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When your organization is hit with a cyberattack, every second counts. The more time an attacker spends in your systems, the more likely they will inflict serious damage, leading to systems downtime, data loss and skyrocketing recovery costs.

An effective threat detection and response strategy enables your organization to protect itself from cyber attacks by continuously monitoring its networks and applications for suspicious activity and taking swift action to mitigate any potential threats. However, developing that strategy takes some effort. To stay ahead of attackers, your organization must deploy sophisticated technologies, develop clear communication plans and invest in ongoing employee training, among other steps.

In this article, we will explore best practices for threat detection and response and discuss the benefits for organizations looking to protect themselves from cyber threats.

What Is Threat Detection and Response?

The goal of threat detection and response is to identify potential threats and neutralize them as early as possible, ideally before any damage is done. The process begins with the collection of data from various sources, such as network traffic, system logs, and security devices like firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS). 

This data is then analyzed to identify any anomalies or suspicious behavior that could indicate a potential cyber threat. This requires the use of advanced threat intelligence and machine learning algorithms that can identify patterns and anomalies in large datasets, helping detect threats that may be missed by traditional security measures. On the people side, it also requires skilled personnel, a culture of security, and well-defined processes and procedures that are regularly tested and updated to stay ahead of evolving threats.

Once a threat has been detected, the response phase begins. This involves taking appropriate action to contain the threat and mitigate any damage that may have already been done. This can include isolating affected systems or devices, blocking malicious traffic, and removing any malicious code or software that has been identified. Overall, an effective threat detection and response process can minimize the impact of cyber attacks and protect sensitive data and critical systems from harm.

Best Practices for Threat Detection

Beyond the basic steps described above, organizations can use a variety of methods to up-level their threat detection and bolster their defenses against cybercrime.

1. Utilize advanced threat intelligence

Advanced threat intelligence involves using automated tools to monitor and analyze threat data from various sources, including network logs, security event feeds and malware analysis reports. By applying advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to this data, these tools can identify patterns and anomalies to quickly flag a potential threat. This allows organizations to respond quickly to any suspicious activity.

2. Conduct regular vulnerability assessments

Your cybersecurity defenses are only as strong as their weakest point. By regularly scanning your systems, networks and applications for known vulnerabilities, you can identify weaknesses in your systems before they are exploited by attackers. You can also challenge your security teams to find gaps in their own cyber defenses through internal teaming exercises, culminating in the ultimate test against a live-fire cyber range. From there, you can identify and fill security gaps through actions such as applying patches, optimizing your security stack, or implementing additional security controls.

3. Establish baseline behavior

It’s easier to spot bad actors who have infiltrated your systems if you know what normal network and system activity looks like. To develop a baseline behavior profile, your security teams can examine data points such as traffic flow, data access, and application usage and flag patterns that are common and expected. This enables your organization to quickly detect any unusual activity that could indicate a potential threat.

4. Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can enhance a threat detection strategy by enabling organizations to automate the analysis of vast amounts of data. In particular, one of the advantages of AI and ML is their ability to detect previously unknown threats. Traditional security tools are often limited to detecting known threats based on pre-defined rules or signatures. In contrast, AI and ML can learn from historical data and identify new threats based on their behavior patterns, even if they have never been seen before. In addition, AI and ML can help filter the signal from the noise in your security alerts, reducing false positives and flagging the most relevant alerts for further investigation by your team.

Best Practices for Threat Response

When it comes to defending your organization against cyber attacks, detection is only the first step. Cybersecurity teams must also take swift, decisive action to isolate threats, mitigate the damage and address any underlying vulnerabilities revealed by the attack. You’ll accomplish this most easily if you follow a tri-factor approach to cybersecurity, incorporating people, technology, and procedures. By planning ahead and investing in the right tools and practices, you can ensure your organization is equipped to respond to threats quickly and effectively. 

1. Develop and test incident response plans

An incident response plan outlines the steps that an organization will take in the event of a cyber attack. To develop your plan, start by defining the scope and objectives, identifying potential threats and assigning roles and responsibilities to participants. Once these guidelines are in place, test them by conducting regular drills and exercises to ensure the plan is effective and up to date. You can increase the realism of these exercises by deploying them in a controlled environment such as a cyber range that simulates your organization’s unique tech stack. 

2. Establish clear communication protocols

When your organization is hit by a cyber attack, time is of the essence. Establishing clear communication protocols in advance streamlines your response and ensures threats are addressed as quickly as possible. Your protocol should lay out escalation paths and communications channels for key stakeholders, including external parties such as customers, partners, and regulatory bodies. By planning ahead for how to communicate during an urgent threat scenario, you will increase your chances of catching a threat before it does significant damage.

