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Cybersecurity Incident Response: What You Need To Know

Lukas Grigas
Cybersecurity Content Writer

Is your business prepared to respond to a security breach or cyberattack? According to cybersecurity experts, it’s a matter of “when” rather than “if” your organization will experience a serious cybersecurity incident. This applies to both large enterprises and small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Having an established incident response plan that would be executed immediately following a security incident is crucial for any organization regardless of its size. The time to prepare your response plan is now. Today, we’re taking a closer look at what you need to know to devise a good cybersecurity incident response plan.

Alarming numbers: cyberattacks are on the rise

2020 and 2021 brought quite a few challenges. The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations of all sizes to create remote workforces and operate off cloud-based platforms. Unfortunately, such changes have led to a surge in cybercriminal activity — it has risen by a whopping 600%.

Reports indicate that ransomware attacks have seen a 151% increase in attack volume in 2021. It is estimated that, today, a new organization falls victim to a ransomware attack every 11 seconds.

But that’s not all, not nearly. CPO Magazine reports that almost half a million Zoom accounts were compromised, and data associated with those accounts was sold on the dark web. Furthermore, phishing attacks spiked by 510% from January to February 2020 alone. Cybercrime Magazine notes that the global cybercrime damage in 2021 amounts to $16.4 billion a day, $684.9 million an hour, $11 million per minute, and $190,000 per second.

These are challenging times for businesses yet lucrative ones for cybercrooks. Being prepared to respond accordingly in case of a cybercrime is of existential importance for today's businesses. The National Cyber Security Alliance reports that 60% of SMBs that experience a severe cyberattack go out of business within six month.

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What is an incident response plan and why do you need it?

A cybersecurity incident response plan is a set of instructions and guidelines designed to help organizations prepare for, detect, respond to, and recover from a cybersecurity incident. Most response plans are built to address issues such as malware attacks or general security and data breaches. Usually, such plans are technology-centric and provide a rigid course of action should a company experience an incident. It is also important to note that incident response plans should emphasize other areas of the organization than the IT department. A good plan encompasses areas such as finance, customer services, PR, HR, legal, customer services, and other entities.

When preparing a cybersecurity incident response plan, consider making it as specific as possible. It should be tailored to your organization specifically and clearly state who should do what and when if the company experiences a cyberattack. Of course, there are numerous considerations that should be assessed for a plan to be successful and meet your company’s needs. Some companies don't know where to begin, let alone what to prioritize. To shed some light on this pressing issue, here are a few key things to consider when designing your cybersecurity response plan.

Put together an internal response team

Consider assembling an internal team that would be responsible for designing the cybersecurity incident response plan and carrying it out in case of an emergency. The size of the team depends on the resources of the company, but it should comprise IT and cybersecurity professionals, an HR specialist, Communications managers, and a legal specialist. Having an internal team can yield great benefits should your organization experience a security incident since people within the team would be closely familiar with how the incident response plan should be executed.

Differentiate incidents

Not all security incidents are created equal. Therefore, when creating your response plan, consider establishing different types of procedure for different incidents. It is critical to assess what kind of security incidents within your company would be considered minor and major. Some breaches might require major response while others could be handled with less resources. Additionally, different personnel may need to be on the response team depending on the significance of the breach. Incident differentiation is extremely important for smaller enterprises due to the lack of resources.

Create a course-of-action checklist

A well-designed cybersecurity incident response plan must include a checklist of prioritized actions that should be carried out immediately after the company learns of a potential incident. After all, this is what the plan is all about. While checklists will differ for every organization according to its size, type of operations, and other variables, here are a few actions that should be a part of any checklist:

  • Record the date and time the breach is discovered.

  • Define the type of the security incident.

  • Take potentially compromised systems offline to avoid any further unauthorized activity.

  • Conduct initial interviews with those with critical knowledge of the potential breach.

  • Make a copy of the affected systems so they could be fixed without compromising the process of investigation.

  • Start internal communication.

  • Prepare a PR statement.

Review and amend the incident response plan regularly

A cybersecurity incident response plan needs to be regularly reviewed and amended according to the growing or depleting company resources and cybersecurity trends. This should be done at least once a year or even more frequently. The response plan should reflect any changes within the organization, including personnel changes, IT infrastructure changes, etc.

Corporate cybersecurity can be extremely challenging. It involves a human element and a huge number of moving parts. Even the biggest players in the business world tend to struggle with the growing cybersecurity demands. And so, sometimes it might be difficult to see that something as complicated as business security actually starts with very basic things such as practicing good password hygiene or being able to spot a phishing email.

If you wish to find out more about cybersecurity incident response and how you could make your company resilient, we’ve got just the right thing for you. A few weeks ago, NordPass hosted a webinar covering the topic. The list of speakers included Lisa Forte, Partner @ Red Goat Cyber Security, Vilius Benetis, Director @ NRD Cyber Security, and Andrius Januta, Cyber Security Professional @ Nord Security. Please feel free to download the webinar recordings if you wish to get professional insights about cybersecurity response planning.

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