A Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan (CIRP) is a set of procedures that outlines the steps that an organization should take in response to a cybersecurity incident. It is a critical part of an organization’s overall cybersecurity strategy because it helps to mitigate the potential damage that could be caused by an incident.
In today’s digital age, cyber threats are constantly evolving, and organizations must be prepared to face them. Cybersecurity incidents can range from minor issues, such as phishing emails or malware infections, to major attacks like data breaches or ransomware attacks. The consequences of a cyber incident can be devastating for an organization, including financial loss, reputation damage, and loss of sensitive data.
An effective CIRP can help an organization respond quickly and effectively to an incident, minimize the damage caused, and restore normal operations as soon as possible. It enables an organization to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity, by identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities and implementing measures to prevent or mitigate them.
Having a CIRP in place demonstrates due diligence on the part of an organization. It shows that the organization has taken reasonable steps to protect its assets and is prepared to respond to potential incidents. In addition, many industries are subject to regulatory requirements that mandate the implementation of a CIRP.
In the event of a cyber incident, customers want to know that their data is being protected and that the organization is taking steps to mitigate the damage. Having a CIRP in place can help to maintain customer trust and loyalty. The two most well-respected IR frameworks were developed by NIST and SANS to give IT teams a foundation on which to build their incident response plans. In this article, we will discuss how to create a cybersecurity incident response plan for your organization based on NIST guidelines.
The NIST Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan
The US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a comprehensive cybersecurity framework that provides guidelines for creating an incident response plan. NIST defines a four-step process lifecycle for incident response, illustrated in Figure 1.0 below. The plan provides a framework for developing and implementing an effective incident response program that can help organizations minimize the impact of cybersecurity incidents.
The NIST Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan is a critical tool for organizations to manage cybersecurity incidents effectively. By following the plan’s guidelines, organizations can minimize the damage caused by incidents, identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their cybersecurity defenses, and develop strategies to prevent future incidents.
Step 1: Preparation
The first step in creating a cybersecurity incident response plan is to prepare for an incident. This involves developing a plan that outlines the organization’s approach to cybersecurity incident management.
The following are the key components of a preparedness plan:
- Conduct a Risk Assessment A risk assessment should be conducted to identify potential cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. The assessment should identify critical assets and systems that require additional protection, assessing the likelihood and impact of potential incidents, and prioritizing risks based on their severity. The risk assessment should be conducted regularly to ensure that the organization’s CIRP is up-to-date and relevant.
- Define an Incident Response Team (IRT) An incident response team should be defined that consists of representatives from various departments, including IT, legal, public relations, and human resources. The team should be trained in the organization’s incident response plan and have access to the necessary resources. Each team member should have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and the team should have a designated leader who will be responsible for coordinating the response effort.
- Develop a Policy A policy should be developed that outlines the organization’s approach to cybersecurity incident management. The policy should specify the roles and responsibilities of the incident response team and provide guidelines for incident detection, analysis, containment, and recovery.
- Establish Communication Channels and Protocols The process of establishing Communication channels and protocols includes identifying the individuals or departments that need to be notified in the event of an incident, developing communication protocols, and establishing backup communication channels in case primary channels are unavailable. It is also important to establish protocols for communicating with external stakeholders, such as law enforcement agencies or regulatory bodies.
In addition to the above steps, organizations should also develop an incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in response to specific types of incidents. The plan should include procedures for identifying, containing, and mitigating the incident, as well as procedures for recovering from the incident and restoring normal operations. The plan should be tested regularly to ensure that it is effective and up to date.
Organizations should also establish a training and security awareness program to ensure that all employees are aware of the CIRP and understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of an incident. This includes training employees on how to identify potential incidents, report incidents, and follow established procedures for responding to incidents.
Step 2: Detect and Analysis
The second step in creating a NIST cybersecurity incident response plan is detecting a cybersecurity incident. Detecting an incident involves identifying and determining the scope of the incident, as well as initiating the appropriate response procedures.
The following are the key components of the detection plan:
- Establish Monitoring Capabilities The first step in detecting an incident is to establish a system for monitoring network traffic and system activity. This includes setting up intrusion detection systems, firewalls, security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and other security technologies to monitor and analyze network traffic and identify potential threats.
- Investigate and Analyze Threats Once potential threats are identified, the next step is to investigate and analyze the threat to determine the scope and severity of the incident. This includes analyzing system logs and other data to identify the source of the threat and the extent of any damage or data loss.
- Establish Incident Detection and Analysis Procedures After the scope and severity of the incident have been determined, the appropriate response procedures should be initiated. Incident detection and analysis procedures should be established that guide how to detect and analyze cybersecurity incidents. These procedures should include guidelines for identifying the scope and impact of an incident, activating the incident response team, notifying appropriate stakeholders, and taking steps to contain the incident and prevent further damage or data loss.
