Before, During and After: Dealing With Attacks and Applying Effective Incident Management

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

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Ahmed Saleh

X-Force IRIS Global Lead for Incident Response and Proactive Services, IBM

Ahmed Saleh has 14 years of experience working in technology, security, incident response and security risk management. With an equal passion for people and technology, Ahmed has built, transformed and led teams across complex, fast-paced environments motivated to deliver exceptional results. At IBM, Ahmed leads a global team of information security professionals that deliver forensic, incident response, and proactive security services all over the world. He works closely with organizations to detect, respond, and mitigate incidents quickly. In tandem, he works closely with executives to help them understand what occurred and communicate it to the proper stakeholders. Ahmed has a diverse background, having held positions at Disney, NASA, the U.S. Air Force and Mandiant, where he was a principal consultant serving clients directly. Prior to joining IBM, Ahmed led the Content Technology & Security team for Disney ABC Television Group, proactively adjusting to a constantly evolving threat landscape. Prior to his role with the Television Group, Ahmed led the Disney Enterprise Incident Response Team. As a Special Agent in the U.S. Air Force and at NASA, Ahmed investigated security breaches with national security significance. In all of these roles, he honed his expertise in incident response, intrusion investigations, cyber threat analysis and security risk management.