System Recovery

Chris Swagler | January 29th, 2024


With technology playing an important role in today’s business landscape, companies can’t afford to be offline for extended periods following a severe cyberattack. Users will quickly become frustrated and may flock to competitors if companies’ digital products and services are unavailable for an extended period. Because numerous employees are currently using internet-based devices and software to accomplish their work, cyberattacks may bring companies’ whole internal operations to a halt if they’re victims of cyberattacks. Hackney Council in London and the British Library both had extended periods of their systems being offline resulting from ransomware attacks. Companies must do everything possible to contain and mitigate cyberattacks and quickly restart disrupted IT systems. It’s a complex process with companies frequently divided between restoring systems from a clean backup or completely rebuilding the systems. Restoring compromised systems following cyberattacks can introduce new cyber threats and IT issues for companies. However, security professionals believe that following best practices, including system recovery, can be very beneficial.

Recovering From Cyberattacks Isn’t Easy

According to a managing director of UK and Northern European at a cybersecurity company, restoring companies’ IT systems after cyberattacks is like a tornado recovery. IT teams and C-suites have just completed a mental marathon and must consider how to get their business back up and running. Management must be aware of it to avoid analysis-paralysis syndrome. The key to recovering systems and data following cyberattacks and preventing any uncertainty or ambiguity in the process is to convey clear expectations across companies and establish a “restoration roll-out protocol.” As part of the process, IT teams are urged to begin recovery and investigation efforts immediately. By leveraging a “secure island” environment in which key services are recreated before the compromised method is cleared, companies can return to full business operation quickly. The remediation effort discovers and closes security vulnerabilities and eliminates the threat operators’ presence in the environments.

It’s recommended that companies have a two-step remediation process in which companies first restore vital applications and processes before addressing less critical aspects of their operations. Even though it’s critical to restart IT systems that cyberattacks have compromised, companies shouldn’t overlook the importance of alerting employees, customers, and other stakeholders about cyber breaches. It’s recommended that executives be very open about cyberattacks, stating what has happened and forewarning how the recovery process can be frustrating with numerous applications and processes needed to rebuild. It will assist companies in shifting the mindset of their employees to become solution-based as they move forward with the recovery efforts. There can also be additional pressure as customers and partners expect the same service. Employees must be informed of the company’s status to appropriately analyze how the breach may have impacted third parties and disclose the breach under regulatory standards.

System Recovery Options

According to a senior manager of incident response and remediation at a threat intelligence company, companies frequently face two options after a cyberattack. The first option is to begin restoration efforts with an uncorrupted backup. Alternatively, cybersecurity companies can recreate the disrupted systems from the start. Companies must develop a thorough recovery strategy that includes identity management, network segmentation, and endpoint verification. While generating new user accounts as part of identity management efforts, companies must utilize strong passwords. If a cybersecurity incident is still ongoing, it’s recommended that companies reset their passwords every day.

Network segmentation is necessary for three different environments, including “a red network” for compromised environments, “a green network” for clean environments, and “a yellow network” for identifying compromises that affect systems currently operational. The yellow or staging environment restricts internet access and inter-network traffic, allowing only exceptions for specific security applications. Companies must manage endpoint verification while keeping two critical circumstances in mind. If companies must rebuild compromised systems, they need to use a clean golden image certified by the incident response team. If systems don’t need to be rebuilt, it’s recommended that companies isolate it within the “yellow network” and revive it there. It will enable incident response teams to use endpoint detection technologies to ensure that indicators of compromise don’t affect systems.

System Recovery Is Important

Focusing on data recovery is another key stage in restoring critical systems following a cyberattack. The recovery processes will either be based on visibility, prioritization, and understanding the current threat operator access or they’ll be executed as “blind” events. Companies are advised against using blind recovery since they risk severe data loss by recovering for a longer period than necessary or reintroducing threat operators if the recovery point is after they gain access. Companies need to make well-informed decisions based on the realization that everything can’t be recovered at once. Companies must strive to ensure that threat operators lose access by recovering from before the intrusion and avoid significant data losses by executing recovery operations as close to the intrusion as possible.

Companies that execute recovery plans ahead of cyberattacks would restart systems considerably faster than those that don’t. Companies that aren’t prepared to recover from cyberattacks will face reduced visibility while they do discovery and workflow mapping during the event. The most successful companies will have previously tested recovery ensuring the visibility of their plans and adjusting based on lessons learned. Companies generally deal with the encryption threat of ransomware attacks. It’s difficult when environments are actively encrypted and/or under attack. In modern ransomware intrusions, the capacity to determine whether data was stolen, what that data contains, and how to cope with potential data loss extortion threats is critical.

Successfully Recovering Systems

According to a chief security officer at a data loss prevention platform company, various factors impact whether recovering systems are successful or not in the event of a cyberattack. First, in attempting to recover breached systems, security teams must not overlook critical business objectives. The objectives, including determining the identity of cybercriminals and ensuring they cannot re-access systems in the future, must be matched with fundamental business goals. From a business perspective, the primary goal is to minimize disruption and financial losses, even if it contradicts some IT and security objectives. Second, companies should exercise extreme caution following a cyberattack. Instead of opting for cleanup operations, rebuilding breached infrastructure may be the best system recovery solution.

The challenge with a cleanup approach is assuring that systems are completely free of compromises. It might be difficult and time-consuming to demonstrate the absence of compromise. Rebuilding systems may be more efficient and provide better certainty. Third, companies should deploy monitoring capabilities ensuring that systems aren’t compromised once they’ve been cleaned up or rebuilt. It’s recommended that companies should conduct log aggregations or use software that captures all the activities that are occurring within companies’ IT networks. Additionally, companies must allocate resources with both the capacity and experience to comprehend and act upon the heightened monitoring data. Having logs that populate security information and event management (SIEM) systems or data storage repositories doesn’t improve security by itself. Monitoring needs to be actively interpreted and implemented by trained staff.

Finally, companies need to ensure that they learn from the cyberattacks and recovery efforts. Companies shouldn’t ignore it because cyberattacks can provide valuable opportunities for organizational growth and learning. It can improve companies’ security posture and awareness if handled constructively and without blaming or pointing fingers at anyone. Well-executed lessons-learned processes can help mitigate some of the damages inflicted on companies by the incidents, strengthening their overall resilience. Cyberattacks may be extremely destructive to companies, ranging from data leaks to financial loss. Companies must do all possible to quickly get systems back up and running. While recovering systems after a cyberattack isn’t an easy task, developing a well-thought-out system recovery plan that adheres to industry best practices and matches security goals with business objectives will make all the difference. Even though cyberattacks can be devastating, they can teach crucial lessons to companies.

With cyberattacks becoming more destructive and disrupting more business operations, companies need to be more vigilant of the current threat landscape and have a system recovery and incident response plan in place. At SpearTip, our certified engineers work continuously monitoring companies’ data networks at our 24/7/365 Security Operations Center for potential cyber threats and are ready to respond to incidents at a moment’s notice. Our IT remediation team works to restore companies’ operations, isolating malware to reclaim their networks and recover business-critical assets and valuable data. Our pre-breach advisory services allow our engineers to examine companies’ security posture to improve the weak points in their networks and engage with the people, processes, and technologies to measure the maturity of the technical environments. For all vulnerabilities uncovered, our analysts and engineers provide technical roadmaps ensuring companies have the awareness and support to optimize their overall cybersecurity posture. Our ShadowSpear Platform, an integrable managed detection and response tool, exposes sophisticated unknown and advanced threats with comprehensive insights through unparalleled data normalization and visualizations.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Center at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.


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