Incident Response Framework’s Second Phase: Understanding Identification & Scoping

Saniye Nur
11 min readSep 4


Understanding Security Alert Nature:
Explore the nature of security alerts and their implications within the context of incident response.

Gathering Additional Evidence:
Delve into the process of collecting supplementary evidence to enhance incident understanding and resolution.

Importance of Asset Inventory and Spreadsheet of Doom:
Recognize the significance of maintaining an accurate Asset Inventory and managing complex electronic spreadsheets, often referred to as the “Spreadsheet of Doom,” in effective incident response.

Scoping the Security Compromise:
Uncover strategies for determining the scope and magnitude of a security compromise, essential for making informed response decisions.

Feedback Loop between Identification and Scoping:
Grasp the dynamic relationship between the stages of Identification and Scoping, and how they inform and influence each other throughout the incident response process.

The Triad of Identification: People, Process, and Technology

These three components form the foundation of a robust incident detection and response strategy. These components must work in synergy; well-trained individuals should follow defined processes and utilize appropriate technologies. This way, security threats can be rapidly and effectively addressed, minimizing potential damage.

The success of the identification phase rests on a well-coordinated collaboration among these three elements.

Understanding Security Alerts and Event Notifications

Understanding security alerts and event notifications is critically important for several reasons:

Early Detection of Threats; Security alerts and event notifications serve as early warning systems for potential security threats and incidents. By monitoring these alerts, organizations can identify and respond to security breaches and vulnerabilities before they escalate into major incidents.

Minimizing Damage;Rapid detection and response to security incidents can help minimize the damage caused by cyberattacks or other security breaches. The sooner an organization is aware of a breach, the faster they can take action to contain it and prevent further damage.

Preventing Data Loss; Security alerts can help prevent data loss by notifying organizations when sensitive or critical data is at risk. This is especially important for protecting customer data, intellectual property, and other valuable information.

Understanding security alerts and event notifications is crucial for many reasons, including compliance, maintaining trust, resource allocation, continuous improvement, threat intelligence, incident investigation, and business continuity, among others.

In summary, It enables organizations to detect and respond to threats in a timely manner, protect sensitive information, comply with regulations, and continuously improve their security posture. Failure to do so can lead to significant financial, reputational, and operational consequences.

Security alerts, sometimes referred to as event notifications, serve as critical indicators that can suggest the presence of potential threats or the occurrence of actual security incidents. These signals play a pivotal role in initiating the incident response process, ultimately ensuring the security and safety of an organization’s digital assets.

Comprehending the nuances of these alerts, including their classification and level of severity, holds paramount importance in directing the incident response procedure. This comprehension is fostered through technical proficiency, the judicious utilization of security tools, and a corporate ethos centered on perpetual learning and unwavering vigilance.

Adhering to established protocols when managing these alerts guarantees that the appropriate individuals are promptly notified, thereby enhancing the overall effectiveness of the incident response efforts.

Leveraging Technical Expertise and Security Tools

Efficient incident response hinges on the prompt reporting of incidents, the competence of staff members, and the strategic deployment of cutting-edge security technologies.

Hence, it is of paramount importance that every member of an organization, irrespective of their technical expertise, remains vigilant and promptly notifies any unusual or suspicious activities using the designated communication channels.

The implementation of robust security technologies can substantially augment the identification and prevention of potential threats, guaranteeing swift acknowledgment and action in situations that have the potential to evolve into actual security incidents.

Therefore, in recent times, there has been a shift towards engaging in a variety of platforms, predominantly focused on blue team activities, rather than machines or offensive security rooms. This shift is because people have begun to understand the significance of the defensive side, albeit slowly.

When it comes to examples of Security Operations and Incident Response tools, for SIEM (Security Information and Event Management), you have options such as Splunk, QRadar, Elastic SIEM, and McAfee SIEM.

For open-source tools, here are some options:

Security Onion: It includes tools like Snort, Suricata, Zeek (Bro), Elasticsearch, and Kibana for network security monitoring.

