A recent IBM and Ponemon Institute survey including more than 2,400 security professionals worldwide turned up some astounding findings. More than half (53 percent) of respondents said they had suffered at least one data breach in the past two years. Nearly three quarters (74 percent) held that they had faced threats from human error in the past year. However, only 25 percent reported having an incident management plan in place to address a computer network breach, and two-thirds (66 percent) expressed a lack of confidence in their company’s ability to effectively recover from an attack.

Planning an Incident Management Strategy

The report, together with Ponemon’s annual “Cost of Data Breach Study,” put the average financial impact of a data breach at $4 million. Both studies highlighted the proactive preparedness that is critical in today’s complex and evolving threat landscape.

Read the white paper: Dealing with a data breach — Before, During and After

To succeed in a highly contested space, organizations need comprehensive, robust and holistic security and threat intelligence capabilities. As criminals become increasingly sophisticated, better organized, persistent and financially motivated, IT managers must implement a platform that brings together intelligent, resilient and orchestrated defenses.

Central to any strategy is a planned, communicated, rehearsed and organizationally tailored incident management program. It must be a combination of people, process and technology.

Gathering Information

To defend and recover from a cyberattack, you should gather and understand critical facts with minimal delay. Answer questions including:

  • How did the attackers get in?
  • How are they continuing to operate within your environment?
  • Why are they here?
  • What can you expect to happen next?
  • What do we know about their tools and methodologies?
  • What do you need to do to prevent their continued access?

For many organizations, pulling together this information is an overwhelming task. In some cases, it happens in a vacuum absent the necessary support and intelligence. If you’re answering these questions on the fly and going it alone, your organization will struggle. Invest time and resources now, and the return on investment (ROI) will be self-evident. You can prepare by taking the following steps:

  • Document your plan’s current state and test it often.
  • Identify any gaps and document a plan to address them.
  • Conduct routine maturity assessments, program development and planning initiatives.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your controls.

Communication Is Key

Make communication a central component of your plan and define clear roles and responsibilities to avoid ambiguity and confusion. When an attack occurs, security team members and stakeholders all the way up to the C-suite should focus on reacting instead of responding. Rely on the people, process and technology you established as part of your preparation phase.

The preparation phase strengthens your team’s communication and experience while reducing financial and reputational loss to the organization and its customers. It’s critical to investigate active threats and extinguish attacks as quickly as possible. When properly applied, an effective incident response plan will add velocity and precision to any scenario. To respond quickly and effectively, the entire team needs a well-managed communication and execution plan.

No Time to Rest

Dealing with a cyberattack can be exhausting. Unfortunately, there is no good time to rest, not even when an attack and its ongoing impact are contained. That is the time to look back and determine what went right and what went wrong, and then incorporate what you’ve learned into planning for the next attack. Document findings and gaps, control deficiencies and prioritize them to completion. This needs to occur not only within your environment, but also within your incident response program itself.

No one is alone. In fact, having the ability to rely on industry experts as your partners will benefit your organization exponentially. Lean on their experience, threat intelligence and capabilities to catapult your security posture.

At IBM, we have the industry’s top security, incident response and intelligence experts. As an IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS) leader, I can help you cross the incident response chasm, build a holistic program and better prepare to deal with and thwart the security challenges you face today and in the future. A cyberattack doesn’t have to yield a data breach.

Read the white paper: Dealing with a data breach — Before, During and After

More from Incident Response

Expert Insights on the X-Force Threat Intelligence Index

5 min read - Top insights are in from this year’s IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, but what do they mean? Three IBM Security X-Force experts share their thoughts on the implications of the most pressing cybersecurity threats, and offer guidance for what organizations can do to better protect themselves. Moving Left of Boom: Early Backdoor Detection Andy Piazza, Global Head of Threat Intelligence at IBM Security X-Force, sat down with Security Intelligence to chat with us about the rise in the deployment…

5 min read

How Morris Worm Command and Control Changed Cybersecurity

4 min read - A successful cyberattack requires more than just gaining entry into a victim’s network. To truly reap the rewards, attackers must maintain a persistent presence within the system. After establishing communication with other compromised network devices, actors can stealthily extract valuable data. The key to all this is a well-developed Command and Control (C2 or C&C) infrastructure. The number of C2 servers used for launching cyberattacks increased by 30% in 2022. More than 17,000 of these servers were detected last year,…

4 min read

The Important Role of SOAR in Cybersecurity

4 min read - Understaffed security teams need all the help they can get, and they are finding that help through SOAR. SOAR — security orchestration, automation and response — is defined by Gartner as the “technologies that enable organizations to collect inputs monitored by the security operations team.” Gartner identifies a SOAR platform’s three prime functionalities: Threat and vulnerability management, security operations automation and incident response. The number of threats coming across the network and endpoints each day overwhelms most organizations. Adding SOAR…

4 min read

X-Force Prevents Zero Day from Going Anywhere

8 min read - This blog was made possible through contributions from Fred Chidsey and Joseph Lozowski. The 2023 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index shows that vulnerability discovery has rapidly increased year-over-year and according to X-Force’s cumulative vulnerability and exploit database, only 3% of vulnerabilities are associated with a zero day. X-Force often observes zero-day exploitation on Internet-facing systems as a vector for initial access however, X-Force has also observed zero-day attacks leveraged by attackers to accomplish their goals and objectives after initial access was…

8 min read