For the past 15 years I have been doing cyber incident response in both the public and private sectors. While serving as follower, leader, coordinator, liaison, consultant, and advisor on countless small, medium, and large incidents, I have come to learn that there is a small set of rules that apply to every single incident response and to every single person serving as part of an incident response team. If you are a cyber incident responder, then you may know all of this already. However, I will explain why these ten rules are necessary.
1. Do no harm
Do not perform any action or cause inaction that will cause injury or endanger the life of another
human being. As a second priority, do not perform any action or cause inaction that will lead to risk of harm to animals, the environment, or property. The act of doing or not doing harm is often considered in terms of legal acceptability. While the laws of the jurisdiction are important, they may not protect all of the people all of the time.
2. Always act ethically
Act in a manner that is good and just. In deciding how to act, use empathy to place yourself in another affected person’s shoes. Be honest, respectful, and open to alternative opinions on ethical outcomes.
3. Always act and present yourself professionally
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you expect to be treated as a professional, then treat others professionally. Likewise, present yourself in a manner befitting someone who is worthy of respect.
4. Always maintain operational security
Do not allow unauthorized people or tools to gain visual, physical, or auditory access to case data. Do not leave documents, notes, or drawings open for unauthorized viewing. Properly encrypt communication, data in transit, and data at rest. Secure all data in a controlled manner when not in possession. Ensure that colleagues are following proper operational security.
5. Never release confidential information
Loose lips sink ships. Do not talk about what work you are doing to anyone who has no need to know – releasing information about an incident can tip-off adversaries and move the cyber event into a less controlled situation. Additionally, releasing information to the public arena can hurt an organization’s reputation and brand.
6. Always take notes
Be effective and efficient when taking notes. Ensure that your notes are accurate. Mark conjecture as such. Mark notes with dates, times, persons involved, locations, and other relevant data to place the notes into context.
7. Always gather and analyze all facts before reporting a conclusion
Obtain as much data as possible when performing analysis. Analyze all data as thoroughly as possible before reporting a conclusion or expert opinion. When reporting a conclusion with partial data or analysis, then caveat the report appropriately to state that not all data was gathered or not all analysis was completed.
8. Always pursue first-hand information
Always attempt to corroborate facts with first-hand information. After an acceptable attempt to obtain first-hand information and if unavailable, then accept second-hand information as a substitute. Mark all second-hand information as such.
9. Never assume you have all of the data
Attempt to be as holistic as possible when answering a question or arriving at a conclusion. Appropriately balance accuracy and precision when collecting and analyzing data. Present answers or conclusions with the scope of the amount of data collected and analyzed.
10. Do not fear the unknown
No one knows everything. It is okay to ask for help. It is honorable to admit when you do not know something. Do not allow lack of knowledge to lead to lack of confidence or procrastination. Seek second opinions and ask advice on an approach to solving a problem. Balance seeking advice with timeliness.