As digital technology advances, the cybersecurity threat landscape is becoming increasingly complex and dynamic.
Six out of every ten companies in the Americas experienced a cyber incident leading to economic loss in 2021, and the number of global cyberattack attempts continues to rise. In light of these challenges, organizations must accept that cybersecurity incidents are not a matter of if, but when.
It follows that the best way to protect your business is to plan for the likely event of a cyber incident. As we say at Mirai Security, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
WHAT IS INCIDENT RESPONSE IN CYBERSECURITY?
Incident response (IR) is a critical aspect of cybersecurity that involves identifying, containing, and mitigating the impact of security breaches and cyber attacks. It is an organized approach to dealing with suspected and legitimate cybersecurity incidents, as well as their aftermath.
In this article, you will learn about the types of incidents that necessitate a deft response, such as compromises, data breaches, and ransomware. You will also learn about the incident response process, how your organization can prepare for a cybersecurity incident, and what career opportunities are available in IR.
WHAT IS A SECURITY COMPROMISE?
A security compromise refers to a situation in which someone gains unauthorized access to an account, system, or network. For example, an employee's email may become compromised if they sign in to a public or shared device and another user gains access to the account.
Compromises are a significant threat because they enable intruders to carry out malicious activities, such as stealing sensitive data, installing malware, or disrupting business operations.
Detecting and responding to compromises is a critical aspect of incident response, as it allows organizations to minimize the damage caused by unauthorized access before the situation escalates.
WHAT IS A DATA BREACH?
Data breaches occur when data containing sensitive information, such as personal or financial details, are accessed or stolen by unauthorized individuals or organizations.
While the repercussions of a data breach can vary depending on the specific incident and the information accessed, here are some potential consequences:
Financial Loss: Data breaches can result in financial loss due to costs associated with the incident, such as legal fees, regulatory fines, and customer compensation.
Reputational Damage: A data breach can harm an organization's reputation and credibility, leading to a loss of customer trust and potential long-term business consequences.
Legal Liabilities: Organizations may be held liable for data breaches and face legal action from affected individuals or regulatory bodies.
Loss of Confidentiality: Confidential or sensitive information can be accessed or stolen in a data breach, leading to potential loss of privacy for affected parties such as customers, employees, and suppliers.
Loss of Competitive Advantage: The loss of sensitive data can also dull or eliminate a company's competitive edge, particularly if it compromises the organization's trade secrets or intellectual property.
The negative effects of a data breach can be long-term and may lead to increased regulatory scrutiny of the organization. Further, regulatory fines are not limited to corporate entities: they may also extend to individuals such as chief executives and members of the board.
It’s worth noting that data breaches tend to receive significant media coverage, particularly when they affect prominent companies holding vast amounts of personal data. This can create a perception that data breaches are the most prevalent type of cybersecurity incident. However, there are numerous other types of cybersecurity incidents that can occur, so having a comprehensive incident response plan that addresses various incident types, and not just data breaches, is vital.
WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a target's files and demands a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key. It is the most pervasive cyber threat across businesses of all sizes, with more than 70% of companies victimized by ransomware in 2022.
These attacks can be particularly devastating for businesses. The aftermath of a successful ransomware attack can range from lost revenues and reputational damage to fines, lawsuits, loss of intellectual property and competitive edge, or a complete shutdown of business operations.
Make no mistake, ransomware is an emergency.
It's like your house is on fire. And whether your house is actually on fire or you're dealing with ransomware, times of crisis are when you should be following a plan, not making one. In the case of ransomware, you can protect your business and minimize the damage by developing an incident response plan before you need it.
Proactive cybersecurity is like having sprinklers, extinguishers, and a fire escape plan at the ready — it's much better than running around with your hair on fire.
OTHER TYPES OF MALWARE
Malware, also known as malicious software, refers to any program created to cause harm to a computer system. There are several other types of malware besides ransomware, each with their own characteristics and intended purpose:
Viruses: A virus attaches itself to a legitimate program and replicates, spreading to other computers.
Worms: Worms can spread to other computers without the need for a host program.
Trojans: A trojan disguises itself as a legitimate program. Once executed, attackers can gain unauthorized access to a computer system.
Adware: Adware is a type of malware that displays unwanted ads and pop-ups on a computer.
Spyware: Spyware is designed to collect sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers, from a victim's computer.
Info-stealers: Info-stealers hide in infected computers and harvest data containing sensitive information, such as login credentials, to send to the attacker.
Malware is spread through various means, including email attachments, malicious websites, and software vulnerabilities. It's important to be aware of the different types of malware and take steps to protect against them, such as by updating your antivirus software and promoting cybersecurity awareness throughout your personal and professional networks.
WHY DEVELOP AN INCIDENT RESPONSE PLAN?
To manage cyber incidents effectively and mitigate their impact, it’s essential to follow an established incident response process. Adhering to a proven process ensures that the appropriate steps are taken quickly to minimize damage and restore operations. To achieve this, you should create an incident response plan for your organization.
Incident response plans help ensure that all incidents are handled in a consistent and effective manner. They also define clear lines of communication between relevant parties such as incident response service providers, law enforcement agencies, and the privacy commissioner.
