What is CSIRT? Key Responsibilities, Importance, and How to Structure for Business

Cybercrimes that focus the attacks on a specific organization or conduct information breach through social engineering are becoming much difficult to prevent. There are cases that a single security incident caused a tremendous amount of financial impact on the business.

The increasing number of cyber threats incidents is leading businesses and organizations toward adopting the CSIRT system. In this article, we will review the definition of CSIRT, the core responsibilities, and the importance of security preparation.

Definition of CSIRT

CSIRT is short for Computer Security Incident Response Team, a team driven by the concept that security incidents will often occur. The main responsibilities of CSIRT is to take care of incident responses, apply security measures, and educate employees in case of threat occurrence.

Due to the recent growth of security incidents caused by cyber-attacks, CSIRT is considered as an important investment for a business to grow without unexpected harms.

CSIRT History

The origin of CSIRT starts way back in 1988 at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States Pennsylvania. Since the existence of malware, virus, and computer worms, the necessity of a reliable cyber technical team to respond against security incidents was natural for businesses to thrive.

Learning new technologies and understanding the proper usage also became important for an organization to grow along with the technical movements. Soon after the CSIRT became recognized throughout the nation, organizations started to adopt CSIRT methodology to structure their own information security operations center.

Responsibilities of CSIRT

There are mainly four roles that are handled by CSIRT.

Information Gathering

Cybersecurity is constantly evolving as we integrate with new technologies and tools. For an organization to be protected against the latest threats and cybercrimes, CSIRT will take ownership of collecting news and methodology to adopt security innovation.

Provide Technical Measures

Applying security protections against information breach and financial impacts through technical measures is the key responsibility of CSIRT. Having CSIRT focus on the management of cybersecurity integration will help an organization lower the risk of being attacked by unwanted incidents.

Share Security Knowledge Within the Organization

While applying technical measures can dramatically enhance the security against cyber attacks, it is equally important to prevent attacks that target the device users through phishing and social engineering. Therefore, transferring security knowledge to the organization's employers by standards and educational sessions are also CSIRT's responsibility.

Coordination with Third-party Security Organizations

The majority of the security measures require tools and support from a third-party organization, especially for antimalware software and network protection. To use effective security tools, it requires a detailed comparison in an aspect of considering the operation, performance, price, support, and many more factors.

Necessity for CSIRT

The value of the Information Technology role will continue to increase as the use of the internet spreads throughout the world. The growth in online infrastructure can be a double-edged sword as they can be exploited by criminal activities.

The increasing complexity of information systems will bring difficulty in identifying attack incidents that are purposely hidden under many layers of obfuscation. To protect against such specialized threats, the organization no longer can rely on a group of IT employees to maintain security and require much professional team to conduct many effective measures.

The benefits that an organization can gain by setting up a CSIRT is high. The investment will help the business to perform operations without distraction and danger caused by unexpected attacks. In addition, a rapid security act can be performed in case of detecting a malicious activity to minimize the overall impact.

Process of Setting Up CSIRT

When considering to set up a CSIRT and its process, we recommend following the Defining Computer Security Incident Response Teams guidance provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

There are mainly 9 steps of the process to set up a CSIRT for an organization.

  1. Gain an understanding of the management.
  2. Understand the current incident situations of the organization.
  3. Setup a team responsible for CSIRT duties.
  4. Design and plan CSIRT activities.
  5. Gather budgets and tools to operate.
  6. Establish organizational rules related to CSIRT operations.
  7. Educate CSIRT members.
  8. Announce CSIRT activities and responsibilities through the organization.
  9. Begin CSIRT performances.

CSIRT Structures

Typically the following four types of CSIRT organizations are structured.

Centralized CSIRT

In a centralized CSIRT approach, the responsibilities of handling the entire organization's incident response will be managed by a single team. This approach is the best fit for small size organizations or organizational branch with the isolated operations.

Distributed CSIRT

Distributed CSIRT is an approach of taking care of the incident responses with several teams or cross-division. Distributed CSIRT is most effective in a large size organization or organization with multiple branches. In some cases, the CSIRT members may spread throughout different teams to help divisions in vertical sliced operation.

Hybrid CSIRT

A hybrid CSIRT is organized by combining both centralized and distributed CSIRT approaches to operate with flexibility. Typically the central team will take the leadership of performing the core operation and day to day responsibilities, while distributed teams will assist the incidents if appropriate or necessary.

For example, if an incident occurrence increases on one of the corporation branches, a hybrid SCIRT can be conducted by assigning the role to the branch member for information gathering and applying measures.

Outsourced CSIRT

For the outsourced CSIRT approach, an organization can completely delegate the operation and responsibilities to a service that specializes in incident responses. While the financial cost could be high, the organization will be able to gain security as a temporal measure if necessary and instead of conducting a longer-term division.

Importance of Security System Preparation

Security incidents such as malware infections and information breach should be expected to plan for measures. This is why organizations should consider establishing CSIRT to manage situations regardless of the incident types and forms.

However, there are also situations that make the CSIRT establishment difficult. Some of the common reasons include high financial costs to maintain the team, lack of employee who specializes in the responsibilities, and not enough bandwidth to dedicate toward the establishment.

The key to establishing a CSIRT is to start with a minimum operation necessary to help the organization. Instead of aiming to conduct a fully operational team, first try to handle small tasks that offload incident responses from the business operations.

CSIRT operation start-up is recommended to begin from handling simple tasks, such as installing antivirus for the business and set up a reporting system to gather incidents. There might be less impact at first but definitely a movement toward the right direction that will lead to a safer work environment.