Why do we need for Incident Response plan?

Pierluigi Paganini November 26, 2013

Due to the constant growth in the number of cyber attacks it is necessary to properly define the actions composing an incident response plan.

FireEye firm published an interesting post on the need of incident response (IR) capabilities to reply numerous cyber  attacks that daily hit almost any web service.

Starting from the data proposed by Zone-h.org online database every day an average of 100 .co.uk domain websites are hacked, the data are really concerning if we consider that the trend is on the rise and that in many cases the impact on the security of a wide audience of users is serious.

“Over 95 percent of businesses are already compromised with malware (source: FireEye) but don’t know it…..the mindset needs to change from when we are compromised, to we are already compromised and how do we better protect our assets, intellectual property, etc. and mitigate future risks?”

Another reflection that must be done is that also the number of targeted attacks is increased, spear fishing and watering hole are the principal methods of attack for state sponsored hacking operations, in many cases hackers exploited zero-day vulnerabilities.

FireEye is one of the most active company in the security scenario, it has in fact detected in 2013 various zero-day flaws, some of them still not fixed

Exposure Reference Application
12/28/12 CVE-2012-4792 IE
01/10/13 CVE-2013-0422 Java
02/07/13 CVE-2013-0634 Flash
02/12/13 CVE-2013-0640/CVE-2013-0641 PDF
02/28/13 CVE-2013-1493 Java
05/03/13 CVE-2013-1347 IE
09/17/13 CVE-2013-3893 IE
11/08/13 CVE-2013-3918/CVE-PENDING IE

The statistics on on security for websites are discouraging, more than 80% are vulnerable, meanwhile 75% of new attacks specifically target the application layer of systems in order to exploit these flaws according data provided by U.S. CERT.

Some sectors appears under incessant attack, it is the case of energy industry and of government networks, both hit by state-sponsored hackers and cyber criminals.

The improvement of the incident response (IR) capabilities is becoming a must for private companies and government agencies, it is crucial to identify cyber threats as soon as possible, to reach the goal it is necessary the definition and deployment of best practices to mitigate the risks of exposure to the menaces.

Another essential factor is the information sharing on the cyber threats, organisms like CERTs must fulfill this function also, businesses must receive accurate information of infections to adopt proper mitigation strategy.

Businesses, and in particular each single employee, must have a clear idea of task to do in case of incident, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined and all the actions must be carried on to repairs an ordinary situational and preserving information useful for investigation.

Incident response is a critical component in a cyber strategy, it must be accurate and detailed as it provides valuable guidance in the immediate aftermath of an accident, moments when it is necessary to preserve as much as possible the critical assets of an organization.

“It’s important to be able to answer the who, what, how, when, and why questions that should be addressed, and critical if it’s a high value computer that has been infected.” states the post.

Which are the critical actions for an effective incident response procedure?

  1. Identification: This is the number one issue in the industry today. What should you do quickly when a PC or server has been hit? The quicker you move, the smaller the risk typically.
  2. Containment: Contain the computer and move it away from production systems ASAP. Most infections, with malware today, spread quickly using key loggers to capture login credentials, as an example, to log in to other systems such as databases, AD controllers, and other critical systems.
  3. Forensic investigation: Take the time and use a number of open source and commercial tools to understand what happened to the computer system, where it came from, what is has accessed, what it did to make itself persistent and survive reboot, etcassuming it merits forensics investigation.
  4. Remediate/Recover: Get the computer system back online and in production once forensics are complete.
  5. Report: A full review of who, what, when, where, how, and how to avoid this from happening again.

Based on my personal experience the trend is to secure the victim organization, but in the majority of the case are ignored all the action necessary to collect evidence of the attacks and to produce sharable results, the side effect is the lack of information about ongoing attacks that is the base for cyber threat identification and mitigation.

incident Response Plan

Following the point of view provided by FireEye experts:

“The containment and remediation process has up until now been a primarily manual human process, but lots of vendors FireEye partners with today are seeking to redress the balance by automating the containment and forensics parts with software products. The pain is recognized that skilled humans do not scale and sadly not every organization has the budget to spend on this.”

The incident response procedure is essential for small business and large organizations, independently of the type of menace and the nature of the attackers.

It is quite impossible to recognizing every cyber threat and mitigate it, but it’s absolutely crucial a mature approach to cyber security that is composed also of an efficient incident response plan that makes system resilience to survive cyber attacks and quickly recover from an incident.

“Building out an incident response capability is something that should be on your list of actions for 2014!”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Incident response, security)

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