All Articles

Incident Response Tools: A Technical Overview

Mark Stone
A Panther-themed graphic stating "Incident Response Tools - a Technical Overview"

Today, cyber attackers have more advanced tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) at their disposal than ever before. A well-prepared and experienced response team is becoming a “must-have” for modern organizations to respond to these security threats quickly and efficiently.

The incident response team is responsible for analyzing log data, reviewing forensic artifacts, and performing investigations of potentially harmful threats. The team plays a crucial role in coordinating and driving resolution on a diverse range of incidents such as malware exposure, data loss, or other security events.

An incident responder or SOC analyst often has experience in one or more of the following skills: network defense, incident response, ethical hacking, reverse engineering and computer forensics. 

But without the right incident response tools, responders are essentially handcuffed and cannot effectively do their job. 

The role of incident response tools in everyday security monitoring

Incident response tools help manage and mitigate the effects of security incidents. They can help speed up the response process, and assist with post-incident analysis. 

A critical element of the incident response process is security monitoring, which is used to maintain the security of a system, track activity on the system, and identify any potential threats or vulnerabilities. Incident response tools can be used as part of a security monitoring process, helping to identify and respond to incidents quickly and effectively.

Typically, incident response tools are best leveraged with the OODA Loop in mind. The acronym was developed by the US Air Force military and stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

Breaking down IR tools with the OODA loop

Most of the IR tools today fall into the first Observe category, but the best tools enable organizations and IR teams to execute through the entire OODA loop efficiently:

Observe – Observing identifies any anomalous behavior that may require investigation. Tools used here include SIEM, log analysis, Intrusion Detection, traffic analysis, net flow tools, application performance monitoring and vulnerability analysis.

Orient – The orientation process assesses the current threat landscape both inside and outside an organization, providing real-time context to priority events. Strategies include situational awareness, threat intelligence, incident triage and security research.

Decide – What is the best strategy for minimizing damage and speeding up records based on the previous two steps? An organization’s corporate security policy often serves as the blueprint.

Act – Acting is about remediation and recovery. Based on lessons learned from remediation, the team can improve upon the incident response process. Tools include backup and recovery solutions, patch management, data capture and forensics analysis, and security awareness training. 

How incident response tools make life easier for engineers and analysts

Incident response tools that enable automation to scale investigation and response capabilities make life easier for engineers and analysts. The tools also make it easier for analysts to track incidents and collect data, and this data can be used to improve the organization’s security posture.

One of the most critical features of an incident response tool is the ability to quickly gather information about an incident. The IR team can use them to help facilitate incident handling and investigation and assist in the management of risk.

By timely identifying and containing the damage done by a breach, these tools can minimize the impact of an attack on an organization’s network and data. In addition, they can help to improve an organization’s security posture by identifying potential vulnerabilities in the network. 

An incident response tool can be a standalone application or incorporated into existing network management or security infrastructure. It can also be integrated with other tools, such as log management systems and vulnerability scanners.

The common types of IR tools

Incident response tools typically fall under three common categories: forensics, security information and event management, and risk management.

More specifically, there are three main tools that incident responders use to help them succeed: 

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) – Perhaps the most common IR tool today, a SIEM alerts IT and security teams about potential attacks. By collecting, storing, and analyzing security data across broad networks and data sources, a SIEM puts organizations in a better position to detect and respond to escalating threats.

Intrusion detection systems (IDS), Network Traffic Analyzers, and Web Proxies – IDS monitors for suspicious activity and alerts an administrator when such activity is discovered. Most IDS tools use baseline or attack signatures and are either host-based (HIDS) or network-based (NIDS). Network Traffic Analyzers look at traffic flow across border gateways and within a network. Netflow is used to track specific traffic flow, which may reveal the protocols in use on your network or which servers or assets communicate with each other. Finally, with so many threats operating over the HTTP protocol, Web Proxies manage access to websites and log connections, which aid in forensics and threat tracking.

Endpoint Detection and Response – Endpoint Detection and Response enables organizations to monitor and detect – in real-time – suspicious or abnormal activity or events originating from the endpoint. EDR solutions provide visibility into threats with precise data and deliver real-time alerts if an attack or breach occurs.

How to choose the right tools for your needs?

When a cyberattack hits an organization, the clock is ticking. Every second counts in order to minimize the damage and get your systems back up and running. 

That’s why it’s essential to have the proper incident response tools in place before an attack happens. But with so many options available, how do you choose? 

First and foremost, when it comes to selecting IR tools, an organization must have a clear picture of both its needs and capabilities.

Here are four factors to consider when selecting incident response tools:

  1. Your business size and needs
  2. Your organization’s ability to respond
  3. Your organization’s budget and resources
  4. The tools’ ease of use

Understanding the challenges and risks your organization is trying to address is paramount. Simply deploying an incident response tool because it’s the latest trend may not be the best for your business.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to choose tools that easily integrate with your current solutions and allow you to meet both security and business goals seamlessly and efficiently.

The incident response tool should:

  • Be adaptable to your IR policies and procedures
  • Enable seamless collaboration
  • Enable automation
  • Maintain a database of attacker TTPs
  • Connect to threat intelligence databases
  • Follow security best practices for implementation 

It’s important to note that there are many more questions your security team will need to ask when evaluating IR tools, but those fall beyond the scope of this article. 

Panther makes incident response easy

Incident response is never easy, but whenever a tool can simplify the process, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the role it can play for your organization. 

Panther is built with incident response in mind. It reduces false positives and alert fatigue, and provides fast log ingestion at scale — empowering you to see the entire picture. 

Panther enables your security team to focus only on legitimate alerts flagged by our pre-written detections that come out of the box. Plus, it has the additional flexibility and agility for security teams to craft their own customized detections in Python. 

Traditional tools were not built with cloud-scale in mind and cannot meet the demands of today’s modern workloads. But with Panther’s serverless approach to threat detection and response, security teams can detect threats in real-time by analyzing logs as they are ingested, giving you the fastest possible time to detection. 

Want to learn more? Book a demo today and find out why Panther is loved by cloud-first security teams.