Attacks/Breaches

3/14/2018
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77% of Businesses Lack Proper Incident Response Plans

New research shows security leaders have false confidence in their ability to respond to security incidents.

Your incident response plan probably isn't as strong as you think it is, according to a new pool of research showing a broad gap between the perceived strength of incident response plans and their true effectiveness.

In "The Third Annual Study on the Cyber Resilient Organization," Ponemon researchers surveyed more than 2,848 IT and IT security pros from around the world. They learned businesses continue to struggle to respond to security incidents, primarily because they lack formal incident response plans and sufficient budgets.

Nearly half (48%) of respondents rate their "cyber resilience" as high or very high, an increase from 32% one year prior. Researchers define cyber resilience as "the alignment of prevention, detection and response capabilities to manage, mitigate and move on from cyber attacks."

However, 77% of respondents admit they don't have a formal incident response plan applied consistently across their organization. Nearly half say their plan is informal or nonexistent.

"There's a bit of a discrepancy," says Ted Julian, vice president of product management at IBM Resilient. "Respondents are saying they're feeling more confident about their cyber resilience, yet when you look at the details of the components that would create good cyber resiliency, they didn't score nearly as well."

These components include skilled talent, information governance practices, formal incident response plan across the business, technologies addressing the severity and volume of attacks, sufficient funding, senior management support, and visibility into data and applications.

The top reason cited for improved cyber resiliency was hiring skilled personnel (61%), followed by better information governance (60%), and visibility into data assets and applications (57%).

Yet hiring continues to be an obstacle: the inability to hire and retain skilled personnel was the second-most common barrier to cyber resilience, reported 56% of respondents. Seventy-nine percent said the importance of having skilled security pros in an incident response plan was "high" or "very high," and 77% rated the difficulty in hiring and retaining them as very high.

Part of the reason is incident response experts need a broad range of skills. They have to know a little bit of everything: endpoint, network, operating system, the ins and outs of malware.

"It's notoriously difficult, both to keep these people and to find them," he says. "People with incident response skills are in extremely high demand … it's a diverse, hard-to-find skill set that exacerbates this talent crunch."

The largest barrier to cyber resiliency was lack of investment in new cybersecurity technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning (60%). Julian explains how tools leveraging AI can help with "alert fatigue" so analysts can focus on more complex tasks. Some key components of incident reponse plans -- checking the EDR platform, deploying URL monitoring -- can all be automated, he says.

Incident Response Isn't One-Size-Fits-All

Some will have an incident response plan that's really thin, and it's hard to say it does anything particularly well, says Julian. Others will try to overcompensate by including every possible scenario in one plan, in which case their strategy is unwieldy.

Different incidents require different responses. What will you do if there's a DDoS attack? A ransomware attack? What happens in the case of a stolen laptop? Creating a separate plan for each distinct type of incident is critical.

You also must factor in everyone involved. A common mistake, especially in organizations with less mature plans, is neglecting to include third parties. If an incident occurs at a company that handles your customers' data, you need a process to respond appropriately.

Julian emphasizes the importance of practicing plans once they've been developed. Fire drills and tabletop exercises, during which team members go through the motions to understand their roles and responsibilities, will prove critical in the chaos following a data breach.

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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