Further, many cybersecurity compliance frameworks require organizations to document an incident response plan. You will need to make one if you plan to attain SOC 2 or ISO 27001 certification, for example.
Lastly, an IR plan will guide you through fulfilling your mandatory incident reporting. Notably, the SEC requires disclosure no more than four days after the determination of a material cybersecurity incident. That is not a lot of time for an organization to make decisions with potentially-severe legal and reputational consequences, but they are made much easier by following a plan.
THE INCIDENT RESPONSE PROCESS
In the event of a cybersecurity incident, Mirai Security employs the following incident response process:
1) Initial Assessment: We gather information from the client's team and assess the impact on business operations. We also evaluate any privacy concerns and recommend notifying the privacy commissioner if necessary.
2) Detection & Analysis: We provision and deploy tools to gather data for our analysis. We then analyze the situation while continuing to monitor for active threats.
3) Containment, Eradication & Recovery: We work with the client's team to contain and eradicate the threat. If needed, we return to the Detection & Analysis stage for more information.
4) Reporting & Post-Incident Activities: After containing and eliminating the threat, we analyze the potential root cause to inform our recovery approach. Finally, we deliver a post-incident report and debrief the client.
During the debrief, we review the sequence of events and provide recommendations to reduce the risk of future incidents. These recommendations relate to incident response preparedness and how the organization can improve its security posture before suffering another attack.
During a cyber incident, a few hours could mean the difference between a swift recovery and a complete shutdown of business operations. When your organization is under attack, don't waste precious time looking for the right security partner. Ask us about our Zero Down Incident Response Retainer today!
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A CYBER INCIDENT
In cybersecurity, it's better to be proactive than reactive. To prepare for a cyber incident, you should develop an incident response plan, test your team's ability to respond, and incorporate a security awareness program into your organization. You should also retain a proven cybersecurity firm that can respond promptly when needed, and purchase cyber insurance, if available.
For example, Mirai Security offers the following incident response preparedness and security awareness services:
Incident Response Plan | Develop an incident response plan tailored to your business.
Cybersecurity Tabletop Exercise | Assess your team's incident response capabilities with an engaging cyber incident simulation.
Zero Down Incident Response Retainer | Reduce downtime, respond to threats quickly, and gain peace of mind by retaining our team of industry-certified cybersecurity professionals and incident handlers.
Security Awareness & Human Risk Management | Engage your workforce with a cybersecurity awareness program they can get excited about.
Vulnerability Management Platform | Receive clear and consistent vulnerability reporting from our experienced threat intelligence team.
Incident response preparedness is like insurance. You hope your organization won't need it, but you'll be grateful to have it if targeted. In crisis situations, even experienced IT and security professionals will seldom rise to the occasion. Instead, they will fall to their level of training.
Still, risk mitigation is not the only reason to develop your organization’s incident response capabilities. Business customers are more inclined to trust vendors that proactively implement measures to safeguard their business and data from cyber attacks, including ransomware. Further, incident response preparedness activities help organizations gain clarity and confidence surrounding their cybersecurity posture, which directly relates to enterprise risk management.
It is also important to note that cybersecurity is not the same as IT. These are separate disciplines that should work together to support your business goals. And while many companies assume incident response services are provided by their IT MSP, they often aren't — and shouldn't be. To prepare your organization for the likely event of a cyber incident, you must engage in cybersecurity-focused incident response preparedness activities.
SCHEDULE A MEETING WITH AN EXPERTMirai's focus is on delivering solutions that are matched to each organization's unique needs. Whether you are just starting your security posture, or part of a complex multi-unit enterprise looking to supplement their team with specific expertise, Mirai can help.
WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY WANT
While human error certainly plays a large part in many data breaches and ransomware attacks, these incidents don't just happen on their own. They are carried out by malicious actors, otherwise known as cyber criminals.
Cyber criminals come in many forms, including organized crime syndicates, nation-state actors, and individual hackers. Their motivations may include financial gain, political or ideological motives, or even simple mischief. To learn more about some of the most flagrant perpetrators in cyber crime, see Alex Dow's article on the who's who of cyber criminals.
CAREERS IN INCIDENT RESPONSE
Incident response is an exciting and growing field in cybersecurity. Incident responders use technical skills, knowledge of security protocols, and experience to investigate and respond to cybersecurity incidents. They deploy tools to protect against cyber threats and analyze data to determine the scope and severity of the incident. Ultimately, they seek to identify the source of an attack, mitigate its impact, and quickly return the organization to normal operations.
Visit Mirai Security's careers page to see what incident response roles are currently available.
Incident response is a critical aspect of cybersecurity, and organizations must anticipate cyber incidents and prepare accordingly. Incident response preparedness includes raising awareness of the various cyber threats and taking steps to protect against them.
Additionally, developing an incident response plan will help your organization respond quickly to incidents, minimize damage, and get operations back to normal as soon as possible. To ensure you will have access to a team of incident response professionals when needed, you may also consider an incident response retainer.
If you’d like guidance on your incident response preparedness needs from trusted cybersecurity experts, we can help.
CONTACT A CYBERSECURITY EXPERT
Mirai Security is a trusted cybersecurity partner for businesses across North America.
If you have an information security problem to solve or a challenge to discuss, we'd love to hear from you.