Incident Response-NIST-Chaos


“The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) has developed a comprehensive standard for incident response called NIST Special Publication 800-61 Revision 2, titled “Computer Security Incident Handling Guide.” This publication outlines guidelines and procedures for organizations to effectively detect, respond to, and recover from computer security incidents. The document is widely recognized and utilized by organizations worldwide as a framework for incident response.

The NIST incident response process consists of four main phases:

  1. Preparation:
    • This phase involves establishing the groundwork for effective incident response. Key activities include:
      • Creating an incident response policy and plan: Define roles and responsibilities, establish communication protocols, and document procedures for incident detection, reporting, and response.
      • Establishing an incident response team: Assemble a team of personnel with relevant skills and expertise to handle security incidents.
      • Conducting training and exercises: Ensure that team members are adequately trained in incident response procedures and regularly test the incident response plan through tabletop exercises and simulations.
      • Implementing security controls: Deploy security controls such as intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and antivirus software to help detect and mitigate security incidents.
  2. Detection and Analysis:
    • In this phase, organizations monitor their systems and networks for signs of security incidents. Key activities include:
      • Monitoring and logging: Continuously monitor systems and networks for suspicious activity and maintain detailed logs for analysis.
      • Incident identification: Detect and classify security incidents based on predefined criteria.
      • Initial assessment: Conduct a preliminary analysis of the incident to determine its scope, impact, and severity.
  3. Containment, Eradication, and Recovery:
    • Once an incident has been detected and analyzed, the focus shifts to containing the incident, eliminating the threat, and restoring normal operations. Key activities include:
      • Containment: Take immediate steps to prevent the further spread of the incident and minimize damage.
      • Eradication: Identify and remove the root cause of the incident from affected systems and networks.
      • Recovery: Restore affected systems and data to a known good state and verify that normal operations have been restored.
  4. Post-Incident Activity:
    • After the incident has been contained and resolved, organizations should conduct a post-incident review to identify lessons learned and improve future incident response efforts. Key activities include:
      • Post-incident analysis: Conduct a thorough review of the incident to identify weaknesses in existing security controls and incident response procedures.
      • Updating documentation: Revise the incident response plan, policies, and procedures based on lessons learned from the incident.
      • Implementing improvements: Take corrective actions to address deficiencies identified during the post-incident analysis and improve overall incident response capabilities.

By following the NIST incident response process, organizations can effectively detect, respond to, and recover from security incidents, thereby minimizing the impact on their operations and reducing the risk of future incidents.”

Failing to Prepare = Chaos

Failing to prepare for incident response can lead to chaos for several reasons:

  1. Lack of Defined Processes: Without a well-defined incident response plan and procedures in place, there will be confusion and uncertainty about how to handle security incidents when they occur. This can result in delays in responding to incidents, ineffective containment efforts, and difficulty in coordinating the response among team members.
  2. Inadequate Resource Allocation: Without proper preparation, organizations may not have dedicated incident response teams, trained personnel, or sufficient resources (such as tools and technology) to effectively detect, analyze, and respond to security incidents. This can lead to a disorganized and ad hoc response effort that is ill-equipped to address the incident effectively.
  3. Increased Impact and Damage: In the absence of preparation, security incidents are more likely to escalate and cause greater damage to systems, data, and reputation. Without proactive measures in place to detect and contain incidents early, attackers may have more time to exfiltrate data, disrupt operations, or spread malware throughout the organization’s network.
  4. Regulatory and Legal Consequences: Many industries and jurisdictions have regulatory requirements mandating incident response preparedness. Failing to comply with these requirements can result in legal and regulatory consequences, including fines, penalties, and damage to the organization’s reputation. Additionally, inadequate incident response preparedness may also result in legal liability if stakeholders claim negligence in protecting their data or assets.
  5. Loss of Trust and Credibility: In the event of a security breach, stakeholders, including customers, partners, and shareholders, expect organizations to respond promptly and effectively to mitigate the impact of the incident. Failing to do so can erode trust and credibility, leading to reputational damage and potential loss of business.

