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ISO/IEC 27035:2016+ — Information technology — Security techniques — Information security incident management (parts 1 -3 published, part 4 DRAFT)
Information security controls are imperfect in various ways: controls can be overwhelmed or undermined (e.g. by competent hackers, fraudsters or malware), fail in service (e.g. authentication failures), work partially or poorly (e.g. slow anomaly detection), or be more or less completely missing (e.g. not [yet] fully implemented, not [yet] fully operational, or never even conceived due to failures upstream in risk identification and analysis). Consequently, information security incidents are bound to occur to some extent, even in organisations that take their information security extremely seriously.
Managing incidents effectively involves detective and corrective controls designed to recognize and respond to events and incidents, minimize adverse impacts, gather forensic evidence (where applicable) and in due course ‘learn the lessons’ in terms of prompting improvements to the ISMS, typically by improving the preventive controls or other risk treatments.
Information security incidents commonly involve the exploitation of previously unrecognised and/or uncontrolled vulnerabilities, hence vulnerability management (e.g. applying relevant security patches to IT systems and addressing various control weaknesses in operational and management procedures) is part preventive and part corrective action.
Scope and purpose
The standard covers the processes for managing information security events, incidents and vulnerabilities.
The standard expands on the information security incident management section of ISO/IEC 27002. It cross-references that section and explain its relationship to the ISO27k eForensics standards.
Structure and content
The standard lays out a process with 5 key stages:
- Prepare to deal with incidents e.g. prepare an incident management policy, and establish a competent team to deal with incidents;
- Identify and report information security incidents;
- Assess incidents and make decisions about how they are to be addressed e.g. patch things up and get back to business quickly, or collect forensic evidence even if it delays resolving the issues;
- Respond to incidents i.e. contain them, investigate them and resolve them;
- Learn the lessons - more than simply identifying the things that might have been done better, this stage involves actually making changes that improve the processes.
The standard provides template reporting forms for information security events, incidents and vulnerabilities.
Note: some terms are defined differently in the 27035 standards from those in ISO/IEC 27000, so be sure to check the applicable definitions carefully if you use this standard.
Status of the standard
ISO/IEC 27035 replaced ISO TR 18044. It was first published in 2011 as a single standard then revised and split, initially into three parts and then four ...
ISO/IEC 27035-1:2016 — Information technology — Security techniques — Information security incident management — Part 1: Principles of incident management
- Abstract: [TBA]
- Scope & purpose: part 1 outlines the concepts and principles underpinning information security incident management and introduces the remaining part/s of the standard. It describes an information security incident management process consisting of five phases, and says how to improve incident management.
- Content: the incident management process is described in five phases closely corresponding to the five phases in ISO/IEC 27035:2011 ...
- Plan and prepare: establish an information security incident management policy, form an Incident Response Team etc.
- Detection and reporting: someone has to spot and report “events” that might be or turn into incidents;
- Assessment and decision: someone must assess the situation to determine whether it is in fact an incident;
- Responses: contain, eradicate, recover from and forensically analyse the incident, where appropriate;
- Lessons learnt: make systematic improvements to the organisation’s management of information risks as a consequence of incidents experienced.
- Annexes give examples of information security incidents and cross-references to the eForensics and ISO/IEC 27001 standards.
- Status: part 1 was published in 2016.
- Part 1 is currently being revised to reflect ISO/IEC 27002:2022.
- The second edition is at Final Draft International Standard stage. The title will become “Information technology - Information security incident management - Part 1: Principles and process”. With voting due to complete by December 20th this year, it will be published in 2023.
- The second edition will have just two main sections - overview and process. Some of the first edition’s remaining content may be transferred to other parts of ‘27035.
ISO/IEC 27035-2:2016 — Information technology — Security techniques — Information security incident management — Part 2: Guidelines to plan and prepare for incident response
- Abstract: [TBA]
- Scope & purpose: this part concerns assurance that the organisation is in fact ready to respond appropriately to information security incidents that may yet occur. It addresses the rhetorical question “Are we ready to respond to an incident?” and promotes learning from incidents to improve things for the future. It covers the Plan and Prepare and Lessons Learned phases of the process laid out in part 1 - the start and end.