It is also important to maintain a chain of custody for all evidence related to the incident. This includes preserving system logs, network traffic data, and other evidence that may be needed for forensic analysis or legal purposes. As part of the detection process, it is important to establish procedures for incident reporting and response. This includes establishing clear guidelines for employees to report potential incidents and ensuring that they are aware of the proper reporting channels.
Step 3: Containment, Eradication, and Recovery
The third step in creating a NIST cybersecurity incident response plan is responding to a cybersecurity incident. Responding to an incident involves taking immediate action to contain and mitigate the incident, as well as restoring systems and data to their pre-incident state.
The following are the key components of the response plan:
- Develop an Incident Response Plan The first step in responding to an incident is to initiate the incident response plan. An incident response plan should be developed that outlines the organization’s approach to incident response. The plan should include procedures for containing the incident, eradicating the threat, and restoring systems and data. This includes notifying the incident response team, containing the incident to prevent further damage or data loss, and collecting evidence for forensic analysis.
- Establish Incident Containment Procedures Incident containment procedures should be established that guide how to contain an incident. This could include isolating infected systems, disabling network connections, and shutting down affected systems.
- Determine the Scope and Severity of the Incident Once the incident has been contained, the next step is to determine the scope and severity of the incident. This includes analyzing system logs, network traffic data, and other evidence to identify the source of the incident and the extent of any damage or data loss.
- Establish Incident Eradication Procedures Incident eradication procedures should be established that guide how to eradicate the malware or other malicious code from the affected systems.
- Establish Recovery Procedures Recovery procedures should be established that guide how to restore normal operations. This could include restoring data from backups, reconfiguring systems, and restoring network connections.
Based on the analysis of the incident, the incident response team should develop a plan for mitigating the incident and restoring systems and data to their pre-incident state. This may include patching vulnerabilities, removing malware, restoring data from backups, and other remediation efforts. During the response phase, it is also important to maintain clear communication channels with all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and partners. This includes providing regular updates on the status of the incident, the steps being taken to mitigate the incident, and any impact the incident may have on operations.
It is critical to conduct a post-incident review to identify areas for improvement and update the incident response plan as needed. This includes analyzing the incident response procedures to determine their effectiveness, identifying any gaps in the response plan, and updating the plan to address these gaps.
Step 4: Recovery and Post-Incident Activity
The final step in creating a NIST cybersecurity incident response plan is to recover from a cybersecurity incident. Recovering from an incident involves restoring systems and data to their pre-incident state and implementing measures to prevent future incidents from occurring.
The following are the key components of the recovery plan:
- Restore systems and data The first step in the recovery phase is to restore systems and data to their pre-incident state. This includes restoring data from backups, reinstalling software, and applications, and verifying that systems and data are functioning properly.
- Conduct a Post-Incident Review After systems and data have been restored, it is important to conduct a post-incident review to identify areas for improvement and update the incident response plan as needed. This includes analyzing the incident response procedures to determine their effectiveness, improving security controls, identifying any gaps in the response plan, updating the plan to address these gaps, and increasing employee awareness and training.
- Update the Incident Response Plan The incident response plan should be updated based on the findings of the post-incident review.
- Communicate the Incident Response Plan The incident response plan should be communicated to all stakeholders to ensure
In addition to updating the incident response plan, it is essential to implement measures to prevent future incidents from occurring. This may include improving network security, implementing more robust access controls, and training employees on cybersecurity best practices.
Finally, it is essential to communicate with stakeholders about the incident and the steps taken to recover from the incident. This includes providing regular updates on the status of the recovery efforts and any measures being implemented to prevent future incidents.
Creating a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan based on the NIST framework is an essential step in protecting your organization from cybersecurity threats. By following the NIST guidelines, organizations can develop a comprehensive incident response plan that includes preparation, detection, response, and recovery.
The NIST process emphasizes that incident response is not a linear activity that starts when an incident is detected and ends with eradication and recovery. Rather, incident response is a cyclical activity, where there is continuous learning and improvement to discover how to better defend the organization.
The preparation phase involves developing an incident response team, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing policies and procedures for incident response. The detection phase involves implementing measures to detect cybersecurity incidents, such as intrusion detection systems and security monitoring.
The response phase involves developing a plan for responding to cybersecurity incidents, including incident containment, analysis, and mitigation. The recovery phase involves restoring systems and data to their pre-incident state and implementing measures to prevent future incidents from occurring.
By following these steps and regularly updating the incident response plan, organizations can effectively respond to cybersecurity incidents and minimize the potential damage caused by these incidents. A well-prepared and well-executed incident response plan can help protect an organization’s reputation, prevent financial losses, and ensure the safety of sensitive data and systems.