Incident Response

What is Incident Response?

Incident response can be defined as a method for responding to a security breach or attack. The intended outcome of incident response is to minimize damage while also reducing recovery time and costs. An incident response plan is a step-by-step process that is carried out after a security incident occurs. As a result, an incident response plan must specifically define the terms of what the organization considers to be a security incident – this definition will vary from organization to organization. Examples of security incidents that can require incident response include attempts at gaining unauthorized access to data or systems, disruption or denial of service attacks, malware infections, and unauthorized use of systems to manipulate data. In addition, unauthorized changes to a system’s hardware, firmware, or software can also be considered a security incident requiring response.


What is a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)?

Computer security incident response teams are groups that analyze reports of security breaches and manage the incident response process. Computer security incident response teams can be formally established or can be put together when an incident arises. Of course, the more organized an incident response team is prior to an incident, the more efficient their response can be; the same goes for incident response plans themselves.


There are many different types of computer security incident response teams. Internal computer security incident response teams are composed to serve a parent organization such as the government or a corporation. National computer security incident response teams provide incident response services to an entire country. External computer security incident response teams provide paid incident response services when needed. Other types of computer security incident response teams include coordination centers, analysis centers, vendor teams, and incident response providers. Aside from computer security incident response teams, there are also various cyber incident response and data incident response software/tools available for organizations to use.


Benefits of Incident Response Plans

An effective incident response plan improves the decision making of the organization. Having standardized procedures for incident response allows for decisions to be made quickly and effectively, which is critical following an attack or compromise. Effective incident response plans also improve internal and external coordination. Internal coordination is improved because incident response planning aligns all of an organization’s business functions around critical security issues. Externally, incident response plans help to maintain relationships with third parties, which can be critical to the organization’s success in addressing a security incident.


Incident response plans establish distinct roles and responsibilities across the organization. This makes the organization’s internal response activities flow much more fluently and efficiently. Moreover, incident response plans enable organizations to act immediately after an incident is noticed and limit the damage from incidents that occur.


Shortcomings of Incident Response Plans

Although incident response plans bring the benefits of strategic and coordinated threat response, if not properly designed or implemented, incident response plans can be ineffective. Additionally, incident response plans that are outdated or too generic will not serve companies well when a security incident occurs. Another shortfall organizations can face in incident response planning is when a plan is developed following a siloed approach – that is, the incident response plan is too concentrated within a small portion of the company, leaving other business units in the dark. Exclusive incident response plans may be an option to defend against highly targeted attacks, but they also leave organizations susceptible to incidents that affect other business units. Finally, incident response plans can easily become ineffective when organizations fail to allocate human resources effectively to align stakeholders with their appropriate roles in security incident response.


Ultimately, in order to be effective, incident response must be well-planned and updated continuously to address new threats and risks facing the organization as well as new laws regarding cyber security. When developed and executed properly, cyber security incident response brings countless benefits to the victim organization – including damage control, reduced mitigation costs, improved response times, and minimized brand damage.

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