NIST SP 800-61

Even though information security professionals plan to effectively manage risk, incidents still occur. NIST SP 800-61 is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) special publication that gives guidelines for organizations on how to handle security incidents. Read section 2.2 on page 6 to learn more about the need for, and the benefits of, an incident response capability. Also read section 3 on pages 21-44 to learn how to appropriately handle information security incidents. Before you move on, make sure you can explain the four stages of the incident response process: preparation; detection and analysis; containment, eradication, and recovery; and post-incident activity.

Handling an Incident

5. Incident Handling Checklist

The checklist in Table 3-5 provides the major steps to be performed in the handling of an incident. Note that the actual steps performed may vary based on the type of incident and the nature of individual incidents. For example, if the handler knows exactly what has happened based on analysis of indicators (Step 1.1), there may be no need to perform Steps 1.2 or 1.3 to further research the activity. The checklist provides guidelines to handlers on the major steps that should be performed; it does not dictate the exact sequence of steps that should always be followed.

Table 3-5. Incident Handling Checklist

Action Completed
Detection and Analysis
1. Determine whether an incident has occurred
Analyze the precursors and indicators
Look for correlating information
Perform research (e.g., search engines, knowledge base)
As soon as the handler believes an incident has occurred, begin documenting the investigation and gathering evidence
2. Prioritize handling the incident based on the relevant factors (functional impact, information impact, recoverability effort, etc.)
3. Report the incident to the appropriate internal personnel and external organizations
Containment, Eradication, and Recovery
4. Acquire, preserve, secure, and document evidence
5. Contain the incident
6. Eradicate the incident
Identify and mitigate all vulnerabilities that were exploited
Remove malware, inappropriate materials, and other components
If more affected hosts are discovered (e.g., new malware infections), repeat the Detection and Analysis steps (1.1, 1.2) to identify all other affected hosts, then contain (5) and eradicate (6) the incident for them
7. Recover from the incident
Return affected systems to an operationally ready state
Confirm that the affected systems are functioning normally
If necessary, implement additional monitoring to look for future related activity
Post-Incident Activity
8. Create a follow-up report
9. Hold a lessons learned meeting (mandatory for major incidents, optional otherwise)