September 24, 2019
Key Principles of Incident Response and Disaster Recovery: Short Overview
Security breaches and cybercrimes are becoming ever more sophisticated, which turns data protection strategy into a key factor for your business survival. Unexpected hardware failures can render your services unavailable to users and become a true disaster if you don’t have a comprehensive data protection solution in place. Even a simple human error such as unintentional modification or deletion of data may totally disrupt your daily operations. Whatever happens, your ability to quickly handle an emergency situation can help you reduce downtime and thus minimize damage, both financial and reputational. This is exactly why having a carefully developed incident response and disaster recovery plan is so important. With NAKIVO Backup & Replication, you are one step closer to achieving it. Below we will provide a short outline of what you should know about incident response and disaster recovery.
What Is Incident Response?
Incident response can be defined as a set of measures you may take to cope with various kinds of security breaches. Also referred to as IT incidents and security incidents, such events are to be handled in a way to reduce recovery time and costs. To mitigate risks and be prepared for as wide a range of events as possible, you need a detailed and comprehensive incident response plan. This is a set of procedures and actions to be taken when a security breach is revealed. An incident response specialist is supposed to ensure a uniform approach and make certain that none of the outlined steps are skipped. Another important task is to determine where the problem comes from in order to prevent similar incidents in the future. Finally, it is important to regularly update the incident response plan to make sure it addresses both the ever-evolving cyber threats and current needs of your infrastructure.
Types of Security Threats
One of the key principles of incident response and disaster recovery is to carefully develop a plan of actions to cover as many recovery scenarios as possible. Naturally, the key point is to do this before a disaster strikes and such a plan is urgently required. To begin with, you need to take an attentive look at the types of security incidents. Some of the most common ones are as follows:
- DDoS attack
The aim of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is to disrupt services and traffic of a target server, network, or website. To carry out an attack, one needs a network of computers infected with malware, or a botnet. The attacker controls bots remotely and sends them the necessary instructions. During a DDoS attack, machines in a botnet start sending simultaneous requests to the target. The flood of malicious traffic can potentially slow down or completely crash the target system. If successful, a DDoS attack renders the service unavailable to users and often results in significant financial damage, as well as the loss or theft of sensitive data.
- Malware and ransomware
Malware is a broad term that refers to viruses, worms, spyware, and other types of malicious programs. In some cases, it can act in a relatively inoffensive way (change screen background or delete files), but sometimes it remains hidden and steals sensitive information. Ransomware is a subset of malware, and the key difference is that the system’s user receives a notification with a demand to pay a ransom. As an example, the victim may find their disks or files encrypted, while the attacker normally promises to restore the machine to its previous state after they receive the payment.
Cybersecurity professionals insist that companies should never pay in such cases. On our part, we emphasize that an adequate backup solution is an effective weapon against ransomware. After all, the main reason why a victim might pay a ransom is because they don’t have an alternative.
This is a form of cyber fraud with its purpose being to access personally identifiable information (PII). As a rule, attackers use social engineering techniques. The victim might receive an email or text, or come across a social media post containing a link to a page where the visitors are asked to submit their personal details. The key idea is to make the victim believe that they are dealing with a reputable entity like a bank, government agency, or legitimate organization. Incident response in the event of a phishing attack should include both preparation and post-incident phases. It is also important to educate your colleagues so that they can recognize the signs of a phishing attempt and avoid putting your network at risk.
- Insider threat
Security threats of this type come from people related to the workflow of an organization, such as its employees, former employees, third parties, contractors, business associates, and so on. In most cases, their main motivation factor is personal gain. However, sometimes malicious insiders want to harm an organization and disrupt its services out of revenge.
A common scenario is when data is stolen on behalf of external parties, such as competitors or business partners. Careless workers who mishandle data or install unauthorized apps pose a threat as well. In other words, you are to carefully analyze all the possible attack vectors to design comprehensive incident response and disaster recovery plans. Once again, training your employees and implementing a set of security procedures are two important steps which can help protect your corporate network.
Incident Response Plan vs. Disaster Recovery Plan: What Is the Difference?
Put simply, an incident response plan should be incorporated into a disaster recovery plan. These are two components of a comprehensively developed data protection strategy. A common mistake is to create these two plans independently. The right practice is to develop, deploy, and test them as a complex of measures to protect data security and integrity. At the same time, even though the objectives of incident response and disaster recovery plans are related, they are not the same.
The key difference between incident response and disaster recovery plans lies in the type of events they address. As explained above, an incident response plan refers to the scope of actions to be taken during an incident. It defines an incident response team’s roles and responsibilities to ensure smooth running of incident response processes. In turn, a disaster recovery plan focuses on bringing your production environment back to an operational state after an incident occurs and successfully recovering from any caused damage.
A noteworthy thing is that security vulnerabilities, human errors, and technological malfunctions are possible to avoid, which is why we once again emphasize the importance of employee training. Apart from this, analyze the needs of your environment and make sure that your plans meet them. Consider preparing a plan tailored for the possible failure of a VM, network, cloud, data center, and so on. As an example, an effective data protection solution could save you quite a lot of time and costs. Apart from this, there is a risk of a disaster affecting your physical server, office, an entire building, or even a region. Even though some of these scenarios may seem unlikely, it is better to be prepared for as wide a range of unexpected events as possible.
In this way, the purpose of both incident response and disaster recovery plans is to minimize the impact of an unexpected event, recover from it, and return to the normal production level as fast as possible. Also, both of them contain an element of learning: it is important to identify the roots of a problem and, in such a way, decide how to prevent similar incidents in future. The principal difference is their primary objectives. The purpose of an incident response plan is to protect sensitive data during a security breach, while a disaster recovery plan serves to ensure continuity of business processes after a service disruption. A good practice is to document two plans separately. This will simplify the process of document creation, as well as let you find an appropriate action scope faster, both during testing and in a real-life situation.
Indeed, incident response and disaster recovery plans have much in common. After all, they are both designed to minimize the impact of an unpredicted event. However, the right practice is to create two different documents. Even though it may seem that having one document that covers all possible scenarios is a better idea, consolidated plans might lack depth and contain contradictions. Besides, long and complex documents are difficult to navigate, especially in an emergency situation. Finally, it is easier to manage and update two separate short documents rather than a large one. At the same time, remember that incident response and disaster recovery aren’t two separate disciplines. If you manage to successfully integrate an incident response plan with your disaster recovery plan, you will be able to respond to any disaster in a faster and more efficient manner.