In today's increasingly digital landscape, cyber threats are more prevalent than ever before. Organizations need robust, agile, and specialized tools to respond to these threats effectively.
While IT Service Management (ITSM) platforms have been instrumental in streamlining IT processes, they fall short as a cyber incident response platform.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the top eight factors that elevate a fit-for-purpose cyber incident response platform over an ITSM.
1. Static workflows vs adaptive workflows for adversarial situations
ITSM workflows are primarily designed to manage routine IT tasks, such as IT incident management, change management, and service requests. As a result, these workflows tend to be static and follow predefined processes that remain relatively constant over time. This rigidity is suitable for standard IT operations, where processes and procedures are well-established and predictable.
However, cyber incident response is a starkly different landscape that demands a more dynamic and agile approach. Cyber threats are adversarial in nature, characterized by constant evolution and innovation. Attackers are always developing new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to bypass security measures and exploit vulnerabilities. This makes the cyber threat landscape highly fluid, requiring security teams to adapt their response strategies and techniques continuously.
In the face of this ever-changing threat environment, static ITSM workflows are ill-suited to address the challenges presented by cyber incidents. Security teams need platforms that offer flexibility, agility, and adaptability to respond effectively to new and emerging threats. This requires a platform that can evolve and adapt workflows in real-time, allowing teams to pivot their response efforts as needed, based on the unique characteristics of each incident.
2. Resilience and security architecture issues
The resilience of a cyber incident response platform is critical in ensuring that an organization can effectively respond to and recover from a cyber attack.
On-premise ITSM platforms are hosted within an organizations network environment, which can pose a significant risk in the event of an attack that takes systems offline or compromises them with ransomware. Other common design patterns include use of Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud-based ITSMs which are integrated with an organization’s identity provider. If an attacker gains access to an organization's environment and disrupts ITSM systems or gains access to response playbooks, they can hinder the security team's response efforts, exacerbating the impact of the attack.
In contrast, a dedicated cyber incident response platform can (and should) be independent from the organization's primary infrastructure, in particular hosting infrastructure and identity and access management (IAM) systems.
A separate identity and access management (IAM) system and “break glass” user accounts in the event of compromise of the corporate IAM system, compromise of credentials, or credential re-use.
A dedicated incident response platform, with separate hosting and security infrastructure will ensure that it remains accessible and functional even if other systems are taken offline or compromised. This separation provides a secure environment for coordinating response efforts and prevents attackers from tampering with or monitoring the security team's activities.
3. Poorly defined access controls
Access controls play a crucial role in managing sensitive information and coordinating response efforts during a cyber incident. ITSM platforms commonly lack sufficiently granular access controls - primarily use role-based access control (RBAC), which isn’t suitable for the complex and sensitive nature of cyber incident response, or the rapidly changing information sharing requirements during an incident.
In contrast, granular attribute-based access controls (ABAC) are better suited for cyber incident response. ABAC allows organizations to set permissions based on a wide range of attributes, such as the user's role, department, location, or the sensitivity of the data involved. Also what access rights those users have on the data objects, such as update, read, delete, and even the ability to find the data. This fine-grained approach ensures that only authorized personnel have access to specific information or response capabilities, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or information leaks.
The implementation of granular ABAC is particularly important when dealing with sensitive information during a cyber incident or event, such as details about vulnerabilities, exploited systems, or ongoing investigations. In these cases, the "need-to-know" principle should apply, with access granted only to those individuals who require specific information to carry out their response tasks. This level of control helps maintain the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive data while ensuring that the response efforts are well-coordinated and efficient.
The ability to rapidly change access to information as incident circumstances change is important to ensure that the response momentum is maintained and appropriately involving the right stakeholders. Some common use cases include:
- Insider threat incidents which require careful management of information related to the subject,
- Privacy incidents which require collaboration with privacy specialists, and potentially lawyers and public relations specialists,
- Insider trading due to insider access to information during a security incident
Moreover, ABAC can help organizations comply with various data protection and privacy regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS and securities laws which prohibit insider trading. These regulations often require strict access controls to protect sensitive data, and implementing granular ABAC can ensure that only authorized personnel have access to regulated information.
4. Lack of specialized and fit-for-purpose reporting
Effective cyber incident response requires specialized reporting that enables security teams to track and analyze threat intelligence, vulnerabilities, and incident data. ITSM platforms generally lack these specialized reports, which are essential for understanding the incident's impact, identifying patterns, and improving the overall security posture. Cyber incident response platforms provide tailored reporting and analytics, helping teams make informed decisions and respond efficiently to threats.
In particular, incident situation reports to aid alignment between security teams and other stakeholders, such as executives, public relations, legal counsel, human resources, application owners and others are important to effective response.
