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Cloud Incident Response: What It Is & How It Works | Airiam

Jesse Sumrak

Cloud Incident Response: What It Is & How It Works

Cloud incident response (IR) might sound like a fancy tech buzzword, but it’s vital to any business’s cybersecurity program. There’s a good chance your company relies on the cloud for at least a part of operations (if not all of them), but without an incident response plan, you’re just praying an attack never happens.

Unfortunately, that’s not good enough anymore. Because it’s not a question of if someone will attack your business—it’s a question of when. And when that time comes, do you have a plan to respond quickly and adeptly?

We’re here to help make sure your answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Data breaches and cyber threats aren’t just about financial costs (though those can be reason enough)—they’re about our reputation. Customers trust you to protect their data and to deliver on-time products and services.

Lose that vote of confidence, and you might never win it back.

Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about cloud incident response management, playbooks, and services to give your business the comprehensive cybersecurity resilience it needs to deal with threats when they happen.

What Is Cloud Incident Response?

Cloud incident response (CIR) is a structured approach to addressing and managing a security breach or cyber attack within cloud environments. It’s the systematic process (or should be) businesses use to quickly identify, contain, and eliminate cyber threats to minimize damage and reduce recovery time and costs.

Ultimately, the goal of cloud incident response management is to:

  • Maintain operations (or resume them as quickly as possible)
  • Minimize disruptions
  • Reduce recovery costs
  • Safeguard your organization’s data
  • Defend your reputation
  • Protect your customers’ data

Cloud Incident Response Definition: Cloud incident response is the emergency action plan activated when a cyber threat is detected in a cloud environment.

It encompasses a series of steps: from the initial detection of a breach to managing the immediate threats, responding to the incident to mitigate its impact, and finally, recovering any affected services or data to their original state.

So, why does this all matter for your organization? Unless you use pen, paper, cash, physical products and services, and the Pony Express, you likely use many cloud services to operate your business. And here’s why a robust cloud incident response strategy is important to that:

  • Business Continuity: Timely and effective incident response helps ensure your businesses can maintain service availability and performance.
  • Data Privacy: Cloud incident response is key in preventing unauthorized access to or theft of personal and proprietary data.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Many industries are subject to regulations that mandate strict data protection and breach notification procedures. A well-executed cloud incident response plan ensures compliance with these legal requirements.
  • Reputation Management: A swift and transparent response can help preserve customer trust and confidence in a security breach.

Cloud IR vs. Traditional Endpoint IR

Migrating to the cloud unlocks plenty of advantages, but you’ll need to understand the vulnerabilities of moving away from traditional endpoint solutions. While the core objective remains the same—identifying, managing, and mitigating cyber threats—the approaches differ significantly in execution.

Primary Differences:

  • Scalability: Cloud environments are designed to scale rapidly to easily accommodate fluctuating workloads. Cloud IR must adapt to this dynamic nature, ensuring security measures and response strategies can scale with the infrastructure. In contrast, traditional endpoint IR often deals with a fixed number of devices, making scalability a less prevalent concern.
  • Shared Responsibility Model: One of the fundamental differences lies in the shared responsibility model inherent to cloud computing. Cloud providers are responsible for securing the infrastructure, while customers must secure their data and applications. This model requires a collaborative approach to IR. On the other hand, traditional IR requires your organization to assume full responsibility for all security aspects.
  • Decentralized Nature: Cloud computing’s decentralized nature (with data and applications spread across multiple locations and even jurisdictions) contrasts with traditional IT environments centralized on-premise. This decentralization requires cloud IR strategies to be more flexible and comprehensive to address incidents across a dispersed landscape.

These differences introduce a handful of challenges to consider:

Challenges:

  • Multi-tenancy: Cloud services often operate on a multi-tenant architecture where resources are shared among multiple users. This raises unique security challenges because a breach affecting one tenant could potentially impact others.
  • API Integration Vulnerabilities: The extensive use of APIs to integrate cloud services and applications introduces potential vulnerabilities. Effective cloud IR must account for these risks and ensure API integrations don’t become the weak link in cloud security.
  • Jurisdictional Issues: Data stored in the cloud can reside in multiple jurisdictions, each with legal and regulatory requirements. Cloud IR must navigate these complex legal landscapes to maintain compliance across all jurisdictions.

Stages of Cloud Incident Response

You’ll need to take a structured approach to deal with cloud incidents, and this typically involves a few key stages:

1. Preparation

Preparation involves:

  • Developing an incident response plan tailored to cloud environments
  • Establishing a dedicated incident response team
  • Conducting regular training and simulation exercises

Reading this article right now is a form of cloud incident response preparation.

It also includes setting up the necessary tools and technologies for incident detection and response. Double-check your policies and procedures to ensure you’re ready to take quick action when needed.

2. Identification

This stage involves detecting and determining the nature of the cyber threat or incident. Knowing there’s an incident is one thing—pinpointing the threat is another.

Effective identification relies on continuously monitoring your cloud environments for suspicious activities, using advanced threat detection tools and analytics. The goal is to catch incidents early to minimize potential damage.

Remember, you can’t stop every cyberattack—that’s why cyber resilience should be a must-have part of any business’s digital security plan.

3. Containment

Once you identify an incident, the next step is to contain it to prevent further spread. In cloud environments, this might involve isolating affected systems or segments of the cloud, temporarily restricting access, or implementing additional security measures to stabilize the situation.

