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The Trustwave Blog empowers information security professionals to achieve new heights through expert insight that addresses hot topics, trends and challenges and defines best practices.

Crisis Simulation: The 4 Most Common Cybersecurity Incident Shortfalls

For an organization to be resilient, key personnel must be acutely aware of their roles and responsibilities before, during and after a high severity cybersecurity incident. A cybersecurity crisis scenario simulation can be invaluable to pressure test both the assembled teams and the documented processes designed for such circumstances.

A crisis simulation can give participants invaluable experience of realistic situations and can enable them to hone their skills in a safe and controlled environment.

By guiding your organization through a realistic scenario, a cyber crisis drill can help you:

  • Determine the effectiveness of incident response capabilities.
  • Determine the effectiveness of existing practices.
  • Identify areas for potential refinement or improvement.
  • Update documentation and process based on lessons learned.

The 4 Most Common Cybersecurity Crisis Mistakes We See

Trustwave often facilitates Cyber Security Crisis Simulation Exercises through our Consulting and Professional Services division, and we wanted to share the four most common security shortfalls that we see.

  1. Your crisis team shouldn’t be concentrated only around IT and security disciplines. The attendees for simulations are commonly only IT and Security-focused individuals. However, a real crisis requires a multidisciplinary team comprised of Legal, Finance, PR, Communications, Marketing, Risk, IT, Security and HR. You must bring a holistic perspective to an actual incident, so make sure you have key representatives from each discipline on the crisis team and in your simulations so you can practice working together.
  2. Make a plan, and most importantly, use it. Many organizations have Incident Management or Disaster Management Plans, which contain directions on how to handle an incident. That’s great. Creating a plan is the first step. However, we frequently find that these documents are out of date or underutilized. At a minimum, you should review these plans annually – taking into account any new team members or structures of the business. Most importantly, the plan needs to be utilized in the heat of the moment. Many times, documentation is not consulted during simulations or even during real events, usually because of the constrained timeframes in play or the absence of team members who may be more familiar with the documentation. Ensure all multidisciplinary representations are familiar with the plan and are well-practiced in how to execute it.
  3. Assign a scribe and document everything. Each simulation or real crisis can help inform the next event. Notes taken, even during simulated incidents, can be invaluable during a post-incident review or follow-up process to capture lessons learned and record the point in time rationale for decisions made during the incident. We commonly find that critical information is not accounted for and documented. Assign a scribe to document the incident, whether simulated or real, as it unfolds. Knowledge is power.
  4. Adopt a ‘follow the sun’ model to ensure your crisis response is not limited to working hours. Many organizations are fortunate to have a number of highly experienced people at their disposal who have a wealth of experience and knowledge. But the nature of crisis scenarios is that they often occur at the least convenient time, and as such, individuals cannot be relied upon to be always available. If possible, make sure each function of your crisis team has a designated backup team member ideally located in a different time zone -- who are knowledgeable, practiced and have the authority to execute the plan if a crisis happens outside of the main team’s working hours. A ‘follow the sun’ model will ensure a swift and efficient crisis response. A few hours of delay can be the difference between a successful crisis response and a morning disaster.