How to Develop a Cybersecurity Playbook in 5 Steps

The imperative to develop an information security playbook to protect your organization is clear and precise.

You need to document standard operating procedures in the event of an attack so all of your Security Operations Center (SOC) analysts know their roles, their responsibilities, how to report the event, and how to follow the chain of command.

Your cybersecurity playbook should be technical enough to meet the unique situations that someone on the first line of defense might face, but still be able to communicate effectively to a non-technical executive in the upper echelon.

Responses need to be standardized yet flexible enough to meet a wide range of scenarios. And every scrap of data surrounding an attack needs to be collected and analyzed to drive the corrective actions that must be taken.
So where should an organization begin? Below, we’ll discuss five steps to consider when developing your playbook.

Step 1: Define Your Cybersecurity Playbook Strategy

Many businesses are intimately familiar with defining the corporate vision, but a vision for the information security strategy can be just as important to ensure that the corporate vision can be protected and realized without setback.

Define Risk Acceptance

For a security vision to be effective, the first and most important question to ask is: “What level of risk are we willing to accept as an organization?” This should be followed by: “What level of impact to our daily operations are we willing to accept in order to establish a desired level of protection?”
The answers to these questions can help drive the overall vision and tone of the playbook to follow.

Reactive (SIEM) vs Proactive (EPP) Tool Considerations

Security Information & Event Management (SIEM)

To further define these questions, consider that technologies in which log network events, such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), are reactive solutions that are very effective at identifying an attack as it occurs.

Since they record and analyze events, there is very little day-to-day interference with the operations of a business.

Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP)

To make the network even more secure, endpoint protection solutions can be added.

These are proactive technologies that can block an attack at the source. But since they can block certain levels of access at the endpoint, they can also impact an organization’s operational efficiency.

Define Security vs Productivity Needs

These technologies all require investments in both time and cost for infrastructure, tools, staffing, and training. Organizations must thus consider how they want to balance the security versus productivity equation.

This balance, in turn, can help refine the enterprise’s cybersecurity playbook vision.

Step 2: Define the Responsible Parties

With a vision for your playbook in place, the next step is to define who should be driving the actual policies and procedures that align with the vision and put it into practice.

A good place to start is the shift leads that deal with network events daily. These leads can meet with their teams and examine the network events they look for on a regular basis.

Once the input from all shift leads is collected, then the next level supervisor – perhaps the SOC manager – can determine which of these procedures should be standardized across all teams.

The manager should also evaluate how the procedures align with the vision and how findings should be recorded and reported.

Step 3: Refine the Culture

To stay ahead of constantly evolving cyber threats, corporate culture must support a continuous loop of refinement for the playbook.

C-level executives should feed the loop from the top by defining the vision and adjusting it as goals, technologies, and the operational environment change.

Team leaders communicate the vision and are free to choose the best route to accomplish the mission, as long as the actions that are taken fall within the guardrails provided by the playbook.

Step 4: Measure Success

To measure your cybersecurity playbook’s performance, first, understand that success is not a finite goal.

Periodically Reevaluate Metrics of Success

As a playbook evolves, metrics of success must be reevaluated to determine if they are still aligned with the vision. And it’s important to recognize that the definition of success depends on where you stand.

While a board of directors may measure success in terms of profitability and protection from liability, a customer simply wants the product to perform as advertised and for their personal data to be protected.

Internal Stakeholders’ Metrics Must Align with the Organization’s Vision

The key is that each internal stakeholder while having their own definitions of success, should mold these definitions to support the vision defined at the highest levels.

Using the above examples, while a team might consider success metrics such as dwell time or the number of daily alerts, the team needs to focus on how these metrics can impact customer service or the productivity and profitability of the organization as a whole.

Step 5: Consider an Experienced Cybersecurity Partner

Of course, one of the most effective ways to leapfrog the development of your cybersecurity playbook is to work with someone who has developed security playbooks across a kaleidoscope of industries and technology environments.

Leverage Your Partner’s Institutional Knowledge and Tools

When you have a partner that’s “been there and done that,” you can rely on their knowledge of the fundamentals and focus on tailoring playbook development to meet the specialized needs of your enterprise.
You can use the experience, framework, workflow, processes, and tools of a partner to shrink the time it takes to stand up a new security approach.

MDR Services Help Quickly Identify and Eliminate Cyber Threats

When working with a managed services provider, such as managed detection and response (MDR), you can also offload the operational steps needed to identify an attack and take the actions needed to eliminate the threat.

This type of provider can help you leverage processes to deal with the massive volume of alerts without cutting corners. In fact, the right provider should ensure alerts of every priority are handled effectively, as many attacks today may only trigger a low- or medium-priority alert.

Don’t Procrastinate: Develop Your Playbook ASAP

Whatever route you take, don’t put off the development of a cybersecurity playbook any longer.

A playbook enables you to respond to attacks without confusion or delay. And that can mean the difference between an incident that’s contained, analyzed, and reported, or one that becomes a very unpleasant wake-up call for a business that finds itself unprepared.

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