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Ransomware attacks and Incident Response

Skills Needed for an Efficient Cyber Incident Response Team

As ransomware attacks continue to pose a significant threat to organizations of all sizes, having access to a strong and effective cyber Incident Response (IR) team is more important than ever. A specialized and experienced cyber IR team should have a range of technical skills and expertise, including a deep understanding of how ransomware works, the ability to monitor networks for suspicious activity, and the knowledge to take steps to contain the damage caused by an attack.

7 min read

One of the key skills that a cyber Incident Response (IR) team needs to have in order to effectively respond to a ransomware attack is a deep understanding of how this type of malware and threat actors work. Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts an organization’s data and demands payment in exchange for the decryption key. There are many different variants of ransomware, each with its own unique tactics and techniques for infecting systems and encrypting data. Knowing how the different threat actors work and their tools and techniques is also key to eradicating the threat and ensuring they can’t retain their foothold in your environment.

Incident Response Teams Need To Be Aware of the Various Tactics Attackers Use

Ransomware attacks can be devastating for organizations of any size, but they can be particularly damaging for companies with complex networks and large amounts of sensitive data. To effectively mitigate a ransomware attack, an IR team should have a range of technical skills and expertise. Having the right expertise, experience, and a team that is regularly working together will decrease the total downtime and business interruption by weeks or, in many cases, months.

To effectively respond to a ransomware attack, the IR team should be familiar with the various tactics that attackers use, such as phishing emails, infected websites, and vulnerable software. This knowledge is critical for identifying the specific ransomware variant being used, who the threat actor is, and for developing an efficient response plan.

Quickly Identify Anomalies and Suspicious Activity

Another important skill for a cyber IR team is the ability to monitor an organization’s networks for suspicious activity. Ransomware attacks often involve attackers gaining access to an organization’s network and spreading the malware to other systems. By using EDR and network monitoring tools, the IR team can quickly identify anomalies and suspicious activity that may indicate lateral movement.

Once a cyber attack has been identified, the IR team should be able to take steps to contain the damage and prevent it from spreading further. This may involve isolating infected systems, disabling compromised accounts, and implementing other measures to limit the breach’s impact. In some cases, it may be necessary to disconnect systems from the network altogether to prevent the ransomware from spreading.

Recover Encrypted Data and Minimize Damage

After the initial containment of the ransomware attack, the next step is to attempt to recover any encrypted data. This can be a complex and time-consuming process, and it may not always be possible to fully recover all of the data. In some cases, it may be necessary to use data recovery tools and techniques in order to extract as much information as possible from the encrypted files.

Once the ransomware attack has been contained, and the impact has been mitigated, the IR team can focus on fully resolving the incident. This may involve cleaning up infected systems, restoring data, and implementing measures to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future. This may include implementing stronger security controls, such as enhanced authentication mechanisms and intrusion detection systems.

A Wide Range of Technical Skills and Experts

Overall, a cyber IR team responding to a company’s ransomware or breach investigation should have a wide range of technical skills and expertise. By having a deep understanding of ransomware and how it works, as well as the ability to quickly identify and contain an attack, the team can effectively mitigate the attack’s impact and prevent further damage to the organization.

A cyber IR team typically consists of several different roles, each with its own specific responsibilities.

Some of the key roles typically found within a cyber IR team include:

  • Incident Manager – The Incident Manager is responsible for the overall coordination of the IR team’s efforts, including setting priorities and making decisions regarding the response to a security breach, developing response plans, coordinating with other teams and stakeholders, and reporting on the progress of the response.
  • Forensic Analyst – The Forensic Analyst is responsible for conducting forensic investigations of infected systems and data to fully understand the scope and impact of a security incident. This may involve using specialized tools and techniques to extract and analyze data from infected systems.
  • Recovery Expert – The Recovery Expert is responsible for providing technical expertise and guidance to the IR team, including analyzing the scope and impact of a security incident, developing response plans, and implementing containment and mitigation measures.
  • Threat Intelligence Analyst – The Threat Intelligence Analyst is responsible for monitoring and analyzing external sources of information for cyber threats and vulnerabilities and providing the IR team with up-to-date intelligence regarding emerging threats.
  • Network Administrator – The Network Administrator is responsible for managing and maintaining the organization’s networks, configuring security controls, monitoring network traffic, and implementing network segmentation.
  • Security Analyst – The Security Analyst is responsible for monitoring the organization’s networks and systems for suspicious activity and identifying security incidents as they occur. This may involve using a combination of tools and techniques, such as intrusion detection systems and network monitoring tools.
  • Communications Lead – The Communications Lead is responsible for coordinating communication with other members of the organization and external stakeholders such as law enforcement and regulatory agencies. This includes providing regular updates on the status of the incident and communicating technical information to non-technical stakeholders.
  • Cyber Law Advisor – In some cases, a cyber IR team may include a legal advisor who can provide guidance on legal and regulatory issues related to security incidents. This may include advice on compliance with data protection and privacy laws and other regulations and assistance with reporting the incident to relevant authorities. A Cyber Law Advisor who also understands technical terms and serves as a bridge between legal and technical experts is a major part of a successful Incident Response team.
  • Specialized Roles – A wide range of specialized roles with more specific and niche expertise may be required based on the nature of the breach and investigation. It can be expertise in reverse engineering, code review, cryptographic experts, database experts, mainframes, and many other specializations.

A cyber IR team typically includes various roles, each with specific responsibilities. By having a diverse and skilled team, organizations can ensure that they’re prepared to respond effectively to security incidents and thus mitigate threats swiftly and with minimal business impact.

Two Major Global Organizations

There are two major global organizations dedicated to internal and external CSIRTs (Computer Security Incident Response Teams) and CERTs (Computer Emergency Response Teams) that ensure a defined level of best practices and acceptance of the established policies for such teams. A mature and professional Incident Response team will be part of these global organizations providing quality assurance that the IR team is adhering to best practices and has reached a certain maturity: