HomeOperationsSecurityWhy post-incident analysis is crucial to incident management

Why post-incident analysis is crucial to incident management

When your car breaks down, you take it to a mechanic, and once they fix it, you first ask why it happened. The same logic must be applied to cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity incidents have become an everyday incident. However, enterprises must investigate what went wrong to prevent a similar incident. A whopping 83% of companies faced more than one attack in a given year, as per IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report 2023. The report also claimed that a single breach cost organizations $4.45 million on average. It means failing to prevent a second attack doesn’t just indicate the vulnerability of your defenses but also costs heavily.

Additionally, it will damage the industry’s reputation. Although it is highly improbable to stop a cybersecurity incident, you can constantly improve your security stance to prevent a second breach. You will have to learn from your earlier mistakes and use them to enhance procedures. This is an essential aspect of incident management, commonly known as post-incident analysis. 

Let’s learn about this in detail and understand the significance of post-incident analysis.

What is post-incident analysis?

Post-incident analysis is a comprehensive process of evaluating a cyberattack after the incident has happened to understand the causes, effects, and response. It is a retrospective step of the incident response process where you investigate root causes or defects that led to the breach. This step aims to extract insights to help security teams close the cracks within their security posture and build resilience. In addition to identifying the vulnerabilities, post-incident analysis helps understand what you did right and build on that.

How is post-incident analysis done? 

Once a cybersecurity incident occurs, the team will initiate an incident response process. During this, a vast amount of data is gathered across log files, network traffic, and other forensic details. These data points are used as the source material to conduct post-incident analysis. The security teams will generate details like a detailed timeline of the incident, tactics that attackers used to breach the defenses, and the extent of the damage. This data will also allow organizations to recreate the incident to understand better the techniques used by threat actors and the extent of the impact. 

The post-incident analysis requires cross-functional teams to work together. This means that all the stakeholders and concerned teams will get together to learn about the attack in detail. Terming it as a ‘lessons learned’ meeting, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends that participants conclude the meeting with answers to the nine questions listed below.

  1. Exactly what happened, and at what times?
  2. How well did staff and management perform in dealing with the incident? Were the documented procedures followed? Were they adequate?
  3. What information was needed sooner? 
  4. Were any steps or actions taken that might have inhibited the recovery?
  5. What would the staff and management do differently the next time a similar incident occurs?
  6. How could information sharing with other organizations have been improved?
  7. What corrective actions can prevent similar incidents in the future?
  8. What future precursors or indicators should be watched for to detect similar incidents?
  9. What additional tools or resources are needed to detect, analyze, and mitigate future incidents?

Importance of post-incident analysis

For a long time, organizations concluded a cybersecurity incident after containing and recovering from the attack. However, it is soon understood that organizations must start to draw lessons from such incidents and use what they have learned to build a resilient system. For this, implementing a post-incident analysis is essential. This analysis allows companies to get invaluable information to redesign and improve their incident response plans.

Post-incident analysis helps the IT security team detect vulnerabilities, security gaps, or chinks in their response strategy. These insights empower them to upgrade their approach, incorporating the learnings to enhance response workflows, relook at incident severity classifications, and improve escalation procedures. After a post-incident analysis, organizations usually implement newer security measures to safeguard against threats.

Advantages of post-incident analysis

  • Enhance incident response approach: Investigating past security threats can significantly benefit your active incident response strategy. By integrating learnings and insights into your system weaknesses and vulnerabilities, you can significantly reduce threats.
  • Visibility into incident root cause: Given the comprehensive nature of the incident analysis, you will be better positioned to deduce the root cause that triggered the incident. This way, you can resolve actual issues instead of beating around the bush.
  • Better security posture against threats: The insights generated from post-incident analysis allow you to recalibrate your security measures through improved processes and stricter access controls.
  • Informed decision-making: With post-incident analysis, all stakeholders, including security and business leaders, will have access to accurate data. Using this, the management and security teams can make informed decisions backed by insights.
  • Demonstrates your commitment to security: Conducting a thorough analysis of security incidents reaffirms your commitment to improving the security of your systems and, by extension, your users and customers.
  • Facilitates cross-functional collaboration: Post-incident analysis isn’t the responsibility of a single team. Instead, it demands the involvement of teams across functions to effectively identify security gaps at the organization level. This allows for improved team cohesion and communication.

Turning Incidents Into Learning Opportunities

Organizations have long been battling cybersecurity incidents and prepping against the newer, inevitable attacks. However, they always needed to leverage one critical aspect of incident response – analyzing past attacks and extracting insights from them. It is changing rapidly now that enterprises are including post-incident analysis as a critical step of incident management. It has become a cornerstone in designing a resilient security wall against your systems. However, post-incident analysis is a continuous process that requires effective collaboration and commitment to improve security by learning from earlier mistakes.

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