3. Isolate and contain the threat

Once you have detected a threat, your first step should be to isolate it to prevent it from spreading and make it easier to remediate. Your incident response plan should include steps for quickly identifying affected systems, disconnecting them from the internet and quarantining the affected areas. You can make the containment process easier by taking preventative measures like implementing network segmentation to limit the impact of an attack and ensuring that backups are available and up to date so you can quickly restore systems in the event of data loss. 

4. Remediate the underlying cause

Remediation involves taking steps to address the root cause of a cyber attack and prevent it from happening again. After an incident is contained, you should thoroughly investigate the attack and determine how it occurred. With the information you uncover,  you can take appropriate corrective action, which may involve steps such as patching vulnerabilities, updating security policies, or providing additional training to employees. 

5. Train employees on response procedures

Training employees in threat response procedures is crucial to ensure that they understand their responsibilities in the event of a cyber attack. This can help ensure a coordinated and effective response, reducing the risk of further damage to the organization. Besides providing clear and concise instructions on how to respond to potential threats, you should conduct regular training sessions, including cyber range exercises that enable employees to practice in realistic scenarios. It is also important to provide ongoing education and awareness programs to keep your cybersecurity team informed of the latest threats.

Benefits of a Threat Detection Strategy

Developing, implementing and testing a comprehensive threat detection and response plan is a significant investment. However, organizations that put in the time, budget and effort will be rewarded with stronger defenses against — and faster recovery from — cyber attacks of all types, among other benefits.

1. Minimizing damage

Cyber attacks can harm your business in multiple ways. There’s the direct damage to your systems, applications and data, which can already be expensive and time-consuming to fix. However, cyber attacks also have painful second-order effects, such as reputational damage or lost sales due to systems downtime. A quick and effective response to a threat can help prevent these outcomes and save your organization significant time and money.

2. Protecting sensitive data

Cybercriminals often target credit card numbers, social security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII) in their attacks. Breaches involving these types of data leave victims vulnerable to identity theft and can harm your business’ standing with its customers. Quickly identifying and mitigating threats can protect sensitive data from being compromised and bolster customers’ trust in your organization.

3. Meeting compliance requirements

Many regulatory bodies and industry standards require organizations to have a robust cybersecurity program, including a threat detection and response strategy. In addition, laws such as the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and the state of California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) define standards organizations must meet to keep their customers’ sensitive data safe. By having an effective strategy in place, organizations can comply with these regulations and avoid costly fines and legal consequences.

4. Preserving business continuity

Cyber attacks can disrupt business operations, leading to lost revenue, decreased productivity, and damage to an organization's reputation. For example, an attack that takes down an ecommerce company’s website for just a few hours could cost that company thousands of dollars in sales. An attack could also cause chaos internally if employees are unable to access systems and data critical to their roles. The faster your organization can detect and address threats, the less likely it will be to suffer this type of fallout from an attack.

5. Staying ahead of evolving threats

Cyber threats are constantly evolving, and it’s essential to stay current on emerging threats — including new iterations of existing threats. For example, advanced persistent threats such as the Emotet malware can slip by organizations’ defenses over and over again as attackers change up their evasion techniques and infection strategies. In this challenging environment, relying on set-it-and-forget-it security measures is no longer enough. Your organization needs to continuously update its strategy to address new threats as they appear. For example, you can perform penetration testing with SimSpace’s military-grade cyber range, which is always up to date on the latest national-level cyber threats. 

Final Thoughts 

As cyber threats continue to mutate and multiply, it’s not a question of whether your organization will be affected but when. Investing in robust threat detection and response will ensure that you can shut down attacks quickly, minimizing damage, protecting your data and ensuring business continuity. 

Keeping up with the constantly shifting threat landscape and the latest technologies can be a difficult task, requiring continuous cybersecurity improvement. That’s why SimSpace’s Cyber Force Platform provides a live-fire cyber range that puts your threat detection and response strategy to the test against high-level cyber threats. 

After running realistic simulations of various threat scenarios, the SimSpace Professional Services team can review the results with your security team and determines next steps to improve your threat detection and response capabilities. After using SimSpace’s Cyber Force Platform, some organizations have seen as much as a 48% improvement in threat detection time and a 40% reduction in configuration or patch-related beaches, among other benefits.

Contact SimSpace today to learn how our expert teams and advanced technologies can help keep your organization’s systems safe.

Blog bySimSpace
SimSpace is the leading innovative cyber security platform for enabling risk reduction through operational quantification, testing and training. No other organization has SimSpace’s depth of experience in creating high fidelity cyber ranges with unique user and adversary emulation techniques.