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What is Incident Response in Cybersecurity?

What is incident response in cyber security

Cyber threats are an ever-present danger in today’s interconnected digital world. They can strike at any time, causing significant damage to organizations of all sizes. From data breaches and ransomware attacks to phishing scams, the landscape of cybersecurity is constantly evolving, making it essential for businesses to be prepared for any eventuality. This is where incident response comes into play.

Incident response is a critical aspect of cybersecurity. It involves a structured approach to addressing and managing the aftermath of a security breach or cyber attack.

As an aspiring cybersecurity professional, understanding the intricacies of incident response is crucial to your career. Organizations need dedicated experts proficient in all facets of cybersecurity who possess the foresight to plan and implement effective cybersecurity incident response strategies.

In this blog, we’ll delve into incident response fundamentals, exploring what it entails, why it’s vital for organizations, and how you can develop the skills needed to create effective incident response plans. For those interested in further learning, we’ll recommend an industry-recognized cybersecurity bootcamp as the next step.

Understanding Cybersecurity Incident Response

Cybersecurity incident response is the plan of action devised by an organization to address malicious attacks and prevent them from damaging the systems. The plan of action is an organized sequence of steps that defines how to tackle the various types of cyberattacks. Such an incident response is crucial to avoid wasting time before responding to a breach and protect the systems with zero or minimal damage. It includes proactively identifying the cyber threats and implementing the plan automatically or manually. In short, an incident response works as a handbook for the IT security personnel to detect and prevent cyberattacks.

For example, suppose some employees have received a phishing email disguised as an official email. If any of them click a link, malware enters the system and blocks their data. In such a case, the IT personnel remove the malware and take extra measures to block future phishing emails from entering the system. The emails may be flagged with a warning to readers not to click on unknown links.

Also Read: The Essential Guide to Endpoint Security and Protections

What are Security Incidents?

Security incidents are occurrences of data breach or compromise due to insufficient, missing, or unsuccessful security measures. They are larger than single incidents and are usually spread throughout the organization, disrupting business operations. A security incident is serious regarding its effect on the organization and its regular operations. WikiLeaks is a prime example of a security incident in which a large amount of data from several departments of an organization was released into the public domain.

Types of Cybersecurity Incidents

Advances in technology bring new breeds of threats and malicious attacks. Here are some of the most pestering cybersecurity problems of our era.

  • Ransomware: It’s a malicious attack that releases malware and locks crucial data or files. Victims must pay a substantial amount to release their data or prevent it from being released to the public.
  • Phishing: It’s an attack in which emails are sent to official business emails, and the receiver is asked to click links to access certain websites or change their credentials. These emails are disguised as being sent from the organization. The attacker can access the receiver’s business accounts and data when the receiver clicks the link or changes the credentials.
  • Unauthorized access: Several systems do not use multi-factor authentication (MFA) as a security measure. As a result, they are prone to being hacked and accessed by nefarious elements. The attack provides access to the sensitive information on the system, more so if it’s a global organization utilizing cloud-based data centers for their international operations.
  • Supply chain attacks: Organizations that use agile software development to accelerate their software development process utilize third-party codes. Any attack on third-party organizations and their codes can also expose the customer organizations. This results not only in multiple organizations becoming vulnerable but also has a substantial effect on the software development timelines.
  • Web application attacks: The globalization of operations and regular updates result in some web applications. Usually, the ones rarely used fall through the cracks. These applications do not have sufficient protective measures and lack MFA deployment. The passwords may be unchanged for long, making it easier for hackers to crack them. Such web applications are vulnerable to attacks due to a lack of appropriate incident response.

Also Read: What is Threat Intelligence? Definition, Types, Importance, and More

Why Cybersecurity Incident Response Planning Is Important

Cyber attacks have become more sophisticated and frequent than ever. Without a proactive approach, businesses can suffer severe revenue and reputation losses. Almost 38.9 percent of enterprises that have experienced a cyber crime have lost customers and brand reputation. For example, US credit reporting company Equifax had to pay a penalty of over $1 billion after a massive breach in 2017 exposed the personal data of about 150 million consumers.

In short, incident response plans are a necessity.

Let’s look at the major reasons organizations must invest in developing an incident response plan.