Overall, failing to prepare for incident response increases the likelihood of chaos and confusion during a security incident, making it more challenging to minimize the impact and recover effectively. Therefore, it is essential for organizations to invest time and resources in developing comprehensive incident response plans, training personnel, and implementing appropriate security controls to mitigate these risks.

Why Do So Many Groups Fail to Prepare?

There are several reasons why organizations may fail to adequately prepare for incident response as defined in the NIST standard:

  1. Lack of Awareness or Understanding: Some organizations may not be fully aware of the importance of incident response preparedness or may not fully understand the potential consequences of a security incident. They may underestimate the likelihood of experiencing a cyberattack or the impact it could have on their operations, reputation, and bottom line.
  2. Resource Constraints: Many organizations, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), may have limited resources, including budget, time, and personnel, to dedicate to cybersecurity initiatives. As a result, incident response preparedness may not be prioritized, or organizations may lack the resources necessary to develop and maintain robust incident response capabilities.
  3. Complexity of the Task: Implementing effective incident response capabilities can be complex and challenging, requiring coordination across different departments, technologies, and stakeholders within the organization. Some organizations may struggle with the complexity of developing comprehensive incident response plans, training personnel, and implementing necessary security controls.
  4. Complacency: Organizations that have not experienced a significant security incident in the past may become complacent and believe that they are not likely to be targeted by cyberattacks. This complacency can lead to a lack of urgency in preparing for incident response and a failure to recognize evolving cyber threats and vulnerabilities.
  5. Misconceptions about Security: There may be misconceptions within organizations about the effectiveness of their existing security measures or a belief that investing in incident response preparedness is unnecessary because they have implemented preventive security controls such as firewalls and antivirus software. However, preventive measures alone are not sufficient to defend against all cyber threats, and organizations need to be prepared to respond effectively when preventive measures fail.
  6. Organizational Culture: In some cases, organizational culture may hinder incident response preparedness. Organizations that lack a culture of security awareness and accountability may struggle to prioritize cybersecurity initiatives and may not allocate sufficient resources to incident response preparedness.
  7. Complexity of Compliance Requirements: Compliance with regulatory requirements related to incident response (such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS) can be complex and challenging for organizations, particularly those operating in highly regulated industries. Some organizations may struggle to interpret and comply with these requirements, leading to gaps in their incident response capabilities.

Overall, addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from organizations to prioritize cybersecurity, allocate sufficient resources, raise awareness about the importance of incident response preparedness, and foster a culture of security within the organization. By doing so, organizations can better protect themselves against cyber threats and minimize the impact of security incidents on their operations and reputation.

Why Do So Many Groups Fail in Post Incident Activity?

Failure to effectively carry out post-incident activities, as defined in the NIST standard, can occur due to various reasons:

  1. Lack of Documentation: If an organization fails to adequately document the incident response process, including the actions taken during and after the incident, it becomes challenging to conduct a thorough post-incident analysis. Without comprehensive documentation, valuable lessons learned from the incident may be lost, hindering improvement efforts for future incidents.
  2. Resource Exhaustion: Dealing with a security incident can be resource-intensive, and once the incident is contained and resolved, organizations may be eager to return to normal operations as quickly as possible. This rush to resume normal activities may result in inadequate attention being paid to post-incident activities, such as conducting a detailed analysis and implementing corrective actions.
  3. Blame Culture: In organizations with a blame culture, there may be a tendency to focus on assigning blame for the incident rather than conducting a constructive post-incident analysis aimed at identifying root causes and implementing preventive measures. This can lead to defensiveness among team members and hinder open communication about lessons learned.
  4. Lack of Management Support: Without strong support from organizational leadership, post-incident activities may be de-prioritized or overlooked altogether. Management may fail to allocate sufficient resources or provide the necessary guidance and direction to ensure that post-incident analysis and improvement efforts are carried out effectively.
  5. Inadequate Skills and Expertise: Conducting a thorough post-incident analysis requires specialized skills and expertise in areas such as digital forensics, incident response, and cybersecurity. If an organization lacks personnel with these skills, or if those personnel are overburdened with other responsibilities, the quality and effectiveness of post-incident activities may suffer.
  6. Insufficient Tools and Technology: Post-incident analysis often relies on tools and technologies for collecting and analyzing forensic evidence, identifying vulnerabilities, and assessing the effectiveness of security controls. If an organization lacks access to these tools or if the tools are outdated or inadequate, it can hinder the effectiveness of post-incident activities.
  7. Time Constraints: Organizations may face pressure to resume normal operations quickly after a security incident, leading to time constraints on post-incident activities. This can result in a rushed or incomplete analysis, with important insights and lessons learned overlooked or ignored.

