Threat Intel Flash: Sisense Data Compromise: ARC Labs Intelligence Flash

Get the Latest


Incident Response – IR Planning & MDR Coordination  

Incident Response (IR) shapes how effectively an organization can survive and recover from a cyberattack.  

A robust IR plan ensures that an organization is prepared to respond swiftly and efficiently to potential threats. Coordinating IR planning with your Managed Detection and Response (MDR) partner is an essential component. Successful defense requires collaboration and the agility to respond to threats to minimize damage. 

What Is Incident Response (IR)?

Incident Response (IR) is the process of addressing and managing the aftermath of a security breach or cyberattack. The purpose is to institute a procedure for responding to incidents that limits damage and reduces recovery time and costs. An effective IR plan involves a sequence of critical actions starting from the identification of an incident to its containment and eradication, followed by a recovery phase where normal operations are restored. 

Traditionally viewed as an emergency service activated after a severe impact, IR comes into play when an organization or their cybersecurity partner detects a breach. The process requires a dedicated focus to scope, analyze, and tactically mitigate threats, usually visible in large-scale corporate crises like ransomware attacks or major data exfiltration. In such high-stress situations, specialized teams or third-party providers step in to navigate the complex process of remediation. 

IR also includes preemptive activities that are part of a continuous effort to maintain security. This involves monitoring, early detection, and immediate response to prevent incidents from escalating. The ongoing nature of IR involves using the right expertise and taking the right actions to address threats before they evolve into breaches. Ongoing IR activities are what fill the space between day-to-day security operations and catastrophic incidents. 

Elements of an Effective Incident Response Plan

Strong Environmental Awareness 

The essence of a well-devised incident response plan is deep awareness of the environment it protects.  

An effective plan begins with a thorough inventory of the organization’s assets, data, and system interconnections. It’s vital to understand information flow, recognize where data resides, and know the specifics of system ownership and operating environments.  

Environmental awareness informs technical defenses and the strategic response to incidents. This is crucial to identify blind spots and coverage gaps. It also allows the incident response team to track issues historically and respond swiftly when an incident arises. 

Crisis Management Beyond Technology 

Incident response plan objectives also include the softer aspects of crisis management outside of technical readiness. Communication orchestration, legal, and operational responses all play a role.  

Clear communication protocols are necessary for internal stakeholders and external entities that may be affected or need to be informed. Coordination eliminates the potential for information silos within IT or security teams. Communication protocols should be integrated across the organization, involving necessary parties like legal counsel, public relations, and operations.  

Practicing responses through simulated tabletop exercises ensures the plan is not just theoretical but a functional blueprint that the organization can execute under stress. 

Organized, Proportionate Reactions to Incidents 

An effective incident response plan aims for an organized, proportionate reaction to incidents.  

IR seeks to avoid underreaction that can lead to festering issues or overreaction that can cause undue panic. Achieving this balance involves recognizing incidents promptly, accurately scoping their impact, and implementing measured responses.  

An incident response plan should guide the organization from the initial identification of an issue through to containment and eradication, and into recovery and post-incident analysis.  

 Ultimately, the goal is to handle incidents efficiently to minimize impact, enable rapid recovery, and implement lessons learned to fortify against future threats. 

How to Do Incident Response Planning 

Plan proactively

In incident response (IR) planning, proactive measures are foundational for a robust cybersecurity posture. Imagine a customer, new to the IR process, who, due to diligent pre-planning, seamlessly integrates with an IR team, enabling rapid action without hiccups. This is not just ideal but achievable when internal IT, MDR, IR personnel, and executive leadership work in lockstep, establishing clear communication and escalation paths.  

The contrast is stark when comparing this to a reactive approach where IR efforts are hindered by a lack of visibility and access, ultimately leading to delayed responses and possibly compromised solutions. 

Conduct regular purple team exercises

Beyond foundational tabletop exercises, pay keen attention to purple team exercises. Unlike standard penetration tests, purple team exercises bring together the offense and defense—simulated attackers and the internal security team—in a cooperative environment. The primary goal is to weave through a sequence of designed events, setting off alerts and triggering defenses, to closely examine how security operations respond to escalating incidents.  

This practice exposes the intricacies of real-world response mechanisms that exist in the often undefined space between managed detection and response (MDR) services and full-scale incident response (IR). It’s a valuable opportunity to refine technical response capabilities in a controlled environment. 

