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Attacks/Breaches

10/23/2015
12:00 PM
Ryan Vela
Ryan Vela
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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.

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. 

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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 ... View Full Bio
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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/28/2015 | 4:35:51 PM
Re: Thanks
Indeed, companies have found their liability favorably reduced/eliminated in situations where they simply addressed cybersecurity enough at board meetings.  There are more benefits to security than mere security.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/28/2015 | 4:33:28 PM
Re: Thanks
And, of course, ideally, for major enterprises and even some SMEs, there was some pre-investigation involvement with law enforcement contacts -- for instance, meet-and-greets and tabletop exercises in preparation for better security postures and more effective involvement should the day come when it is necessary.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/28/2015 | 4:31:47 PM
Re: Thanks
@Ryan: Good point.  We are now at the level where we have everything but a Chief Making Sure There Are Enough Paper Towels in the Men's Room Officer.  "C-level" is losing its meaning and import.
Enrico Fontan
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Enrico Fontan,
User Rank: Strategist
10/27/2015 | 7:39:30 PM
Re: Thanks
@ryanvela/@Ryan/@Joe I agree with the C-level security concept. During critical events a CISO need to be able to interact at C-level to be fast and operate in a transparent way.

If the CISO reports to the CIO I hardly think that such a step could be possible:

"Involved the local FBI office at the start of the investigation"
ryanvela
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ryanvela,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/27/2015 | 6:59:58 PM
Re: Thanks
@Ryan and @Joe, you both have good points.  I have worked cases with organizations that have and do not have formal CISO positions.  One organization had the CISO reporting to the CIO, another had the CISO reporting to the CFO, and I am aware of an organization where the CIO reports to the CISO, but I have not worked on a breach for that type of organization.  Nevertheless, all of the organizations have a person that carries the function of the CISO, regardless of the person's title, whether they report to the board, or what staff they have under them.  But two changes (new or enhanced) I have found that organizations that have gone through breaches initiate:  1. Cybersecurity maintains top-down advocacy; and by top, obviously the C-suite; and  2. Cybersecurity has a voice at regular board meetings; not just once a year at the "cyber review" meeting.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2015 | 8:41:22 AM
Re: Thanks
@Joe. Very true. I think it comes down to how your corporate environment is structured. Do most of the C level employees report to the board? If yes, then the CISO should as well.

Or is a C level position given to so many people that everyone is a C level for something. In a case like this it becomes unmanageable. I know the latter case sounds not applicable, but I just wanted to poke at the Chief level being put in front of many job titles with high specificity when it probably shouldn't.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2015 | 11:06:45 PM
Re: Thanks
@Ryan: There is a lot of debate regarding to whom the CISO should report.  The CIO is often the typical and obvious choice, but the CIO and the CISO often have conflicting goals -- budgetary, political, and more.  Many think the CISO should report to the CFO or even the CEO.  Others think the CISO should report directly to the board.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2015 | 7:48:34 AM
Re: Thanks
This is why security needs to have an equal seat at the table. A CISO should be able to bring pivotal points to light and delineate why its imperative to get things moving as soon as possible. Ideally...


Unfortunately, many times this is not the case.
ryanvela
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ryanvela,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/25/2015 | 12:45:04 AM
Re: Thanks
Excellent observation.  I can attest to receiving Monday morning calls from CISOs after they've known of an incident since the previous week.  Not only that, I see well meaning security groups struggle with containing a situation they found earlier in the week only to find themselves tired, frustrated, and annoyed Friday afternoon.  Friday afternoons and Monday mornings are when I get most of my calls for assistance.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2015 | 2:59:47 PM
Thanks
An important article for executives to read.  Alas, many CEOs and CIOs take the attitude, when faced on Friday afternoon with news of an attack or other intrusion or compromise, of "We'll deal with it first thing Monday."
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