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Breaking down what incident response means for your business

Incident response team



The Need for An Incident Response Plan

In today’s world, Cyber-attacks are becoming the norm – no business or corporation is immune to them.  It seems that no matter what an entity does to fortify its defense perimeters, the hacker will find a way to circumvent it and inflict as much damage as possible.  There are no geographical or industrial constraints, anything is fair game.

Consider the following statistics:

  • A major security vulnerability was discovered in Cloudflare. This was a buffer overflow weakness, which resulted in the compromise of private information of end users from 3,400 websites – including Uber.
  • Edmondo is an organization that specializes in educational technology based in California. They were the victim of a Cyber-attack that resulted in in the compromise of 77 million end user accounts. The information in these user accounts was on sale for $1,000 each on the “Dark Web.”
  • McDelivery is the mobile app for the McDonald’s franchise in India. Because of a vulnerability in its public API, Cyber attackers were able to hijack the private information of over 2.2 million customers, which included e-mail addresses, phone numbers, social media profiles, and even residential addresses.
  • Melbourne IT, an Australian based Internet Services Provider, was the victim of a major Distributed Denial Service (DDoS) attack. Their servers went down for 1.5 hours, afflicting services such as e-mail, web hosting, and control panel access.
  • The E-Sports Entertainment Association League is a video gaming company based out of Germany. They were the victim of a Cyber-attack, which resulted in the compromise of at least 1.5 million end user accounts.
  • Cellebrite, a major forensics firm based out of Israel, was victim of a major security breach in which 900 GB of customer data was covertly hijacked.

The Incident Response Process

The unfortunate truth is that many cyber-attacks are so stealthy that they often go unnoticed for a long period of time.  This is where Incident Response (IR) becomes absolutely critical.

Incident Response is defined as “The process by which an organization handles a data breach or cyberattack, including the way the organization attempts to manage the consequences of the attack or the breach.  The goal is to effectively manage the incident so that the damage is limited in recovery time, costs, and brand reputation.”

It is crucial to respond to an incident as soon as it has been discovered.  The above definition states that a process must be used, but it must be orderly.

The IR process must detail how to handle just about any type of cyber-attack.  It must be viewed as an emergency plan in order to increase the chances a business entity will be able to resume normal operations quickly and efficiently.

Here are a few steps that should be taken when responding to an incident:

  1. Identify the incident
  2. Respond to the incident in a timely manner
  3. Assess/analyze the severity of the incident
  4. Notify the relevant parties about the incident
  5. Take appropriate measures to protect sensitive data
  6. Prepare for quick business recovery in the wake of the damage caused

The Need for Early Detection and Time to Respond

When an organization is hit by a cyber-attack, the IT staff obviously needs to respond as quickly as possible to the incident.  Any wasted time will translate into more downtime in the end, which will mean lost revenue, damage to brand recognition and, worst of all; lost customers.

There are numerous benefits to responding as quickly as possible to a Security incident:

  • Downtime will be minimized.
  • Quick response to a cyber-attack and immediate notification of customers could, in the long run, win new business.
  • Showing your insurance agent that you responded quickly to an incident will not only mean that you will receive your claim payment quicker, but you could also receive policy discounts in the future.
  • Timely response to any kind of security breach allows for a thorough investigation to follow in an expedient fashion.
  • Responding quickly to a cyber-attack will create a proactive security mindset among the employees in any organization, large or small.

The following matrix illustrates who should be involved in responding to an incident:

Team Leader Responsible for the overall incident response. Will coordinate the necessary actions that need to take place.
Incident Lead Responsible for coordinating the actual response.
IT Contact Responsible for communication between the Incident Lead and other members of the IT staff.
Legal Representative Responsible for leading the legal aspects of the incident response.
Public Relations Officer Responsible for protecting and promoting the image of the business entity during an incident response.
Management Team Responsible for approving and directing security policy during an incident response.

Another very critical aspect of IR is having an established line of communication among all the people listed in the matrix.  With this, messages can be transmitted very quickly and efficiently.  This topic will be reviewed in a future bog.

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