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Emergency Preparedness in the Digital Age

Time to review your Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan (CIRP)

Emergency preparedness in the digital age

Cybersecurity Challenges

Cyberattacks including malware, phishing, ransomware, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), and social engineering, pose a significant threat to organizations nowadays. Being prepared is crucial to protect sensitive data, ensure business continuity, and mitigate financial and reputational damage. It helps organizations thwart attacks, detect breaches early, and respond effectively, reducing downtime. Moreover, regulatory compliance mandates cybersecurity readiness, and unpreparedness can lead to non-compliance consequences. Intellectual Property (IP) protection and national security are also at stake, making preparedness imperative for safeguarding assets and maintaining trust. Privacy concerns necessitate a strong defense against data breaches, reinforcing the need for proactive cybersecurity measures and incident response planning.

Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan (CIRP)

A Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan (CIRP) is a comprehensive strategy designed to manage and mitigate the impact of cybersecurity incidents within an organization. It outlines roles, procedures, communication protocols, and compliance considerations for responding to incidents, to ensure a systematic and coordinated response, minimizing the extent of damage and downtime. It also helps detect, contain, and eradicate threats, facilitating faster recovery and reducing financial losses, as well as fulfill legal compliance and data breach notification obligations. Having such a plan in place for crisis and emergency situations is crucial for organizations.

National Cyber Incident Response Plan (NCIRP)

The National Cyber Incident Response Plan (NCIRP) is a strategic framework designed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), that promotes coordinated efforts among government agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector to respond effectively to cyber incidents. It emphasizes collaboration and information sharing, clarifies roles and responsibilities, outlines a structured incident management process, encourages early information sharing for threat detection, highlights the importance of public-private sector collaboration for protecting critical infrastructure, emphasizes effective communication during incidents, and prioritizes continuous improvement through training and updates to enhance response capabilities.

Let’s review each key features and objectives of that framework in more detail.

1. Define Roles and Responsibilities

The plan describes roles and responsibilities for different entities involved in responding to cyber incidents. It provides clarity on the responsibilities of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private sector organizations. This clarity is essential for a well-organized and effective response effort.

Ownership is mandatory in any organization to ensure a proper response is given to any issue or problem that may occur. Like sailing a large ship, running a large organization needs to be structured, with everyone knowing their scope of responsibility and action. This not only makes things easier for your users, but ultimately makes things easier on the team since roles are clearly defined. With everyone in place knowing their roles, it should be smooth sailing towards your destination.

2. Create Procedures and Processes

Involves developing structured, documented workflows and protocols to guide an organization's response to cybersecurity incidents. These procedures are a crucial element of the CIRP and encompass a range of activities and steps designed to facilitate a well-organized and effective response to incidents.

Effective incident response plans should encompass several key components. These components include incident categorization, which defines how incidents are categorized based on type and severity; incident detection and reporting procedures, outlining how security breaches are detected, reported, and to whom; response actions, specifying steps to address various incident types; containment and eradication strategies for preventing further harm and eliminating threats; recovery and remediation procedures for restoring affected systems; and robust documentation and reporting guidelines for maintaining detailed records of actions taken, which are crucial for legal and regulatory compliance purposes.

3. Implement Incident Management

The NCIRP outlines a structured approach to incident management, which encompasses several stages, including identification, containment, eradication, recovery, and lessons learned. This guidance aids in effectively managing cyber incidents at each stage, from detection to recovery and post-incident analysis.

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4. Establish Communication Protocols

Effective communication during cyber incidents is also a priority within the NCIRP. It includes provisions for clear and timely communication to manage incidents efficiently. Additionally, the plan highlights the importance of public awareness campaigns to help individuals and organizations protect themselves against cyber threats.

Define how information is communicated, both internally and externally, to employees, management, customers, partners, law enforcement, and regulatory authorities. Critical Event Management (CEM) is a comprehensive approach to identify, prepare for, respond to, and recover from critical events, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, or other crises. It involves real-time monitoring, risk assessment, communication, and coordination to ensure the safety of people, protect assets, and minimize disruptions. CEM combines technology, processes, and personnel to enable organizations to proactively address and manage a wide range of critical events effectively, ultimately enhancing resilience and business continuity.

5. Ensure Compliance

Data breach notification requirements mandate that organizations promptly inform affected parties in the event of a data breach, promoting transparency and safeguarding individuals' privacy. Additionally, the preservation of evidence is essential for legal proceedings, as it ensures that the organization can produce relevant information when required by law enforcement or during legal disputes. These obligations play a pivotal role in upholding legal integrity, protecting individuals' rights, and preserving the organization's reputation and legal standing.

In the United States, these are regulated by a combination of federal and state laws. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates healthcare organizations to notify individuals and relevant authorities about breaches involving protected health information, while the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) imposes similar requirements on financial institutions at the federal level. State laws on data breach notifications vary widely, with most states having their regulations, requiring organizations to notify affected individuals and sometimes state authorities. Preservation of evidence is primarily governed by federal and state rules of civil procedure, with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), particularly Rule 37(e), outlining guidelines for preserving electronically stored information in litigation. Given the evolving nature of legal requirements, consulting legal experts, and staying informed about the latest regulations is essential.

Moreover, most U.S. states have their own data breach notification laws that require organizations to notify affected individuals and, in some cases, state authorities, when a data breach occurs.

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6. Promote Information Sharing and Collaboration

Fomenting information sharing is a critical aspect of the plan. NCIRP emphasizes the need for government agencies and the private sector to share critical cyber threat information. This collaboration facilitates early threat detection and a more robust response. Recognizing the interconnectedness of critical infrastructure, the NCIRP underscores the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors. Many critical infrastructure elements are owned and operated by private companies, making this partnership essential for protecting vital systems and services. The NCIRP emphasizes the crucial aspect of coordination by establishing a framework that promotes collaboration and information sharing among various stakeholders. This coordination extends across federal government agencies, state and local governments, and private sector entities to ensure a unified response to cyber incidents.

7. Educate and Prepare Your Employees

Ensure all employees are trained and aware of their roles in incident response, including through regular training and exercises to test the plan's effectiveness (emergency simulations and drills).

A well-developed and regularly updated CIRP is a critical component of an organization's cybersecurity strategy. It helps ensure that the organization can respond quickly and effectively to security incidents, minimize damage, and protect sensitive information and systems. The plan should be tailored to the organization's specific needs and regularly tested to ensure its effectiveness.

The NCIRP is designed to be a living document that adapts to the evolving cybersecurity landscape. It encourages continuous improvement through regular exercises, training, and updates to enhance response capabilities, ensuring that it remains relevant and effective in addressing emerging cyber threats. As such, it is a critical component of the United States' efforts to enhance its cybersecurity posture and respond effectively to cyber incidents. It reflects the importance of a coordinated and collaborative approach to address the evolving and increasingly complex cyber threats facing the nation.

With the landscape of cyberattacks ever expanding, it is important for organizations to stay on top of their infrastructure and be proactive with cybersecurity measures and incident response planning in case of an emergency. Having a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan in place with roles and responsibilities clearly defined will help manage and mitigate the impact of cybersecurity incidents. While following the National CIRP guidelines as we described is a good place to start, it is important to consider the individual and unique characteristics of your organization and how you can best tailor a plan to fit your specific digital workplace. The team at ISEC7 Government Services would be happy to complete a security assessment for your organization and help you navigate the options available to you, as well as help leverage your existing solutions to their fullest capability. Based on our experiences across organizations large and small with unique security demands and stringent requirements, we can confidently match you and your organization with the right solution.


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