The timeliness of this reporting, whereby incident situation reports can be generated quickly for war room meetings without undue delay or effort by the incident manager reduces communications friction and aids in effective communication and decision making.
5. Inability to scale (and the effect of poor ticket management)
ITSM platforms are designed to manage IT services and resources efficiently but may struggle to scale when handling a large number of security events or complex threats. Cyber incident response platforms, on the other hand, are built to handle the rapidly changing threat landscape and scale accordingly. They can accommodate increased workloads, data volume, and incident complexity, ensuring that security teams can respond effectively to any situation.
One challenge that can arise with ITSM platforms in the context of cyber incident response is poor ticket management. Cyber incidents often require detailed information and context for security teams to assess the situation accurately and respond effectively. However, users may not provide sufficient information when creating tickets in ITSM platforms, leading to inefficient response efforts and delays in addressing the incident. This lack of detail in tickets can create bottlenecks and slow down the entire response process, making it difficult to manage incidents effectively.
Cyber incident response platforms typically include features designed to ensure the collection of comprehensive and relevant information for each incident, streamlining the ticketing process and helping security teams focus on their response efforts. Additionally, these platforms can automatically correlate and prioritize incidents based on factors such as severity, impact, and threat intelligence, making it easier for teams to manage their workload and respond to the most critical incidents first.
ITSM platforms typically do not have built-in playbook capabilities, making it challenging to execute well-coordinated and efficient response efforts. In contrast, cyber incident response platforms come with integrated playbook functionality, allowing security teams to create, customize, and easily update their response workflows.
6. Poor system of record for regulatory and audit compliance
A crucial aspect of cyber incident response is maintaining a comprehensive system of record for all incidents, investigations, and remediation efforts. ITSM platforms are not designed to act as a system of record for cyber incident response, making it challenging to track, analyze, and learn from past incidents. A dedicated cyber incident response platform provides a centralized repository for all incident data, which streamlines documentation knowledge management, and evidence management, and allowing for continuous improvement.
The importance of a system of record extends beyond incident management and learning; it is also vital for meeting regulatory and audit compliance requirements. Organizations are often subject to various industry-specific regulations which mandate strict reporting and documentation standards for cyber incidents. Non-compliance can result in significant financial penalties, legal ramifications, and reputational damage.
A well-organized system of record not only simplifies the process of demonstrating compliance but also facilitates the audit process. Auditors need access to detailed, accurate, and comprehensive data related to cyber incidents and the organization's response efforts. With a cyber incident response platform acting as a system of record, security teams can easily provide auditors with the necessary information, showcasing the organization's commitment to security and compliance.
7. Positive impact of specialized cyber response management platforms on staff
Specialized cyber incident response platforms not only offer technical benefits but also have a positive impact on the staff responsible for handling cyber incidents. These platforms can help reduce cognitive burden and burnout , as well as facilitate onboarding of new and junior staff members.
Fit-for-purpose platforms help reduce the cognitive burden on staff by offering advanced features such as automated correlation, playbook-led prioritization, and ease of reporting. These capabilities enable security teams to quickly identify and address the most critical incidents without getting overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of cyber attacks. By easing the cognitive load, staff can make better decisions and maintain a more focused and effective response.
Specialized cyber incident response platforms can benefit new and junior staff members by providing playbooks that outline procedures for handling specific incidents. These playbooks serve as a valuable training and onboarding tool, ensuring that new team members can quickly learn the organization's best practices and respond to incidents effectively. This structured approach to incident response helps new staff become productive and confident in their roles more rapidly.
8. Limited integration with security tools and technologies
ITSM platforms generally do not offer seamless integration with the diverse range of security tools and technologies required for effective cyber incident response. This can lead to siloed data, manual processes, and inefficiencies that impede rapid response to threats. Cyber incident response platforms are designed to integrate with multiple security tools and technologies, automating processes, and enabling seamless data sharing across the organization. This allows for a more efficient and coordinated response, reducing the potential impact of cyber incidents.
Moreover, ITSM platforms often lack the capability to integrate emerging threat intelligence and indicators of compromise (IOCs) into their workflows, limiting their ability to provide proactive and informed incident response. In contrast, dedicated cyber incident response platforms can automatically incorporate threat intelligence and other relevant data, enabling security teams to make better-informed decisions and respond more effectively to evolving threats.
To summarize, the constantly changing and challenging world of cyber threats calls for a specialized platform with the flexibility, access controls, reporting, scalability, and integration with security tools that teams need. What's more, a dedicated cyber incident response platform can make a real difference for staff well-being and professional growth, helping to reduce burnout and cognitive overload, while making it easier to bring new team members up to speed.
By investing in a fit-for-purpose cyber incident response platform, organizations can strengthen their defenses against ever-changing cyber threats, ensuring a smoother, more effective, and coordinated response to incidents – a win-win for both the organization and its security team.