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Post-Incident Response: Learning and Adapting

Author: Kyle Shubin, Senior Manager TBDCyber


Effective incident management doesn't end with resolving a security breach. It involves a crucial phase known as post-incident response, where organizations reflect on the incident experience and adapt their strategies to improve future defenses. This phase plays a significant role in building organizational resilience.


This article underscores the necessary steps organizations should take after resolving a security incident. It particularly stresses the benefits of conducting a thorough post-mortem analysis, which can lead to improved incident response, enhanced cross-team collaboration, and refined technical controls.

Post-Incident Analysis

A thorough post-incident analysis is essential to comprehending and enhancing the response process. The analysis requires input from multiple departments, including IT, security, legal, and human resources, to comprehensively view the incident's impact and origins. Important components of the post-incident analysis include:


  • Timeline Reconstruction: To properly evaluate an incident, it's important to create a timeline that outlines when the event was first detected to when it was eventually resolved. This timeline can help identify any gaps or inefficiencies in the incident response process. The incident log maintained by the incident response team should provide most of the information needed to construct the timeline.


  • Impact Assessment: This assessment should measure the impact on data, resources, and overall business operations through the entire timeline of the incident. This should consider quantitative impacts such as costs incurred and lost revenue, as well as qualitative impacts such as reductions in customer service. The impact assessment will help in future recovery planning and stakeholder communication.


  • Root Cause Analysis: This analysis is designed to identify the underlying cause of the incident. It helps identify and understand exploited vulnerabilities and failures, including analyzing technical shortcomings, procedural errors, and human factors.


Cross-Team Collaboration

Effective post-mortem analysis requires collaboration across organizational boundaries. Incident response activities typically engage a broad set of personnel across the company. Collaborating in post-mortem analysis provides the following benefits:


  • Integrated Communication: Identify gaps in communication practices and information-sharing protocols across departments. This identifies opportunities to ensure that all organization segments are informed and respond promptly in a crisis.


  • Joint Training Sessions: Post-mortem analysis provides feedback to improve future security incident simulations that involve various departments and can help clarify roles and streamline the organizational response during actual events.

Security Awareness Benefits

Often, an incident post-mortem identifies a lack of knowledge or awareness as a contributing cause (or even a root cause) of the incident. Educating employees and users is an important part of an organization’s defense. Post-mortem analysis might indicate a need for:


  • Improved Team Versatility: Identifying the gaps in knowledge and skills and then training employees in incident response prepares them to handle multiple responsibilities better, enhancing the team's adaptability during crises.


  • Increased Risk Awareness: Adjusting the security awareness program to ensure the workforce is knowledgeable about security practices, better equipped to recognize risks, and values the importance of adhering to security protocols.

Improving Technical Controls

Improving technical safeguards should be guided by post-mortem findings, including addressing identified vulnerabilities and anticipating potential threats. Among the actions that might be implemented or enhanced following an incident are:


  • Upgrading Security Tools: Investing in advanced technology solutions that address the vulnerabilities revealed by the incident is crucial. This could involve improving firewall configurations to better filter unauthorized access, integrating advanced intrusion detection systems to detect and respond to suspicious activities more effectively, and reinforcing endpoint security measures to safeguard against malware and other threats.


  • Implementing Regular Updates and Patching: Improving routines for updating and patching computer systems is essential to minimize the risk of exploitation of known vulnerabilities. Patching routines should include operating systems, applications, and firmware updates for hardware devices. It is also important to conduct regular vulnerability assessments to ensure that all systems are up-to-date with the latest security patches. This will help to keep systems safe and secure from potential threats.


  • Boosting Monitoring and Logging: Improving the monitoring and logging practices of system activities enhances the capabilities for detecting and responding to anomalies. For Windows systems, tools such as Sysmon can provide detailed information about process creation, network connections, and changes in file creation time. By configuring Sysmon to log these activities, security teams can gain valuable insights that help trace the root cause of security incidents and understand attackers' movements within the network.


As you consider the necessary steps for effective post-incident response, it's essential to evaluate your organization's practices. Are you conducting comprehensive post-incident analyses? Is there effective collaboration among various teams in your organization to address security incidents thoroughly? Are you updating your incident response plans based on lessons learned from past incidents?


If you find these questions or strategies challenging to implement, TBDCyber can help. With our expertise in cybersecurity response, we can ensure that your organization not only recovers from incidents but also strengthens its defenses against future threats.


Let TBDCyber assist you in transforming challenges into opportunities for security enhancement.

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