Incident Response – Five Key Factors CISOs Should Consider!

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Maxim Frolov, Vice President of Global Sales, Kaspersky Lab, speaks about Incident Response, a critical tool of every cybersecurity team to respond to, and manage cyberattacks.

Here are five key factors he believes every CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) should consider while formulating their companies’ Incident Response process.

Incident Response - Five Key Factors CISOs Should Consider!


Cyberattacks Are Inevitable

As cyberattacks become more sophisticated and frequent, many CISOs agree that a cyberattack on their companies are inevitable.

They also believe that the speed and quality of their incident response are the most important factors in measuring their performance.

Hence, IT security departments are now focused, not just on preventing attacks, but also on identifying the issues in time to minimise damage.

2019 Kaspersky CISO Survey - cybersecurity breaches inevitability


What Is Incident Response?

Incident Response (IR) is the methodology a cybersecurity team uses to respond to, and manage cyberattacks. It aims to reduce damage and recover from an attack as quickly as possible.

A good incident response plan also includes a thorough investigation to learn from an attack, in order to prepare for and prevent a repeat attack in the future.


The Five Key Factors CISOs Should Consider About Incident Response

While CISOs understand that a well-developed, repeatable incident response plan is critical, they face five major issues in developing a good plan.

Maxim Frolov, Vice President, Global Sales, Kaspersky Lab

Factor #1 : Shortage Of Qualified Professionals

Incident response does not mean jumping into the remediation phase when an incident happens. It actually starts before an attack has occurred, and does not stop after the attack ends. In general, it consists of four stages :

  • Stage 1 : All responsible employees are prepared, so they know how to act when an attack happens
  • Stage 2 : Detection of an ongoing cybersecurity incident
  • Stage 3 : The incident response team eliminates the threat and recover affected systems
  • Stage 4 : The incident response strategy is reviewed based on this experience, to mitigate against a future attack

Incidence Response Framework

Such diversified activities require different types of professionals, who are in short supply. According to a Kaspersky Lab survey, CISOs find it quite impossible to find malware analysts (43%), specialists that can respond to an attack (20%) and threat hunters (13%).

The other issue is employee retention. Specialists know that they are in great demand, and easily switch to a rival organisation for a higher salary. It is, therefore, increasingly hard for companies to employ and retain a team to conduct the entire incident response process.

Factor #2 : Choosing Suitable Outsourcers

Because of the difficulties in forming an internal Incident Response team, many companies opt to outsource the job. However, it is no trivial task to choose a suitable third-party IR team.

A good outsourced Incident Response team should be proficient in the important IR competencies, namely threat research, malware analysis and digital forensics.

Kaspersky Incidence Response Team

Their capabilities should be ascertained through vendor-neutral certification, and past experience. The diversity of their client base is also important – working in a variety of industries will allow them to find similarities in seemingly disparate cybersecurity cases.

Companies in strictly-regulated industries will have additional restrictions when they are considering outsourcing candidates. They can only choose from IR teams that meet specific compliance requirements.

Factor #3 : Cost Of Incident Response

Establishing and maintaining an in-house Incident Response team is costly. Not only are full-time specialists expensive, companies also need to purchase solutions and threat intelligence services their IR team will need for threat hunting, data analysis and attack remediation.

Yet they cannot afford not to have an IR strategy in place. The average cost of a data breach is on the increase, now amounting to US$1.23 million on average. This is an increase of 24% from US$992,000 in 2017.

Incident Response costs

Some organisations may find the outsourced model to be more cost-effective and flexible. However, enterprises that deal with numerous incidents will find it necessary to have an in-house IR team.

To save costs, organisations can employ a hybrid approach – forming an internal team of first-level responders, with external experts on retainer.

Factor #4 : Synergy With IT Department

Both the Incident Response team and the IT department must understand their respective roles and work together. After all, they have conflicting objectives when a cybersecurity incident occurs.

The IT team will want to shut down infected machines to reduce or prevent data loss, and stop the malware from spreading. On the other hand, the IR team will want to collect evidence, which would mean leaving the “crime scene” untouched even after the incident is over.

Incident Response steps

If the IT team disconnects the machines, and/or stores the logs for only three months; that would make the IR team’s work a great deal more difficult.

To avoid such issues, the internal IR team should provide tailored guidance or training for their IT colleagues. This would ensure that both teams are on the same page when an attack happens.

Factor #5 : Delays In Responding

Organisations that rely on outsourced IR teams can quickly get their incident response processes in place, because the external IR team is always at hand to step in and help resolve an incident.

However, this can only happen after contracts are signed, and agreements ratified; leading to a delay in incident response.

In Maxim’s experience, an organisation often comes back to work on Monday to discover that they were breached during the weekend. They will try to handle the incident for several days, before turning to external experts.

Kaspersky ICS CERT

However, it’s usually Friday by the time they start seeking help. Even if they have a pre-vetted contractor to turn to, and rush the approval of an agreement; it will take several more days before the external IR team can get to work.

Hence, it is a good idea for organisations to have an internal Incident Response team (even if they are just first-level responders) that can quickly evaluate the incident and delegate responsibility.


The Most Effective Incident Response Strategy

For most large organisations, the hybrid approach to Incident Response is perhaps the most effective.

Combining a small in-house team with third-party responders will help them maintain an effective IR strategy, without the problems associated with maintaining a dedicated internal team or outsourcing the job completely.

Even though outsourcing incident response is attractive financially, it doesn’t mean the organisation can hand over the reins and absolve all responsibility for incident response. Having a suitable IR plan for their particular organisation is still important, as well as the need for the external IR team to liaise with the organisation’s IT team.

There should be a proper process for when employees should ask for external assistance, and what it will address. An employee should also be tasked with prioritising actions and coordinating between the external IR team and internal departments.


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