  • Almost 56 percent of businesses agree they faced a disruption in regular business operations and a substantial revenue loss due to a sensitive information breach incident. Incident response planning helps predict and prevent the severity of such an attack.
  • It improves threat detection mechanisms, employees’ awareness of threats, and the correct steps to take in the event of an attack.
  • A response plan helps anticipate a potential cyber attack and limit the magnitude of damages that might be caused by it.
  • It streamlines the communication between IT and other departments in the organization.
  • It makes the organizational systems more resilient to any possible attack, with the technological measures in place and the employees aware of the correct steps to tackle it.
  • It enables organizations to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements. This is crucial as noncompliance with legal requirements can result in heavy fines from the regulatory body. For instance, Meta Platforms Inc. was fined €1200 million in January 2024 for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) violations.

How Cybersecurity Incident Response in Works

Incident response works by an efficient implementation of an incident response plan.

The main principle is identifying, containing, stabilizing, and recovering the systems. Incident response requires up-to-date technology to alert the response team, which jumps into action by starting with the most critically affected parts. The team works on containing the incident while enabling some parts of the business to continue normal operations.

Thus, an incident response works to an optimum level when the plan is followed by a knowledgeable team.

Incident Response Tools and Technologies

Cybersecurity incident response can be handled using various tools and technologies, each with specific capabilities for the type and complexity of the incident. Here are the major tools you must be aware of as a cybersecurity professional.

  • Endpoint security tools that protect endpoint devices like mobile phones, desktops, laptops, servers, printers, medical devices, scanners, IoT devices, and robots work as access points to the organization’s systems.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools analyze security events and real-time incident alerts from antivirus systems, firewalls, and devices. They conduct data mining and analysis and use advanced techniques to create alerts based on trends and predefined rules.
  • Incident Response Service Providers are a suite of services that assess an organization’s preparedness to respond to and recover from security incidents and provide optimum solutions for incident response planning.
  • Threat /intelligence platforms that gather data from sources like hacker groups, social media, online platforms, and the dark web provide organizations with the most updated list of possible threats, malicious elements, and risks.
  • Vulnerability scanner tools scan an organization’s systems for security vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement. They recommend the actions depending on the severity of the issues and may offer patch management functionalities.

Steps of an Incident Response Plan

A cybersecurity incident response plan is a sequence of steps required to be followed to address the issues efficiently.

Step 1: Preparation of the incident response plan

The process begins by preparing an incident response plan. Here, you must differentiate between the various cyberattacks and prepare separate plans for each.

The plan must include the administrative steps at the beginning and end of the response, the policy, strategy, roles and responsibilities, objectives, and the essential phases of the reaction. It should be communicated to the appropriate persons and be accessible. The tools required for the response must be stored in a ‘jump bag’ accessible to the response team, which must be trained with regular drills.

Step 2: Identification of the incident

In the second step, identifying the occurrence and type of incidents is crucial. Log files and error messages are sourced from firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and security programs. A legitimate incident must be reported to the response team immediately, who can begin working on evidence collection and solving the issue.

Step 3: Containment

After identifying the incident, affected parts of the system are isolated, and any further operations are prevented until the incident is remedied. Short-term containment involves stopping the production servers and routing the traffic to alternative servers. The affected system is backed up using forensic software to preserve the incident occurrences and conduct a post-mortem analysis. Further, long-term containment is performed wherein the systems are recovered temporarily to allow regular operations till the effect of the incident is completely removed.

Step 4: Eradication

This step entails eliminating the malware from the systems and restoring them to their optimum status. You must ensure appropriate documentation detailing the severity and type of malware and the steps used for the elimination and restoration. The documentation helps plan future attacks and strengthen the system’s security.

Step 5: Recovery

In this step, the systems are brought back into operation on an organizational scale. They are tested to ensure that the modifications are working. They are monitored and validated, and the relevant details are recorded as documentation.

Step 6: Learning

Finally, all the details of the security incident are documented in a report and communicated to the relevant personnel. The learnings from the security incident are sufficiently integrated into the system and will be added to future training modules.

Also Read: What is IoT Security? Explanation, Importance, Types, and More

Learn Essential Skills to Boost Your Career in Cybersecurity

A cybersecurity incident response plan is critical for all organizations. Hence, aspiring cybersecurity professionals must attempt to learn the fundamentals and practical application of the concepts that can help them draft and implement an excellent incident response.

A good cybersecurity program is a comprehensive course that teaches you how to develop a security mentality, confidentiality, integrity, availability (CIA) triad, penetration testing, red-blue teams, and potential security concerns. Enrolling in this program offers an opportunity to work with industry experts on Capstone projects and hone critical skills such as incident management, threat analysis, Burp Suite, and Metasploit Cyber, to name a few.

You might also like to read:

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