- Content: 8 main clauses:
4. Establishing information security incident management policy
5. Updating of information security and risk management policies
6. Creating information security incident management plan
7. Establishing an Incident Response Team [a.k.a. CERT, CSIRT etc.]
8. Defining technical and other support
9. Creating information security incident awareness and training
10. Testing (or rather exercising) the information security incident management plan
11. Lesson learnt
... plus annexes with incident categorization examples, and notes on ‘legal and regulatory aspects’ (mostly privacy).
- Status: part 2 was first published in 2016.
- Part 2 is being revised to align with the 2022 version of ISO/IEC 27002, with a new section on “Establishing internal and external relationships” and a shorter title omitting “Security techniques”.
- The second edition is at Final Draft International Standard stage, on-track for publication by mid-2023.
ISO/IEC 27035-3:2020 — Information technology — Information security incident management — Part 3: Guidelines for ICT incident response operations
- Abstract: “This document gives guidelines for information security incident response in ICT security operations. This document does this by firstly covering the operational aspects in ICT security operations from a people, processes and technology perspective. It then further focuses on information security incident response in ICT security operations including information security incident detection, reporting, triage, analysis, response, containment, eradication, recovery and conclusion ...” [Source: ISO/IEC 27035-3:2020]
- Scope & purpose: part 3 concerns ‘security operations’, specifically the organisation and processes necessary for the information security function to prepare for, and respond to, ICT security events and incidents - mostly active, deliberate attacks in fact.
- Content: section-by-section the standard steps through the core parts of the typical incident response process i.e. incident detection; notification; triage; analysis; containment, eradication and recovery; and reporting.
- Status: part 3 was published in 2020. Unusually (and possibly in contravention of ISO directives?), the standard’s title includes an abbreviation.
ISO/IEC 27035-4 — Information technology — Information security incident management — Part 4: Coordination [DRAFT]
- Abstract: [TBA]
- Scope & purpose: managing major incidents (such as botnet or phishing attacks) usually involves coordinating responses between the Incident Response Teams of several organisations (often in different countries) affected or involved in various ways e.g. Internet and cloud service providers, plus law enforcement, plus the targeted organisation/s.
- Content: the standard discusses the concept of Coordinated Incident Management and its application throughout the full incident management lifecycle - from response planning to lessons learned - by ‘communities’ (supply chains or networks) with common interests.
- Status: part 4 is at Committee Draft stage, due to be published in 2024.
In addition to events and incidents, I find it helpful to learn from ‘near-misses’ i.e. situations that thankfully caused little if any impact - for instance:
- An alert worker noticing and reporting a phishing or Business Email Compromise attack;
- A malware infection involving defective/nonfunctional malware;
- A colleague spotting confidential papers left on someone’s office desk after they have gone home, and tidying them away;
- A manager casually disclosing a commercially-confidential detail in conversation with a supplier who appears not to have noticed it;
- A neighbouring office being ram-raided, burgled, vandalised or flooded.
Although, in the absence of impacts, it is tempting simply to ignore near-misses, they present opportunities to identify information risks worth treating more proactively. The organisation might not be quite so lucky next time!
Notwithstanding the title, the ISO/IEC 27035 standards specifically concern incidents affecting IT systems and networks although the fundamental principles apply also to incidents affecting other forms of information such as paperwork, knowledge, intellectual property, trade secrets and personal information. Unfortunately (as far as I’m concerned), the language is almost entirely IT-related. That, to me, represents an opportunity squandered: ISO27k covers more than IT/cybersecurity. How are organisations meant to handle incidents such as fraud and piracy where the IT elements are incidental to the business?
Explicitly describing the information risks that the incident management process addresses would enhance this standard, I feel. Since it is literally impossible to detect and respond to every single incident, a proportion of the risk has to be accepted (e.g. ‘low and slow’ attacks fly under the radar, while many hacks and malware attacks involve deliberately evading or neutralising both detective and preventive controls), while some might be shared with third parties (e.g. business partners and insurers) or avoided (e.g. by putting even more emphasis on preventive controls). Also, the response to a major incident may well involve invoking business continuity arrangements, hence this standard should in my opinion integrate with or properly cite ISO 22301 etc.
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