How To Respond To A Cybersecurity Incident

How To Respond To A Cybersecurity Incident

Imagine your organization has just been on the receiving end of a cyber attack. It could be a successful phishing attempt after an employee clicked on a socially engineered link. Or it could be ransomware shutting down your systems until you’ve complied with a malicious actor’s demands. Whatever the incident, you’ll want a plan to help you respond, monitor its impacts, and prevent a future occurrence.

This post will look at the steps you want to follow at an organizational level to respond to a cybersecurity incident. This will include the beginning of the process, what to do as the threat progresses, and how to complete your response with an eye toward the future.

Cybersecurity Incident

Identify the Issue

While being proactive as possible will improve your response posture, sometimes you can’t avoid a cybersecurity incident. When it does occur, you’ll first want to identify that an issue is occurring. Your first contact may be with the individual who noticed or caused the event.

Identifying a problem as quickly as possible following a breach or attack is critical. In the case of some types of malware, it may take a significant amount of time to detect an issue. How quickly you can do so depends on whether you have a dedicated IT services team or are relying on internal staff to address the issue.

Follow Established Protocol

Companies often have emergency response plans or business continuity procedures in place to ensure they can manage a physical disaster. Cyber incidents are no different. You’ll want to have a well-defined protocol for managing the incident. Your protocol should be well-documented, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities identified.

If you don’t have an incident response plan, you can use this post to guide how to structure one. You may want to work with a proven IT services provider on building that out without a plan. You’ll be unprepared to handle a cyber incident when it happens.

Protect Your Infrastructure

Once the attack is underway, it’s time to power down. If possible, cut off your systems, networks, and hardware to minimize the impact and disrupt the attack. This won’t solve the problem – if anything, it’s one of the first steps to getting your organization back on track.

It will provide short-term reassurance that no additional attacks will occur. Your system could have newly exposed vulnerabilities during this time, so protecting your digital infrastructure is critical.

Diagnose the Problem

Once you’ve enacted your response plan and shut down the appropriate systems, now it’s time actually to diagnose what the problem is. This goes beyond simply identifying the type of attack – it also involves advocating for a solution.

At this point in the process, communication is critical. Internally, you’ll need to make the appropriate individuals or teams aware of the problem and the steps to solve it. There may also be an external communication component here as well. For example, if you’ve suffered a data breach, you may be legally responsible for notifying your customers that their personal or financial information has been compromised.

Implement the Solution

After you’ve diagnosed the problem, it’s time to implement the solution. This will involve your IT staff and any operators within your company who may need to take action and looping in the C-suite for awareness.

This solution should help you do the following:

  • Repair the impacted system by removing the virus or malware
  • Return your business operations to normal by ensuring the infection is no longer present
  • Fortify your systems so that the problem won’t happen again (more on this below)

Again, communication with your team members and customers is critical here. They all should know once you’ve resolved the problem.

Analyze What Went Wrong

While a cyber incident isn’t fun for anyone within your organization – or your customers – you must look at it as an opportunity to improve your security posture. Each attack offers you a chance to bolster your defenses to prevent them from reoccurring in the future.

After you’ve recovered from the event, it’s time to understand better what went wrong. You and your IT staff can analyze the root cause to determine where the vulnerability lies. You can determine if a patch is available to prevent a similar attack.

Your analysis will depend on the impacted system and the staff you have available to help examine the issue. If your IT staff doesn’t have the skill set or experience to conduct the analysis, you may have to look for a trusted IT services provider with expertise in this area to assist you.

Document Your Findings

Now that the incident has occurred, you’ve responded, notified your customers, and uncovered how it happened. It’s time to document your findings. This is where you keep a record of the incident. You should also update your incident response plan if you’ve identified any changes you need to make.

What strategies did the hacker use to infiltrate your systems? Was it an external threat or a disgruntled former employee? What actions could your team have taken differently to mitigate your risk?

It’s also vital to document any lessons learned or best practices you’ve discovered as part of your incident response. For example, if one of your staff clicks on a phishing link in an email, you can create a list of best practices for identifying phishing emails. You can then circulate this to your entire organization so they can build awareness and know how to avoid them.

Ultimately, your cybersecurity posture will only be as strong as your ability to respond. By partnering with a team that has a proven track record for helping South Florida businesses manage their cyber events, you can minimize the chances of an attack disrupting your business. With ECW Network & IT Solutions, your organization can rest easy knowing you’ll be able to respond quickly, effectively, and efficiently to a cyber attack. For more on how we can help, contact us today.

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