What is Incident Response? IR stages and free Open Source software

The current age is of supercomputers in our pockets. However, despite using the best security tools, criminals keep on attacking online resources. This post is to introduce you to Incident Response (IR), explain the different stages of IR, and then lists three free open source software that helps with IR.

What is Incident Response


What is an Incident? It could be a cybercriminal or any malware taking over your computer. You should not ignore IR because it can happen to anyone. If you think you won’t be affected, you may be right. But not for long because there is no guarantee of anything connected to the Internet as such. Any artifact there, may go rogue and install some malware or allow a cybercriminal to directly access your data.

You should have an Incident Response Template so that you can respond in case of an attack. In other words, IR is not about IF, but it is concerned with WHEN and HOW of the information science.

Incident Response also applies to natural disasters. You know that all governments and people are prepared when any disaster strikes. They can’t afford to imagine that they are always safe. In such a natural incident, government, army, and plenty of non-government organizations (NGOs). Likewise, you too cannot afford to overlook Incident Response (IR) in IT.

Basically, IR means being ready for a cyber attack and stop it before it does any harm.

Incident Response – Six Stages

Most IT Gurus claim that there are six stages of Incident Response. Some others keep it at 5. But six are good as they are easier to explain. Here are the IR stages that should be kept in focus while planning an Incident Response Template.

  1. Preparation
  2. Identification
  3. Containment
  4. Eradication
  5. Recovery, and
  6. Lessons Learned

1] Incident Response – Preparation

You need to be prepared to detect and deal with any cyberattack. That means you should have a plan. It should also include people with certain skills. It may include people from external organizations if you fall short of talent in your company. It is better to have an IR template that spells out what to do in case of a cyber attack attack. You can create one yourself or download one from the Internet. There are many Incident Response templates available on the Internet. But it is better to engage your IT team with the template as they know better about the conditions of your network.

2] IR – Identification

This refers to identifying your business network traffic for any irregularities. If you find any anomalies, start acting per your IR plan. You might have already placed security equipment and software in place to keep attacks away.

3] IR – Containment

The main aim of the third process is to contain the attack impact. Here, containing means reducing the impact and prevent the cyberattack before it can damage anything.

Containment of Incident Response indicates both short- and long-term plans (assuming that you have a template or plan to counter incidents).

4] IR – Eradication

Eradication, in Incident Response’s six stages, means restoring the network that was affected by the attack. It can be as simple as the network’s image stored on a separate server that is not connected to any network or Internet. It can be used to restore the network.

5] IR – Recovery

The fifth stage in Incident Response is to clean the network to remove anything that might have left behind after eradication. It also refers to bringing back the network to life. At this point, you’d still be monitoring any abnormal activity on the network.

6] Incident Response – Lessons Learned

The last stage of Incident Response’s six stages is about looking into the incident and noting down the things that were at fault. People often give a miss this stage, but it is necessary to learn what went wrong and how you can avoid it in the future.

Open Source Software for managing Incident Response

1] CimSweep is an agentless suite of tools that helps you with Incident Response. You can do it remotely too if you can’t be present at the place where it happened. This suite contains tools for threat identification and remote response. It also offers forensic tools that help you check out event logs, services, and active processes, etc. More details here.

2] GRR Rapid Response Tool is available on the GitHub and helps you perform different checks on your network (Home or Office) to see if there are any vulnerabilities. It has tools for real-time memory analysis, registry search, etc. It is built in Python so is compatible with all Windows OS – XP and later versions, including Windows 10. Check it out on Github.

3] TheHive is yet another open source free Incident Response tool. It allows working with a team. Teamwork makes it easier to counter cyber attacks as work (duties) are mitigated to different, talented people. Thus, it helps in real-time monitoring of IR. The tool offers an API that the IT team can use. When used with other software, TheHive can monitor up to a hundred variables at a time – so that any attack is immediately detected, and Incident Response begins quick. More information here.

The above explains Incident Response in brief, checks out the six stages of Incident Response, and names three tools for help in dealing with Incidents. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments section below.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN

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