Adapt over time to address new challenges

The ability to adapt incident response (IR) strategies is vital for businesses to stay ahead of new threats. Adaptation isn’t just about deploying the latest technology, but a mindset shift. Companies often hesitate to activate IR services due to cost concerns and the intensive nature of traditional ‘retainer style’ responses. 

The problem is that the longer an organization delays, the more significant the potential damage. This calls for a dynamic approach that combines the reactivity of incident response with the daily rigors of security operations. 

A progressive IR plan should be less about deploying a ‘heavy’ approach every time the alarm sounds and more about a seamless integration with ongoing security measures. It should offer flexibility, allowing for rapid scaling in response to threats without overhauling the entire system.  

By working closely with service providers, organizations can develop a model that’s not only reactive but also proactively strengthens the organization’s overall security posture. Adapting over time means building a bridge between tactical, day-to-day defenses and the strategic, high-level responses. This ensures that when challenges evolve, response mechanisms are already a step ahead. 

Balance speed with thoroughness

In incident response (IR), there’s a delicate balance between acting swiftly and examining details. During typical operations, the emphasis on flexibility allows team members to share responsibilities and grow their expertise. But when a potential incident looms, the game changes. Prompt action is crucial, but not at the expense of a meticulous approach. Companies must define clear roles, delegating some to maintain business operations while others dig into the incident’s specifics. 

This distinction in responsibilities means that even as some team members address an escalating situation, the rest continue safeguarding ongoing operations. Speedy containment is a priority, but understanding the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind an incident cannot be overlooked. A dedicated team should dissect each stage of the incident, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. From triage to root cause analysis, they need to keep a laser focus on the event at hand. 

Simultaneously, the Security Operations Center (SOC) and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) teams must remain vigilant for new threats. This two-pronged focus demands that while teams work independently, they must communicate effectively. By keeping these lines open, businesses can ensure a rapid yet comprehensive response to incidents, safeguarding both immediate and future operations. 

Avoid common pitfalls

Refrain from involving too many people in incident response without clear roles.

Overcrowding the response team often leads to chaos, lack of coordination and slow decision making. At the same time, don’t skimp on including essential personnel, which can also result in critical delays. Businesses have to strike a balance and assemble a capable team tailored to the incident’s requirements without overpopulating the decision-making process.

Don’t forget to establish “break glass” procedures.

Institute emergency protocols that grant quick access to vital resources when needed. In the throes of an incident, immediate access to tools, data, and environments is key. A well-defined process for such access should be in place because delays in obtaining necessary information can exacerbate problems. Remember: every second counts. 

Have a clear understanding with your IR partner about the scope and flexibility of their engagement

Misunderstandings about the repercussions of escalating an incident can cause hesitation, leading to detrimental delays. So be sure to clarify the process of scaling the response up or down based on incident severity. A predefined, understood engagement model prevents the paralysis that fear of over-commitment can create. 

Tackling Incident Response with Binary Defense

Incident response isn’t just about sounding alarms when threats loom at the digital gates. It’s about acknowledging the reality that despite the best defenses, threats can, and sometimes do, get through. Here at Binary Defense, we understand that incident response is a complex endeavor requiring a blend of expertise, focused attention, and additional resources ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. 

When a security event escalates past initial defenses, the role of Binary Defense MDR becomes clear: provide the technical know-how and partnership to manage the incident. Our commitment to customers is grounded in a “right-sized approach”—no fearmongering, no upselling during a crisis, just effective and responsible incident management. 

Real-World Example: Binary Defense Customer Knows Who to Call and What to Do 

Let’s take a look at a great example of Binary Defense’s methodology in action, which unfolded during the onboarding of a new MDR client.  

Before the client’s systems were even fully monitored, a potential threat was detected. Fortunately, the client knew exactly who to call and had an established escalation protocol ready to activate. This level of preparedness is key in successful IR. 

The Binary Defense SOC and MDR teams collaborated with the client over several hours, spanning a couple of days. Due to the client’s organizational readiness and the swift action of our experts, they managed to trace the threat back to a business email compromise originating from a supplier (a classic yet effective attack vector). 

What followed was a textbook response: identification of the phishing emails, the affected users, and the quick enactment of tactical mitigations, including user account resets and communications to the appropriate company channels. Binary Defense’s joint effort with the client led to a well-contained incident, avoiding the need for a large-scale IR intervention. 

The lesson here is clear: incident response is not just about the technology or the defenses in place. It’s about the relationship and choreography between the service provider and the client. The ability to respond effectively hinges on an understanding of roles, knowledge of the threat landscape, and—most critically—the preparedness to act without hesitation.