The Benefits of Implementing a Cloud Incident Response Framework

Cloud incident response (CIR) involves all activities an organization undertakes to detect, respond to, and resolve incidents in a cloud environment. This includes preparation, detection and analysis, containment, eradication, and recovery. CIR frameworks can help organizations prepare for and handle incidents quickly and effectively. This includes tooling and controls implementation, staff training on cloud security capabilities and threats, and the creation of response playbooks and plans.

Preventing Incidents

Using cloud incident response best practices to prevent incidents is critical for enterprises. Security teams can lose time, miss steps, or prolong disruptions if they don’t consider cloud-specific factors like multiple layers of control and visibility and diverse service models (infrastructure-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, etc.).

In the case of an incident, organizations need to have robust logging to detect unauthorized activity. However, with many of these logs in the cloud, capturing and storing large amounts of data can quickly increase costs. This is especially true for security tools requiring public internet use and prone to privacy and security risks, such as enabling AWS CloudTrail or VPC flow logs.

Creating a cloud incident response framework should include defining the scope and priorities of monitoring systems and integrating these with automation capabilities. This allows for triggered “if-then” responses to common issues like storage solution misconfigurations or unauthorized virtual machine deployments. In addition, establishing a central repository for logs and other evidence can save time when forensic investigations are required. It is also helpful to create most minor privilege accounts for incident responders and enable cross-account access for these accounts, ideally with multifactor authentication. A redeployment mechanism is also necessary so that if an issue is determined to be due to a misconfiguration, the affected resource can be redeployed with a more secure configuration.

Detecting Incidents

Organizations must have a cloud incident response (CIR) plan and be prepared to respond to incidents when they occur. This comprehensive set of activities includes detecting, investigating, and resolving incidents within a cloud environment.

Organizations must monitor their cloud environments and look for potential precursors to attacks, such as notifications of new attack vectors, known disruptions, or indicators that data may be compromised. They must also have a process in place to quickly assess the scope of an incident and determine whether it requires a total response effort.

Security teams must have a way to identify and collect evidence artifacts from their cloud environments, including identifying and mapping the locations of critical data and programs. They must also have a way to quickly manage, sort, and analyze the results of an investigation. This often involves leveraging tools such as SIEM and SOAR. Organizations should also build a detailed inventory of their cloud environments, including the services, objects, APIs, commands they use, and, if possible, their dependencies. They should also establish most minor privilege accounts for incident response analysts and enable multifactor authentication for these accounts. Organizations should align their CIR team with cloud engineering, architecture, and DevOps teams. They should also consider sending their CIR team members to receive training on the types of services, objects, APIs, and command line tools they’ll need to monitor for cloud threats successfully.

Managing Incidents

Modern business systems often operate fully or partially within cloud environments that house networks, storage, virtualization, management software, and more. Cloud IR, or incident response in these complex and dynamic environments, requires a new security and digital forensics approach.

An essential planning step is to identify the scope of the environment that needs protection from attacks and the systems within it. This allows teams to respond more effectively when incidents occur by limiting the impact and investigating the root cause.

Next, determine how your organization will detect threats, alerts, and other incidents and monitor them to identify anomalous activity. Your plan must also include communications protocols to notify internal and external stakeholders when issues arise promptly.

In addition, a plan must be in place for working with CSPs during an incident, and understanding the shared responsibility model and service models that different CSPs offer can save your team valuable time during an incident by reducing confusion over who is responsible for resolving specific data and workloads. Also, establishing clear contact points with your CSP can speed up your response and minimize disruptions. Finally, sending your team members on CSP-specific training is essential to familiarize them with the services, APIs, and commands their roles will require when managing an incident.

Resolving Incidents

Identifying, diagnosing, and remediating incidents in your cloud environment requires more than traditional incident response procedures. IR teams need to be as familiar with cloud environments, services, and APIs as they are with on-prem systems.

Leveraging an industry-standard framework helps to ensure that a business has proper visibility into all possible threat activity within its cloud deployments. It also provides an opportunity to build alerting use cases that bring immediate awareness to various events, such as failed login attempts to administrative APIs or new unauthorized servers deployed in the cloud.

A well-defined IR plan also includes a standard method for categorizing incidents by their severity. This allows a team to prioritize its response resources and ensure that significant incidents receive the highest priority levels, as they can impact the most important number of users or customers.

A good IR plan should include a training regimen that provides a variety of hands-on experiences for your incident response team members. This will enable them to effectively deal with the threats they may encounter in a cloud environment. They will also help familiarize them with the types of services, objects, APIs, and commands commonly used in these environments. It also helps to send them for cloud security training with CSPs to ensure they have the proper knowledge of responding to common incidents in a multi-cloud environment.