Containment strategies vary depending on the type of cloud services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and the specifics of the incident.

4. Eradication

After you’ve contained the threats, it’s time to remove the cause of the incident. This might involve deleting malicious files, revoking compromised credentials, or patching vulnerabilities. You’ll need to be thorough to ensure that no remnants of the threat remain that could lead to reinfection.

5. Recovery

The recovery stage aims to safely restore and return affected systems and services to their normal functioning state. This includes carefully removing any containment measures, restoring data from backups (if necessary), and closely monitoring for any signs of issues.

6. Evolution

After managing the incident, you’ll need to conduct a post-incident review. This involves analyzing the incident’s handling, identifying what worked well and what didn’t, and making necessary adjustments to the incident response plan. The goal is to improve both security posture and the efficiency of future incident responses.

How to Create a Cloud Incident Response Plan

Your cloud incident response plan needs to address each of the stages we listed above:

  • Preparation
  • Identification
  • Containment
  • Eradication
  • Recovery
  • Evolution

Let’s go through how to kickstart this process:

Key Components of a CIR Plan

Every solid CIR plan should include the following:

  • Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the incident response team members. Ensure everyone knows their tasks and whom to coordinate with during an incident.
  • Communication Protocols: Establish protocols for internal and external communication during an incident. This includes how to notify affected parties, communicate with stakeholders, and manage public relations.
  • Incident Identification Procedures: Detail the methods and tools for detecting and identifying incidents. This should cover the range of indicators of compromise (IoCs) and the specific technologies employed for monitoring and alerting, such as Airiam.
  • Response Procedures for Common Types of Incidents: Develop tailored response procedures for various types of incidents (e.g., data breaches, ransomware attacks, DDoS attacks). This should include step-by-step actions for containment, eradication, and recovery for the nuances of different scenarios.
  • Escalation Pathways: Define clear escalation pathways to ensure that incidents are promptly reported and escalated to the appropriate levels of management and (if necessary) external authorities.

Choose the Right Cloud Incident Response Tool or Platform

Fortunately, organizations have created tools tailor-made for cloud incident response management. For example, our partnership with Cyngular Security enables us to handle your incidents in minutes (not hours) through enhanced visibility in cloud environments, ongoing monitoring, and proactive vulnerability management.

When choosing a tool or platform for your business, consider the following factors:

  • Integration Capabilities: Select a tool that integrates with your existing cloud environments and security tools. Integration facilitates real-time data sharing and automation of response actions, which is essential for fast incident management.
  • Automated Response Features: Look for platforms that offer automated response capabilities. These features can help reduce the time to contain and mitigate incidents by automatically performing predefined response actions for common threats.
  • Comprehensive Visibility: This includes detailed logging and reporting capabilities, which are essential for identifying the scope of an incident, conducting thorough investigations, and fulfilling regulatory reporting requirements.
  • Collaboration and Communication Tools: Choose a platform that facilitates collaboration and communication, such as shared dashboards, incident tracking, and task assignments. This helps everyone involved stay on the same page and work together efficiently.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensure the tool or platform supports compliance with relevant regulations and standards. This should include features for secure data handling, breach notification workflows, and detailed audit trails.
  • Reputation and Support: Consider the provider’s standing in the cybersecurity industry. They should have fantastic customer support and thorough documentation and resources for self-service.

Best Practices for Your Cloud Incident Response Playbook

Creating a cloud incident response playbook is a great step toward building a cyber-resilient organization. However, developing a playbook is just the beginning—you’ll need to actively maintain and integrate this plan into your broader security posture.

Here are a handful of tips and best practices to keep your playbook efficient, relevant, and up-to-date:

  • Regularly run tests and drills: Engage in simulated attacks (red team exercises) to test the practical application of your playbook. These exercises should simulate real-world scenarios based on potential threats to your organization’s cloud environment.
  • Keep updating and improving: The digital threat landscape is constantly evolving, and so should your CIR playbook. A static playbook quickly becomes obsolete. Incorporate a process for continuous improvement to ensure your playbook remains relevant and practical.
  • Incorporate threat intelligence: Incorporate threat intelligence into your CIR playbook to inform response strategies with the latest information on cyber threats. This can include indicators of compromise (IoCs), tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors, and actionable intelligence from external sources.
  • Conduct cybersecurity awareness training: Educate your staff and stakeholders on their role in detecting and responding to incidents.

Protect Your Cloud Environments with Airiam and Cyngular Security

Need a partner to protect your business, customers, and operations? We’ve got just the thing. We’ve partnered with Cyngular Security to leverage their groundbreaking ClouDFIR and CIRA technologies—this lets us offer super-fast cloud incident response capabilities to safeguard your cloud infrastructure against cyber threats.

Our advanced solutions enable you to proactively identify and mitigate vulnerabilities, transforming your approach to cybersecurity from reactive to proactive:

  • AI-driven incident analysis for quicker, more accurate responses.
  • Proactive cloud vulnerability management to prevent threats before they escalate.
  • Enhanced visibility and control over your cloud operations, ensuring comprehensive security monitoring.

Your cloud security is our top priority. Let Airiam and Cyngular Security help you redefine your cybersecurity strategy and achieve a new standard in cyber resilience.

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