Incident Response: When Bad Things Happen to Good Companies
If you don't have a clear incident response plan in place, you risk losing millions of dollars.
By Simone Kaplan
May 01, 2003 — CSO — Were there a computer Incident Hall of Fame, you could probably imagine strolling the halls and browsing through exhibits of history's most dynamic electronic viruses and worms—the villains whose names have sent shivers down the spine of any security expert equipped with a decent memory: The Morris Worm, Melissa, Nimda, Code Red, LoveLetter, Klez and, of course, the most recent inductee, SQL Slammer. You might also see some of the more notorious service outages, hacker penetrations, denials of service, malicious e-mail and Internet attacks on display. All have caused varying degrees of chaos, and some have even stopped businesses in their tracks, crippling productivity and costing millions of dollars in lost commerce.
And yet all could have been tamed. Had someone the foresight to put an incident response plan in place, those viruses and worms and outages and attacks might not be so infamous today.
Of course, such a place doesn't really exist, but the threat of cyberattacks does. And it's growing every day, due in part to the widespread use of e-mail and the Internet. According to statistics from Carnegie Mellon's CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC), the number of reported cyberincidents has surged from only six in 1988 to a whopping 82,000 in 2002. Despite the rising threat, however, CERT/CC finds that most CSOs don't even think about their response to an incident until after they've experienced an intrusion of some sort, says Chad Dougherty, an Internet security analyst at CERT/CC. "That's because most companies feel relatively safe. They believe that the hackers won't target them, specifically," he says.
But they'd be wrong, says Dougherty. The majority of computer incidents are no longer focused on a particular company. "Most attacks now are automated," he says. "They spread with the intent to damage everyone and everything they can."
Clearly, it's time for CSOs to come to terms with the need for response planning. "For a long time, incident response meant having a loose team of people on call if something went wrong," says Gene Fredriksen, vice president of information security at Raymond James Financial. "Then companies started getting hit regularly, and I think CSOs are finally beginning to realize that incident response is not optional."
Not optional, but also not easy. Even a well-prepared CSO knows that an incident response plan can't keep his company completely safe from attack