How to Build a Cyber Incident Response Team

While management solutions can help keep low-level security threats away through automated responses, many high-level threats – like advanced persistent threats – require a cyber incident response team. This team should be equipped and ready to act immediately.

There also needs to be an incident response plan to define the response team and their roles/responsibilities. When all of these are fine-tuned, this system can save businesses a considerable amount of time, including money and stress whenever security problems happen.

Below is a guide on how to ensure businesses have a strong incident response team and cover the basics in their plans.

What Is a Cyber Incident Response Plan?

This plan is an organized approach to handling cyber incidents. It outlines an incident response that the team can execute immediately to mitigate damage, reduce recovery time, and minimize costs.

When the plan is well documented, organizations can respond quickly, streamline decisions, outline processes, and define appropriate use of the tech available.

To have this plan well documented, there needs to be adequate coverage of the following six phases:

  • Preparation – how to prepare security staff to handle potential issues. This covers training, equipment, and practice sessions.
  • Identification – how to detect and decide if an incident fulfills conditions that would threaten the security of an organization.
  • Containment – being able to isolate compromised systems to prevent future damage or the incident spreading.
  • Eradication – finding the source of the problem and eliminate it from systems that were affected.
  • Recovery – restoring affected systems and check no threats remains.
  • Lessons learned – analyzing the incident logs and updating the response plan accordingly. Also documenting the incident as thoroughly as possible.

Putting those steps into a plan, it should have the following sections:

  • Plan overview
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • List of incidents that require immediate action
  • An overview of security posture and network infrastructure
  • Procedures and process for detecting, investigating, and containing threats
  • Plans for eradication and what those entail
  • A recovery plan and an estimated time to restore from backups
  • Protocols for breach notifications
  • An up-to-date call lists
  • Follow up tasks

Furthermore, the plan should go into detail in the follow areas:

  • Incident response team details – this should consist of employees and/or third-party members. It’s important that all members of the team are mentioned in detail in the plan including their roles and responsibilities and that each member is trained appropriately. Beyond that, members of the incident response team shouldn’t also be resource managers. Keeping that separated is ideal.
  • System and network information – have data flow diagrams and the hardware inventory included when covering this. This provides information on how threats could move through networks, especially when information is gathered on what host or system is compromised.
  • Procedures for incident handling and reporting – include a model to complete an incident intake report along with detailed descriptions of the incident and what files were compromised.
  • Lessons learned – two big questions should be asked in this section. First is how can the company prevent similar incidents from happening again? Second is what about the incident response plan could be improved on for next time? Businesses should also ask what worked and what didn’t overall include how staff responded and what parts of the plan could be updated.
  • Reporting to third parties and authorities – put in place policies about when and how to report to authorities, third parties, venders, and users. This is an easier section as many incident reporting situations have regulation standards in place.

How To Build an Effective Team

To build an effective cyber incident response team, the core functions of the team need to be understood. While there are no standards and organizational responsibilities will vary, the team generally should have the following:

  • A team leader – the person that coordinates all activities
  • Communication team – one or more people that manage communication across the organization and with third parties. These members should have a background in public relations.
  • Lead investigator – an individual that will gather and analyze technical evidence. They will look for the cause, and direct analysts and IT components to implement and help with recovery.
  • Analysts/Researchers – the team that supports the lead investigator in providing threat intelligence and context of the problem. Having a cyber forensics background could be necessary for this role if the problem requires deep autopsies on systems.
  • Legal representation – it’s important to have HR and legal guidance to address possible criminal charges that stem from this problem.

Do note that not every member in that team needs to be from within the business. Businesses can hire third-party teams wherever they need positions filled.

Where should teams be located?

Ideally geographically to ensure the most time-zone coverage. This will ensure someone is available at any time of the day. Businesses want the redundancy in this situation since threats can happen at any time. Small organizations benefit the most from these when they hire third parties to monitor after-hours and over holidays.

Where does automation come in?

With a lack of experienced professionals, automation can play a crucial role in filling those gaps. This can allow teams to continue providing secure quality work without compromising quality. With recent trends in automated incident responses, teams have access to playbooks that offer code-less workflows that can execute many of the repetitive tasks.

Beyond those repetitive tasks though, automation can’t fulfil those roles – such as an analyst. Furthermore, one incident will vary from another so many teams are left with making decisions to automate or not with limited information.

Getting A Strong Team Is the Way to Go

An effective response team will respond to security incidents quickly, mitigating the damage. Thus, defining and building this team is crucial and shouldn’t be taken lightly. As far as how big the team needs to be, it depends largely on the size and needs of the business. Generally, having a mixture of in-house staff and third-party cybersecurity expects could be a reasonable strategy. The other option is outsourcing all these duties to MSPs. In their minds, this can give them peace of mind and allow their own team to focus on other issues.

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