To address these challenges, organizations should prioritize post-incident activities, allocate sufficient resources, foster a culture of accountability and learning, and invest in the necessary skills, tools, and technologies to conduct thorough post-incident analysis and implement effective corrective actions. By doing so, organizations can better understand the root causes of security incidents, improve their incident response capabilities, and reduce the likelihood and impact of future incidents.

How Does Gathering OSINT Intelligence Before the Attack Help With Incident Response?

Gathering OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) before an attack can significantly aid incident response efforts by providing valuable insights into potential threats and vulnerabilities. Here’s how OSINT intelligence gathering can help incident response:

  1. Early Threat Detection: OSINT can help organizations detect early signs of potential threats or attacks by monitoring public sources of information such as social media, forums, and news articles. By proactively monitoring these sources, organizations can identify indicators of compromise (IOCs), suspicious activities, or emerging threats, allowing them to take preemptive action to mitigate risks and strengthen their defenses before an attack occurs.
  2. Risk Assessment: OSINT can provide valuable information for conducting risk assessments and identifying vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and infrastructure. By analyzing publicly available data such as security advisories, vulnerability databases, and hacker forums, organizations can assess their exposure to known vulnerabilities and prioritize remediation efforts accordingly.
  3. Threat Intelligence: OSINT can contribute to threat intelligence by providing insights into threat actors, their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and their motivations. By monitoring online discussions, forums, and dark web marketplaces, organizations can gather intelligence on potential adversaries, their capabilities, and their targeting preferences, enabling them to tailor their defenses and response strategies accordingly.
  4. Contextual Understanding: OSINT can help incident responders develop a contextual understanding of security incidents by providing additional context and background information. For example, OSINT can provide insights into the geopolitical or industry-specific context surrounding an attack, which can help incident responders better understand the motives and objectives of the attackers and tailor their response accordingly.
  5. Evidence Collection: OSINT can aid in the collection of digital evidence during incident response investigations. By leveraging publicly available information such as online posts, social media profiles, and website content, incident responders can gather relevant evidence to support their investigations, such as identifying the source of an attack, tracing the propagation of malware, or documenting the extent of a data breach.
  6. Incident Attribution: OSINT can assist in attributing security incidents to specific threat actors or groups by correlating indicators of compromise (IOCs) with known threat actor profiles and tactics. By analyzing OSINT data alongside internal telemetry and intelligence sources, organizations can enhance their ability to attribute security incidents accurately, which can inform response strategies and potentially facilitate legal or law enforcement actions against threat actors.

Overall, gathering OSINT intelligence before an attack can provide organizations with valuable insights and early warning indicators to enhance their incident response capabilities, improve their ability to detect and respond to security threats, and ultimately reduce the impact of cyber attacks on their operations and assets.

Take a Way

  1. When an incident occurs, the attacker has the upper hand. The attacker has a plan on how and what to collect. The attacker understands the value of keeping a low profile. The attacker has thought through an escape path and a fall back escape path. When alerts come pouring in, just as in the fog of war, an incident response team can easily fall into a state of chaos.
  2. In Newport, Rhode Island there is the US Naval War College – “Home of Thought”. Folks from around the globe come to learn by simulating events. They learn how to apply critical thought to complex problems. But as every warrior knows, war is seldomly captured in a simulation. To handle the inevitable, and prevent chaos, folks learn to prepare and think. An incident response team must prepare and think – stay ahead of the chaos that is guaranteed to follow a compromise.
  3. Failure to conduct an effective post incident activity, is a lost opportunity to learn and prepare for the next attack. Plus a ton of embarrassment, when your boss realizes you have learned nothing from your experiences.

Discover more from Threat Detection

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Threat Detection

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading