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The Security Model is Broken, Part 3: Cyber Incident Response

It’s Time to Step up our Game

Today, enterprises are facing cyber threats every day, every hour, every minute.

Incident response is being slighted

Enterprises are spending more money and resources on strengthening their cyber defenses. More effort is spent on detecting and alerting on potential cyber incidents or threats. More emphasis is being placed on sharing cyber threat information among enterprises. Yet, our cyber incident response capabilities are not getting a lot of attention. In a Ponemon Institute report (sponsored by Lancope) from January 2014 on Cyber Security Incident Response: Are we as prepared as we think?, 68% of respondents thought that their organizations needed better incident response capabilities.

Incident response is too slow

When a major vulnerability alert is issued, the typical first step of a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) is to perform a network scan of their IT assets to assess their exposure. This means that enterprises do not have or maintain real-time or near real-time situational awareness of their IT security posture. Moreover, it means that the response time to a cyber-vulnerability alert is slow and it take days, if not weeks, to fully assess one exposure and remediate. The Ponemon report reveals that 56% of respondents believe it takes hours, days, weeks or months to identify an incident. This is unacceptable in today’s cyber environment.

Situational awareness is critical

Every organization needs an effective, operational and practiced incident response plan to proactively manage cybersecurity events

Every organization needs an effective, operational and practiced incident response plan to proactively (as well as reactively) manage cybersecurity events. Maintaining cyber situational awareness is critical to assessing and responding to a cyber incident in minutes versus days. Situational awareness is having real-time or near real-time accurate information about your cyber assets and systems, their configurations, their vulnerabilities, and last but not least, their activities. This requires continuous network monitoring capabilities to detect new assets and to assess their configurations and vulnerabilities. Bottom line: it means having real-time or near real-time intelligence about your security posture. These capabilities are necessary to be able to respond to a cyber-threat in minutes versus days.

Military preparedness is essential

Maintaining cyber situational awareness is critical to assessing and responding to a cyber incident in minutes versus days

Much like the military, the CSIRT should be prepared to respond to a situation before an alert happens. They must have and maintain situational awareness at all times. They must be prepared to respond quickly to a threat and to minimize damages.

In summary, cyber incident response capabilities need to be measured in terms of minutes, not days or weeks! That requires real-time or near real-time situational awareness of cyber assets, configurations, vulnerabilities and activity. It means not only strengthening detection capabilities but also strengthening incident response capabilities to combat today’s security threats.