5 Cybersecurity Incident Response Steps You Need to Know

Cybersecurity Incident Response

Networking and cloud computing have become essential workflows for most organizations.

Unfortunately, as their adoption has increased, so have the risks associated with cyberattacks and data breaches. Many businesses have already learned this lesson hard, but the crisis is not inevitable. Identifying and implementing the proper incident response steps can ensure that disruption remains an inconvenience, not a disaster.

We see headlines about network penetrations nearly every day, highlighting the ever-evolving nature of data security. Malicious and criminal intrusions can happen to businesses of all sizes, and global crisis only exacerbates the risk. Experts say cybercrime has increased by as much as 30,000% during the coronavirus pandemic.

Did You Know?
  • EasyJet is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit over a breach that compromised the data of at least 9 million customers
  • 8 million Home Chef customers had their private data accessed in a recent breach
  • More than 15 billion records were exposed by data breaches in 2019
13 Best Practices for Information Security

You should consider two fundamental areas when planning information security incident response steps: proactive and reactive. You’re most likely already taking some steps toward protecting your organization from the possibility of a breach, but have you planned what to do to remain operable and minimize damages if your network or data storage is compromised?

In this post, we’ll explore what you need to consider when developing incident response steps.
Incident Response Prepare

Be Prepared

The proper preparation can minimize damage and disruption to your business — and stress for you and your team. Experiencing a breach is always disruptive, but fumbling the response can be disastrous. The best way to reduce the chance of having to employ your response strategy is to work proactively to protect against breaches.

Implementing a strategy for cybersecurity incident response steps is essential. Identify and test policies, processes, and infrastructure for threats and vulnerabilities to understand what areas need improvement. But being prepared for an incident can also include training staff about their roles and responsibilities in protecting your company and regularly reviewing your plan and the protections you have to ensure they’re up to date.

Develop Steps for Incident Response

Incident response plans are invaluable measures that every organization should have in place because — let’s face it — controls can fail. Incidents (however minor) are more likely than not to occur. However, the proper incident response steps can minimize the damage.

Below, we’ll discuss five steps that will help protect your organization. Use them to develop your response plan, compare them to your existing incident response strategy, and ask yourself: Is my business ready?

Step 1: Detection and Identification

When an incident occurs, it’s essential to determine its nature. Begin documenting your response as you identify what aspects of your system have been compromised and the potential damage. This step is contingent on monitoring your network and systems to flag any irregularities immediately. Once you’ve detected an incident, you’ll need to determine:

  • Type: Is it data theft, a network attack, or a combination of threats?
  • Severity: Will this disrupt internal systems? Front-end services? Has any client or business-critical information been compromised or lost?
  • Other impacts: Has the incident put you in violation of standards or contracts?

Step 2: Containment

A quick response is critical to mitigating the impact of an incident. At this stage in your incident response steps, time is of the essence. Your preparations should ensure you have the right tools and skills to handle the task. Your actions here should include:

  • Steps to contain the breach in the short term — shutting down programs or systems and disconnecting from networks
  • Measures to contain the breach and prevent future breaches in the long term — updating protections as needed, reviewing and strengthening access credentials as necessary
  • Identification and quarantine of any malware discovered
  • Identification and removal of any personnel involved

Step 3: Remediation

The next move in your cybersecurity incident response steps is to eliminate whatever caused the breach and start working on repairing the damage. At this point, you should also take disciplinary action against any internal staff found to have contributed to the incident.
  • Ensure all artifacts of the incident have been fully removed from your system
  • Repair or update systems as needed
  • Check that all software patches are current and protections strengthened
  • Ensure backups are in place and functioning properly
Incident Response Recovery

Step 4: Recovery

Once you’ve determined that the threat has been eliminated and the damage repaired, you can start to get things up and running again. Caution is vital at this stage of your incident recovery steps. Continuous monitoring is critical to ensure that the incident has been fully resolved and that you’ve detected no further potential threats. Restore your systems from backup and resume operations. 

Now is also the time to repair any damage to your brand due to the incident. A proactive, transparent response will help show clients that you take their experience seriously.

  • Test all systems for remaining or new vulnerabilities caused by the breach or the remediation process

Step 5: Assessment

Compile a report of the incident using the documentation of each step you took in your response. This will help ensure similar events do not happen again in the future. Some questions that can help in your assessment (and future preparations) include:

  • What happened?
  • How was the system breached?
  • What preventive measures have been taken/are needed?
  • Are more changes needed to secure your systems?
  • Who needs to be included in changes or new prevention strategies?
13 Best Practices for Information Security

Need Help With Cybersecurity Incident Response Steps?

When securing and protecting your business, preparing practical incident response steps can dramatically reduce your organization’s risk of disruption or loss. Don’t be surprised by an unexpected network security incident. If you need help creating or strengthening your cybersecurity incident response plan, contact one of AISN’s experts today.