OSSIM (Open Source Security Information Management): OSSIM is an open-source SIEM platform developed by AlienVault.

Wazuh: Wazuh is an open-source security information and event management (SIEM) platform.

Graylog: Graylog is an open-source log management, event analysis, and threat detection platform.

IDS/IPS (Intrusion Detection System/Intrusion Prevention System), Antivirus, Firewall systems, HIDS/HIPS (Host-based Intrusion Detection System/Host-based Intrusion Prevention System), EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response), Packet Analyzers/Sniffers, Forensic Tools, Vulnerability Scanners, and Email Security Gateways are also notable security tools commonly used in security operations and incident response.

These tools serve various purposes in security operations and are crucial for monitoring, detecting, and responding to security incidents.

Recognizing that the full potential of these security tools is unlocked when in the hands of skilled experts possessing the necessary knowledge and technical proficiency to combat potential threats and manage security incidents is of utmost importance.

However, establishing effective communication channels is equally vital to ensure that the right individuals receive prompt and precise alerts, enabling them to conduct investigations and initiate the incident response process. This can only be achieved through well-designed procedures that both technical and non-technical staff can readily and seamlessly adhere to.

Understanding that these security tools are at their most potent when managed by knowledgeable professionals equipped with the requisite information and technical prowess is absolutely critical.

Nonetheless, creating efficient communication pathways is equally indispensable to guarantee that the appropriate individuals are swiftly informed with accurate and detailed information. This empowers them to commence investigations and jumpstart the incident response process. Achieving this level of responsiveness can only be made possible through well-structured procedures that can be effortlessly and expeditiously followed by both technical and non-technical personnel.

Why is Promoting a Culture of Learning and Vigilance Important in Cybersecurity?

Rapidly Evolving Threats: Cyber threats and attack methods are constantly evolving. Therefore, an organization’s cybersecurity experts and personnel must continually learn to recognize new threats and vulnerabilities to provide protection against these threats.

Informed Personnel: When employees are equipped with cybersecurity training and awareness, they gain a better understanding of security policies and procedures, leading to more vigilant behavior in their daily tasks. This can reduce human-based attacks and internal threats.

Identifying Errors and Weaknesses: When an organization’s staff is more proficient in identifying errors and weaknesses related to cybersecurity, these issues can be addressed more swiftly. This can aid in preventing cyberattacks.

Quick Response Capability: A culture based on learning and vigilance can enhance an organization’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to cybersecurity incidents. Detecting and responding to incidents promptly can minimize damage.

Responsibility and Awareness: Employees who have cybersecurity awareness are more likely to adhere to security rules and policies. This can contribute to better implementation of security practices and procedures.

Crisis Management: When cybersecurity incidents occur, an organization’s personnel can respond rapidly and with awareness. This can reduce the impact of incidents and facilitate a swift recovery process.

In conclusion, promoting a culture of learning and vigilance in cybersecurity is of critical importance. Such a culture enhances an organization’s security and its ability to respond effectively to threats. It should be cultivated and continuously supported at all levels of the organization.

Transitioning from Identification to Scoping

Transitioning from identification to scoping in the context of cybersecurity or incident response refers to the phase where an organization or a security team moves from identifying that a security incident or breach has occurred to determining the full extent and impact of that incident.

Identification: This is the initial phase where an organization becomes aware of an unusual activity or event that may indicate a security incident. It could be triggered by security alerts, suspicious network traffic patterns, or reports from users or security tools. The primary goal in this phase is to recognize that something abnormal or potentially harmful is happening.

Scoping: Once an incident is identified, the scoping phase begins. During this phase, the organization aims to answer several key questions:

What happened?: Determine the nature and cause of the incident.
When did it happen?: Establish the timeframe when the incident occurred.
Where did it happen?: Identify the affected systems, networks, or locations.
How did it happen?: Understand the attack vectors and methods used.
Who is affected?: Identify the individuals, departments, or systems impacted by the incident.
What data or assets are at risk?: Assess what information or assets are compromised or at risk of compromise.
Why did it happen?: Determine the motivations or goals behind the incident (e.g., financial gain, data theft, disruption).

