What Is Incident Management and Why Is it an Important Cybersecurity Tactic?

By Steve Combs and Derrick King| November 23, 2021
Incident management is crucial for organizations who are trying to achieve security maturity. But if you haven't heard of it, don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as you may think. Incident management is essentially a way of saying managing your cybersecurity. And managing cybersecurity is something every business should care about.

In the second blog of our four-part series about BDO Digital’s suggested path towards security maturity, we’ll be reviewing incident management. Here's what you need to know about incident management and how your business can start to set up an incident management process.
 

What Is a Security Incident and What Is Incident Management?

A security incident is a confirmed breach of security leading to accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorized, disclosure of, or access to customer data or personal data. A security breach can lead to disruption or loss of an organization’s operations, services, or functions.
 
A breach is defined as unauthorized access to computer data, applications, networks, or devices. This is the last thing any organization wants. Therefore, how can organizations prevent security breaches? To prevent breaches from occurring, you must always monitor your systems. The monitoring of systems to identify, analyze, and correct hazards in real-time is known as incident management.
 
To give an  example, in May of 2021, hackers gained entry into the networks of Colonial Pipeline Co. A single compromised password took down the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., leading to shortages across the East Coast. Any company could fall victim to a similar attack, and if they do, they’ll want to identify the attack quickly and contain the damage. This well-known example, along with many others, shows us how critical incident management truly is.
 

How Incident Management Enhances Your Cybersecurity

If your organization is simply responding to threats as they come up, you’re not only risking the loss of data and slowing down operations, you’re also not being proactive to ensure it won’t happen in the future. Here are several reasons why incident management should be undertaken to enhance your security measures:
 
  • It minimizes the impact of a security incident. When the proper incident management measures are in place, damage can be contained, and risk can be reduced to the organization. Incident management also helps organizations quickly identify attacks.
 
  • It prevents the future re-occurrence of an incident or similar incident. An incident isn't always a bad thing. Often, to fix things, all that’s needed is a routine repair. Other times, a major repair is needed. But when minor incidents occur, an organization can fine tune alerts to ensure time is only spent where it matters most: on incidents that pose a threat.
 
  • It can prevent a full-blown security breach. Setting up alerts helps organizations address problems in a timely manner. By addressing security incidents quickly, an organization is mitigating risk and containing the damage that an incident would otherwise cause.
 
Responding to an alert can mean many things. Whether it’s a minor system repair or data infiltrating the network, incident management is a crucial cybersecurity practice. It helps organizations focus on the incidents that matter most. And when a breach does occur, the organization can respond quickly and contain the damage.

How to Implement Incident Management in Your Organization

To implement incident management within your organization, you must set up alerts, baseline and tune those alerts, and respond to threats in real-time. Once a business has all alerts set up, they typically go through a set process of qualifying them, documenting them, and acting upon them.
 
  • Set up alerts 
    When organizations have sensitive data that they want to protect, they typically set up alerts. Depending on the severity of a security breach, one alert can become an incident. But typically, it takes more than one alert to elevate the occurrence to an incident. In our first blog, we discussed data classification. Classifying data makes many security and compliance tasks easier, including incident management. If there is an incident, knowing where your data lives will help. Plus, when you classify data, you’re trying to control it. As part of the control mechanisms, you figure out things that you don’t want people to do and can set up alerts based on those findings.
 
  • Baseline and tune the alerts
    Baselining your alerts means looking at the volume of alerts that are coming in on an ongoing basis and from what systems. Once you have a good understanding of what alerts are coming into the organization, you can tune out the alerts that aren’t important and focus on the alerts that matter most.
 
  • Identify incidents, contain and eradicate the threat, and recover 
    After setting up alerts, you must respond to them in real-time. When threats do present themselves, you must have a plan for quickly finding where the data is that’s at risk. You also need to be able to contain the damage and quickly get rid of the threat. From there, you can recover as an organization. While you can find incidents, you want to set up alerts for during the data classification process, responding to threats in real-time is equally important that also helps you discover other alerts you want to set up.
 
According to an IBM study, it takes organizations an average of 214 days to identify a malicious or criminal attack and 77 days to contain and recover. Don’t let this be your organization. With the right incident management plan in place, you’ll be able to find and address threats quickly and efficiently. If your data is mapped, categorized, and organized, you can get solutions rapidly. Incident management and response protects you from security threats and ensures that nothing disrupts business operations.
 
Incident management is a hot topic in the security industry, and it’s a topic that all organizations should keep top-of-mind. According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, 77% of companies don’t have a formal, consistently applied plan in place.

Now that you know what incident management is, it’s time to implement it in your organization. Need help getting started? You can engage with BDO Digital for managed detection and response services—we’re happy to help! Contact us today to learn more.