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To best position your organization to handle the fallout of a cloud security event, it’s paramount that you establish procedures that allow your team to quickly detect, thwart and recover from these incidents. Known as a cloud security incident response plan, these rules govern the course of action your team will take to minimize damage and continue business operations.

Every organization has its own criteria for what constitutes a security incident. In some organizations, only serious hacking and data theft attempts reach security incident status. Others classify any service disruption as a security incident.

Regardless of your company’s definition, the following action steps will help you build a strong cloud security incident response plan.

Build Your Incident Response Team

Your incident response team (IRT) is the group in charge of handling an incident. Generally, your IRT will include technical leads, alongside a representative from legal, human resources, public relations and insurance/risk management.

Make it a point to clearly define each member’s role and responsibility within the team. Determine your communication strategy for dealing with regulators, media and law enforcement, as well as your team’s internal communication plan. For example, what happens if an all-hands-on incident is triggered in the wee hours of the night or a holiday?

Conduct an Infrastructure Assessment

The next action step is to conduct an infrastructure audit. The goal is to determine which data and systems are absolutely necessary for business continuity. Should a serious cloud security incident take your system offline, the better you understand your infrastructure, the faster you can get back up and running.

As you conduct your audit, be on the lookout for potential points of failure. Any weak spots must be cataloged and addressed upon discovery.

How Do You Define an Incident?

The next step in building a strong cloud incident response plan requires you to define what an “incident” is within your organization. As mentioned, some organizations prefer a “catchall” definition, whereby any unplanned system disruption is flagged as an incident that should be addressed by the team. Others, meanwhile, only convene when the incident is a result of ill-intent – such as cybercrime.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Stakeholders must analyze their situation and use best judgment to come up with a realistic definition that satisfies all legal, regulatory and industry requirements.

Outline Your Recovery Plan

Despite your best efforts, hackers still manage to find cracks in systems that allow them to carry out theft, destruction and mayhem. In most cases, backups are the fastest way to recover a compromised system.

Your disaster recovery strategy can mean the difference between mere minutes or several days of downtime. Exercise care and caution when choosing and installing your disaster recovery solutions.

Test and Review Your Plan

Secure organizations treat their response plan as a living document. They routinely review their security incident response, adjusting procedures to reflect shifts in workplace technology, policy or culture. Also, it’s common to routinely conduct “fire drill” exercises to assess the veracity of your response. These exercises should test IRT readiness, as well as the reliability of disaster recovery solutions.

Ready Yourself Today

Maintaining a secure network is immensely challenging. But there are many actions you can take today that will ensure you’re prepared to address security events that might occur.

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