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| 4 minutes read

When Did You Last Test Your Cyber Incident Response Plan?

A cyber incident response plan is a set of guidelines and protocols designed to help an organization detect, respond, contain, and manage any form of a cybersecurity breach. It outlines how best to safeguard the organization from ransomware, data breaches, and other threats, as well as outlining procedures for responding to incidents quickly and effectively to minimize risk. The plan also includes details about who should be informed during the event of a cyber incident. Finally, it provides guidance on ensuring ongoing security measures are in place following an attack.

As part of various compliance requirements, organizations are required to have a documented Cyber Incident Response plan. The idea behind having a documented response plan is to avoid uncertainties and chaos during a cyber-attack.

Regrettably, many businesses neglect to update their incident response plans or assess them in real-world situations. According to VMware’s “State of Incident Response 2021,” 49% of organizations are deficient in the tools, personnel, and experience necessary to identify or address cyber threats.

To ensure a comprehensive cyber incident response plan, it is essential to have stakeholders from IT and InfoSec in addition to other key departments such as legal, corporate communication, management, and HR. Moreover, contacts of vendors providing critical services like cloud infrastructure and backup solutions should also be included. Crafting an effective plan is essential for any organization. To do this successfully, each department must designate a point of contact with their associated contact information while also creating an escalation matrix that outlines who should be notified in case of the incident’s severity. Furthermore, assigning roles to certain individuals will help ensure proper response and resolution times when needed. The plan should also have details about the cyber insurance provider and regulators and when to intimate them.

Despite creating a plan, its effectiveness must be tested in the event of an emergency. Frameworks such as SOC 2 and PCI DSS require you to test your incident response protocol on an annual basis. The exact structure of your plan will depend on the particulars of your business, technology foundation, and data type. Depending on which risk management framework is used, cybersecurity system maturity levels & risk tolerance; it’s necessary to update or review this plan every semester or quarter!

Tabletop exercises are the most typical way to assess a plan. In this process, all stakeholders come together, and hypothetical breach situations are explored through discussion or even scenarios that bring out responses. Generally, businesses take on a walkthrough approach or functional exercise in which each step is followed as outlined in the plan, aside from actual changes for when something would go wrong, etc.

NIST has published a Guide to Test, Training, and Exercise Programs for IT Plans and Capabilities (NIST Special Publication 800-84) to assist organizations in designing, developing, conducting, and evaluating test, training, and exercise (TT&E) events to aid personnel in preparing for adverse situations involving IT.

An effective incident response plan can effectively minimize the negative impacts of security incidents, including the duration and damage. Additionally, it reduces recovery time and prevents potential negative publicity and customer concerns. Instead of testing a plan during an actual incident where there is little room for error or correction – consider proactively finding flaws in advance to rectify them efficiently before any issue arises; often enlisting an external consultant who has unbiased views can be beneficial when putting together such plans.

With the ever-shifting risk environment, brought about by advanced technologies, compliance requirements, and growing fraud schemes, the plan for mitigating these risks must be updated regularly to ensure its effectiveness.

The most common scenario observed is failing to restore the backup or the time taken to restore the backup being extremely high in case of an incident. It’s common for companies to maintain the backup of critical data however companies seldom test if the backup can be effectively restored when needed. Such failures happen due to changes in backup software or availability of hardware, encryption due to a ransomware attack, etc. e.g., many organizations use tape backups but in due course the hardware and software undergo changes and in case of any actual breach, the backup fails to restore effectively.

Another common scenario is ransomware or malware attack. In such cases, the handler many times is clueless about what initial steps need to be taken to contain the spread and make sure that the evidence is preserved for a possible investigation and root cause analysis.

Having regular testing practice helps to have frequent opportunities to identify components of the plan that have gone out of date. After each test, the participants should conduct a debriefing session to discuss observations about what worked well and sections that could be improved. This also should be documented as part of the Post Action Report (“PAR”). This documentation serves as verifiable evidence the exercise took place and PAR describes operational gaps and plans to mitigate those gaps.

As we strive to protect our data and digital assets, it’s essential to understand that breaches are a possibility. For this reason, an up-to-date incident response plan is necessary – not only in order to guide employees’ actions during such events but also for it to be effective. This involves keeping the program alive and well through consistent testing and exercising.

Originally written for CXOtoday

© Copyright 2023. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals. Ankura is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice.


cyber response, cybersecurity & data privacy, data privacy & cyber risk, article

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