Cyber attacks are inevitable, but it’s how an organisation deals with them that can make or break their business. Have they got all the answers, and do they fully understand the implications? Can they be sure the attack won’t happen again?
Swift and comprehensive incident response is a critical step to ensuring the future security of a business and protecting its reputation. It’s not enough to be aware that an attack is taking (or has taken) place. There are four key questions organisations need to be able to answer following a cyber security breach – if a single answer is missing, the security team won’t have the full picture, leaving the business vulnerable to impending attacks. Not having this level of insight can also damage an organisation’s relationships with suppliers and affect customer confidence, as it means the business itself is not in control of the situation.
Andy Pearch, Head of IA Services at CORVID, outlines four questions all organisations must be able to answer after a cyber attack.
1. How and where did the security breach take place?
The first step of an effective incident response strategy is to identify how the attackers got in. Quite simply, if an organisation misses this first crucial step, attackers will exploit the same vulnerability for future cyber attacks. Guesswork won’t cut it – any security professional can hypothesise that “it was probably an email”, but security teams need clear evidence so they can fully analyse all aspects of the problem and devise an appropriate solution.
2. What information was accessed?
Understanding specifically what information was accessed by the attacker is paramount to knowing what impact the attack will have on the organisation. Identifying which departments were targeted or what types of information might have been stolen isn’t good enough; organisations need to be able to articulate exactly which files were accessed and when. Headlines about attackers stealing information are common, but just as importantly, you need to know the scope of the information they’ve seen, as well as the information they’ve taken. Not only will this inform the next steps that need to be taken, and shed light on which parts of the business will be affected, but it will also enable the organisation to remain compliant with legal obligations, for example, identifying if a data breach needs to be reported under GDPR.
3. How can systems be recovered quickly?
Organisations will understandably want to get their IT estate back to normal as soon as possible to minimise damage to their business, service and reputation. If the compromise method is identified and analysed correctly, IT systems can be remediated in seconds, meaning users and business operations can continue without downtime for recovery.
4. How do you prevent it from happening again?
Knowing the IT estate has been compromised is useless without taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is all about spotting the unusual activity that indicates a potential breach. If a user is accessing files they would never usually touch, sending unexpected emails or reaching out to a new domain, for example, such activity should prompt a review. The problem for most companies, however, is they lack not only the tools to enable such detection, but also the time and skills to undertake thorough analysis to determine whether it is a breach or a false positive.
A managed approach not only takes the burden away from businesses, but also enables every company to benefit from the pool of knowledge built up as a result of detecting and remediating attacks on businesses across the board. With MDR, every incident detected is investigated and, if it’s a breach, managed. That means shutting down the attack’s communication channel to prevent the adversary communicating with the compromised host, and identifying any compromised asset which can then be remediated.
Shifting security thinking
Clearly, GDPR has raised awareness that the risks associated with a cyber attack are not only financial, as hackers are actively seeking to access information. Security plans, therefore, must also consider data confidentiality, integrity and availability. But it is also essential to accept the fundamental shift in security thinking – protection is not a viable option given today’s threat landscape. When hackers are using the same tactics and tools as bona fide users, rapid detection and remediation must be the priority.