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Blog — Dec 21, 2022

Cyber Resilience as a Component of Incident Response Planning

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“We bend so that we don’t break.” – A Yoga saying

I came across this saying earlier this week, and I thought it was very timely and appropriate when applied to cyber resilience.

During these particularly unsettling times, given adversaries are more determined than ever to breach our fortresses, careful thought and application should be given to your company’s resilience within cybersecurity.

Once entirely localized (and on-premises), most companies’ business processes now span across an ever-widening selection of components. These can include the inexorable move to public cloud for so many basic yet critical operations (e.g., email, file sharing), increasing reliance on hand-held or personal devices, third-party tooling builds a complex web of interaction (e.g., finance, sales funnel, investor relations).

The tighter the integration among these parts, the more chance that unforeseen edge cases may occur: one small failure can lead to a cascading situation of high severity.

Though the business might need tightly coupled processes, it’s essential to prepare for eventual outages. This will require many things including a deep understanding of how data flows throughout the organization, dependencies therein, and signalling available to be interpreted when a problem arises.

Much of cybersecurity analysis at its core is based on the capture and interpretation of signals generated as part of business process: metadata (“data about data”). When assessing your company’s resilience, it’s important to have both insight into the data itself and that there is sufficient signaling around the use of the data so that deviation from a healthy environment can be detected.

So much of effective incident response planning for the eventual data breach is encapsulated in the preparation stage: do we have sufficient capabilities and/or coverage (insight, defense, investigation) if some inappropriate activity occurs?

I would suggest that instead of merely using stock scenarios during cybersecurity incident response tabletops, your organization also identify critical processes within your environment and spend time assessing:

If you formalize this questioning and thought process, it can be detailed into the incident response playbook so that you’re better prepared if the problem arises.

It’s also important to review the key components of the security infrastructure: if you’re depending on the strength of these products you need to review their efficacy to ensure that the instrumentation and capabilities upon which you rely are operating properly (and as expected).

Netflix popularized the use of the “Chaos Monkey” – an entity that randomly terminates instances in production in order to ensure that engineers have sufficiently built and implemented their services to be resilient to instance failures.

It’s a pretty bold strategy, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend its use within mission-critical operations. But during incident response planning and tabletops, you can mimic the mindset of the Chaos Monkey to get better instrumentation and insight into how small failures that cascade into outages can be mitigated. This in turn increases the resilience of the entire organization.

As such, we can modify the yoga saying as such: “Cyber resilience: we bend now so we don’t break later.”

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Eldon Sprickerhoff
Eldon Sprickerhoff Founder and Advisor

Eldon Sprickerhoff is the original pioneer and inventor of what is now referred to as Managed Detection and Response (MDR). In founding eSentire, he responded to the incipient yet rapidly growing demand for a more proactive approach to preventing and investigating information security breaches. Now with over 20 years of tactical experience, Eldon is acknowledged as a subject matter expert in information security analysis. Eldon holds a Bachelor of Mathematics, Computer Science degree from the University of Waterloo.