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Incident Response Plan: Be prepared for emergencies

There is no such thing as 100 percent protection against cyber attacks. Even companies with high IT security standards still face a residual risk from zero-day exploits or perfidious social engineering. If the worst comes to the worst, a coordinated approach can prevent greater damage. We show you what is important when designing an Incident Response Plan.

In the event of a cyber attack, a quick and effective response is crucial to limiting the damage. For this to work, however, you need to have thought about what to do in such a case in advance. The keyword here is Incident Response Management.

What is Incident Response Management?

Incident Response Management comprises strategies that help companies and organizations respond quickly and in a coordinated manner to IT security incidents. The goal is to identify security incidents, bring the situation under control, limit the damage, and get compromised IT systems up and running again as quickly as possible.

In general, Incident Response Management covers the entire security Incident Response Process. This includes:

  • the preparation and documentation of an Incident Response Plan
  • the identification of threats and their mitigation
  • the elimination of malware and/or security vulnerabilities
  • recovery measures after an incident
  • subsequent evaluation and process optimization

Incident Response Management helps companies limit damage, prevent further incidents if possible, and meet applicable compliance regulations, such as those defined in the new IT Security Act 2.0.

The Incident Response Team

The conception of a response plan and the implementation of the procedures defined in it are carried out by a team of IT experts. However, a holistic response plan also involves experts from other specialist departments, since IT security incidents are not only problematic at the technical level: Data leaks can have a negative impact on a company’s reputation and image, which should be responded to with appropriate communication. There is also a need for action from a legal and personnel perspective. The following roles and departments are therefore typically involved in an IRP:

  • Management / C-Level
  • Incident Response Manager
  • Security analysts
  • IT and security engineers
  • Threat Researcher
  • Legal department and risk management
  • Corporate Communications
  • HR
  • External IT security experts

An Incident Response Team can be built in-house or provided externally through a managed security service provider (MSSP) to ensure effective security policies.

Incident Response Tools

Modern IT security concepts include a wide range of tech solutions. Among other things, they are used to detect security incidents and, in many cases, to respond to them automatically. Depending on the individual situation, the following tools, for example, are used as part of general security strategies and thus also in responding to security incidents:

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM):

SIEM solutions collect logs from applications, infrastructure, security tools, firewalls and all other relevant components of an IT ecosystem. If the algorithm detects irregularities or suspicious activity, security teams receive an alert and can initiate further investigations.

Extended Detection and Response (XDR):

XDR is used on end devices such as laptops, workstations and servers. XDR solutions monitor devices for security risks and, if necessary, automatically initiate suitable, predefined measures. For example, compromised devices or software with security risks are isolated from the network.

Network Traffic Analysis (NTA):

Network Traffic Analysis or NTA captures, logs and evaluates network data and communication patterns for anomalous traffic. NTA enables response to security incidents related to the core network, operational networks, or cloud networks.

Vulnerability Scanner:

Vulnerability scanners such as® developed by DGC identify potential risks in IT systems and help to holistically assess a company’s risk profile and put appropriate measures in place.

How to create an Incident Response Plan

An IRP defines the order and manner in which the Incident Response Team responds to security incidents. In advance, it is important to ensure the highest possible level of responsiveness and to minimize security risks:

Determine critical network components: Since corporate networks are often very complex, it is important to identify the most important data and systems and set priorities for their backup. As part of a backup strategy, important data should always be stored as backup copies in a secure location in order to be able to act again as quickly as possible in the event of a hacker attack.

Resilience: Every critical component of a network should be replaceable at short notice. This includes hardware, software and also employee roles. Network services remain available via redundancies or failover functions. If a particular employee is unable to perform his or her role as part of the response plan, someone else should be able to take over. In addition, backups and failovers keep operations running while limiting damage and interruption time to networks and operations.

Involve employees: Generally, it is sufficient if the IT department understands the technical aspects of the emergency plan in detail. Nevertheless, all of a company’s employees should be sensitized to the topic of IT security – and know what to do for them in the event of a cyber attack. Effective, cross-departmental collaboration can decisively shorten the duration of disruptions.

Create IRP: A formal emergency response plan ultimately ensures that all employees know their roles in the event of a cyber attack. The essential points of an IRP include:

  • a list of roles and responsibilities
  • a business continuity plan
  • an overview of tools, technologies and physical resources that are available
  • a list of important network and data recovery processes
  • a concept for internal and external communication

Incident Response Management: Benefiting from external experts

When designing a customized Incident Response Plan, it pays to work with an experienced IT security service provider such as DGC. Depending on the requirements and industry, exactly the right and important measures are combined. These range from advice on setting up a company’s own Incident Response Team, through security awareness training for employees, to the complete takeover of all IT security tasks by the experts from the Cyber Defense Operation Center (CDOC). This enables companies to prepare themselves in the best possible way for emergencies and avoid major damage.

We would be happy to advise you on your individual Incident Response Plan. Contact us now.

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