulation of a response strategy. Such a strategy should be based on all known facts and determine the best way to respond to an incident. The strategy also determines what actions will be taken upon the occurrence of an incident (initiation of a civil or criminal case, administrative action), depending on the alleged causes and consequences of the incident.
  • Investigation of the incident is carried out through the collection and analysis of data. All data collected is checked about what happened, when it happened, who committed inappropriate actions, and how all this can be prevented in the future.
  • Report – a detailed report containing information obtained during the investigation. It is presented in a form that is convenient for making a decision.
  • The solution is the use of protective mechanisms and changes in information security procedures, recording the experience gained.

The investigation phase is designed to determine who, when and why we’re involved in the incident. The investigation includes checking and collecting evidence from servers, network devices, and traditional non-technical activities. It can be divided into two stages: data collection and forensic analysis. The information collected during the first phase of the investigation serves in the future to develop an incident response strategy.

Afterword

With the right approach with the participation of professionals, you can develop a full cycle of activities that will allow you to respond to information security incidents. The deeper the details of the response are worked out, the faster and more efficiently, it will be possible to cope with the incident, as well as minimize damage and obtain the necessary data for the investigation.

To prepare not only organizationally, but also technically, there are two ways: to enlist the support of specialists from specialized organizations or purposefully develop your own strong information security team, sparing no expense for employee training.

By resorting to the information security services of specialized companies, you can create an integrated secure data perimeter for all business parameters. Experts will help test the infrastructure for resistance to hacker attacks and provide expert advice on the design of internal information security policies.