You’ve Been Attacked. Now What?

The five steps you take in the first 48 hours after a breach will go a long way towards minimizing your organization’s exposure and liability.

Ryan Vela, Regional Director, Fidelis Cybersecurity

October 23, 2015

3 Min Read

Responding to an incident requires careful orchestration. You have to assemble a cross-functional response team, conduct forensic analysis, control communications, implement timely containment, and aggressively expel the attacker from your network. At the same time you need to incorporate advice and guidance from outside legal counsel and law enforcement, intelligence from regulators, and provisos from insurance providers.

We recently worked with a large organization that was put to the test when it experienced an attack by an advanced persistent threat actor. As always, speed was critical.  Here’s what happened in the initial 48 hours. The team:

  1. Engaged outside legal counsel skilled in cybersecurity incidents. Having legal counsel enables an outside consultant to operate under attorney-client privilege, which protects internal communications and accelerates a company’s ability to resolve the incident. In this case, our IR team also served as a cybersecurity advisor to legal counsel at executive and board meetings.

  2. Involved the local FBI office at the start of the investigation. The FBI reciprocated by providing potentially related artifacts, which originated at other organizations, so the company could search for them during the investigation. Although we didn’t find any of the artifacts in the client’s environment, the spirit of information-sharing was helpful. The company in turn shared all of the artifacts from its investigation with the FBI.

  3. Alerted industry regulators and performed disclosures to comply with multiple regulatory obligations. To offset the negative news, the company directly notified customers, employees and law enforcement organizations about the breach and the status of remediative actions that were underway.

  4. Developed a communication strategy. The IR team hired outside crisis communications agencies to craft messaging to defuse speculation and control the spread of inaccurate news. Team leaders directed internal and external legal counsels to review all communications related to the incident, mobilized the communications team to handle internal communications, and engaged an external crisis-communication firm to compose messages that carried the proper tone and minimized potential misunderstandings.

  5. Notified the insurance provider. Once it was determined that data was actually stolen, the organization began a discussion about insurance coverage to determine what costs would or would not be covered.

By performing a focused and thorough forensic analysis and developing an aggressive remediation plan, the IR team removed the attackers from the network within 36 hours. The expulsion event eradicated the attacker’s tools, cut off their ability to reenter the network, and minimized the risk of retaliation.

Experiencing a cyber attack is disruptive. Responding to a serious security incident correctly requires a strong partnership between the IR team and their outside forensic and legal experts. Inside the organization, you’ll need key IR staff, line of business managers and C-suite executives and board directors. Getting the right people involved and understanding the best way to efficiently use them is essential to properly investigating and resolving the event while managing costs and minimizing impact on the business. 

Black Hat Europe returns to the beautiful city of Amsterdam, Netherlands November 12 & 13, 2015. Click here for more information and to register.

About the Author(s)

Ryan Vela

Regional Director, Fidelis Cybersecurity

Ryan Vela is a Regional Director for Fidelis Cybersecurity. He has 15-years' experience in conducting investigations and digital forensic analysis. Ryan served as a Strategic Planner at the Defense Computer Forensics Laboratory (DCFL), where he established plans for the laboratory to establish operational capabilities and achieve ISO accreditation. As an Investigative Lead, Ryan specializes in large-scale cyberbreach investigations, situational containment, digital forensics, network security, malware analysis, and security assessments, and has recently served as the lead investigator for one of the most current and largest breaches to date.

Keep up with the latest cybersecurity threats, newly discovered vulnerabilities, data breach information, and emerging trends. Delivered daily or weekly right to your email inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights