These days, every organisation is a potential cyber-attack target. Hackers could be trying to get hold of sensitive data, access a customer or supplier, infiltrate the organisation’s activities, or just have a bit of fun.
As scary as it sounds, once we accept that one day we will be attacked, it makes sense for us to be prepared for what we’ll do when we are breached.
Getting prepared for a cyber attack
There are several aspects to preparing and protecting your organisation, including (but not limited to):
- How will you inform your stakeholders?
- How will you respond to the media if the story gets out?
Assessing the damage:
- How will you identify what data has been stolen?
- How will you determine the scope and scale of the breach?
- How will you know how the breach happened?
- How do you stop it happening again in the future?
Preparation in practice
For many organisations, how they respond and deal with public perception after a breach is paramount. A positive, well thought out and competent approach—which demonstrates to stakeholders and the general public that the organisation is in control—will likely result in limited reputational damage and no significant decline in public confidence.
However, the opposite is true too. If the public perception is that the organisation doesn’t know what it is doing, or has no clear plan for addressing the breach, then confidence will drop and there may be a significant effect on the organisation’s share price.
It’s often the first impressions that count in these circumstances and it’s important to have a crisis communications strategy in place. For example, your organisation should plan how they are going to deal with an event, who they need to contact, who will talk to the press etc. They should also have contact details for appropriate people within the press and media to hand.
Assessing the damage
Did you know? The average time taken for organisations to realise they have been breached is often quoted as being approximately 240 days.
Working out what has been taken—and when—can be very challenging for many organisations. Typically, they will need to have been capturing and retaining system and event logs from their servers and network devices (including firewalls and routers) and probably also endpoint devices (including laptops and desktops). Those logs may have to have been retained for quite some time.
Frustratingly, logs take up a huge amount of disk space, which in the past has been very expensive, so it’s unlikely that everything has been logged or that logs have been held for the 8 or 9 months needed.
In addition, trawling through those logs to identify ‘normal’ operations, then to find ‘abnormal’ actions is not practical for a human, but there are many tools available which can interrogate and map the logs. These are usually advertised as (Security Information and Event Management) SIEM tools, but there may be individual tools for specific requirements or sets of logs. These tools are used along with forensic techniques to determine exactly what happened and when.
Before you panic about the enormity of assessing the damage, it’s important to know that many companies will call in specialist incident response teams and digital forensics to help identify exactly what happened and when.
Once you know what happened—and how—you need to review existing security practices to protect your organisation from a recurrence. For example, if the initial attack came through an infected email, you may look at better email scanning or phishing awareness training for staff. This would be an iterative process, and that from each successive attack you look to strengthen defences.
Are you ready to be hacked?
If you’ve read this article and you’re not sure that your organisation is prepared, PGI are experts in both the proactive and reactive aspects of cyber security. Contact us today to get your organisation ready to be hacked: firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 845 600 4403.