Transitioning from identification to scoping is essential because it sets the stage for an effective incident response. Once the scope of the incident is defined, the organization can proceed to containment, eradication, and recovery phases, which are critical for minimizing the impact of the incident and preventing future occurrences.

During the scoping phase, incident responders may collect additional data, perform forensic analysis, conduct interviews, and collaborate with various stakeholders to gather all relevant information. This comprehensive understanding of the incident enables a more focused and efficient response, including the development of a mitigation plan and steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Scoping: Understanding the Extent of a Security Incident

This phase is crucial because it provides a detailed understanding of the incident’s boundaries, the affected assets, and the potential consequences. Here’s a more detailed explanation:

Identifying the Affected Systems: During the scoping phase, incident responders identify the systems, networks, applications, or devices that have been compromised or affected by the security incident. This involves conducting thorough investigations to pinpoint the exact points of intrusion or compromise.

Assessing the Data at Risk: Incident responders determine what type of data or information may have been accessed, stolen, or compromised. They assess the sensitivity and criticality of this data to understand the potential impact on the organization.

Understanding the Attack Vectors: Scoping involves identifying how the security incident occurred, including the methods and techniques used by the attackers. This information helps organizations close vulnerabilities and prevent future incidents.

Determining the Timeline: Incident responders establish the timeframe in which the security incident occurred. This timeline is crucial for tracking the progression of the incident, understanding its duration, and identifying any suspicious activities leading up to the incident.

Assessing the Impact: Incident responders evaluate the impact of the incident on the organization’s operations, reputation, and compliance with regulations. This assessment helps organizations prioritize their response efforts.

Identifying the Affected Parties: The scoping phase includes identifying the individuals, departments, or third parties that may have been affected by the incident. This information is vital for notifying stakeholders and coordinating the response.

Gathering Evidence: During this phase, digital forensics and incident responders collect evidence related to the incident. This evidence may be used for legal or investigative purposes.

Documenting Findings: All findings, assessments, and details related to the incident’s scope are documented meticulously. This documentation provides a clear record of the incident for future reference and reporting.

The scoping phase is crucial because it informs subsequent incident response activities. Once the full extent of the incident is understood, organizations can proceed with containment to prevent further damage, eradication to remove threats, recovery to restore affected systems, and lessons learned to improve security posture and prevent future incidents.

Identification and Scoping Feedback Loop: An Intelligence-Driven Incident Response Process

The Identification and Scoping phase in the Incident Response Process doesn’t follow a linear path; instead, it forms a continuous feedback loop, consistently improving our comprehension of the incident and its extent.

This feedback loop transforms into an intelligence-driven approach when it harnesses present investigative data. It enriches this data by incorporating insights from previous incidents, cross-referenced logs from multiple data sources, advanced analytical methods, and machine learning techniques. The goal is to heighten situational awareness by providing additional context as a situation unfolds.

The incident response process commences when an issue is reported, initiating a crucial loop that guides subsequent actions. To establish a solid foundation, documentation becomes paramount at this stage.

Evidence gathering is the next pivotal step, encompassing the collection of log files, network traffic data, and other relevant information. This wealth of collected data provides invaluable insights into the incident, aiding in the identification of potential threats.

The collected evidence undergoes thorough analysis to unearth artefacts connected to the incident. These artefacts serve as clues, shedding light on the nature of the threat and the scope of its impact.

The discovery of these artefacts may uncover new leads, directing attention to previously unexplored areas. These pivot points offer the potential for fresh insights, subsequently refining the incident’s boundaries. Following this step, the process reverts to the documentation phase, incorporating the newly acquired findings.

I got this image from tryhackme. but exactly the same process is also available in digital evidence forensic processes.

CyberOps Module28

The Important of an Intelligence-Driven Feedback Loop

A feedback loop driven by intelligence in the Identification and Scoping phase encourages a proactive and dynamic approach to incident response.

This proactive approach facilitates continuous education and information exchange, enabling organizations to respond to security incidents and protect their systems effectively.

It also ensures compliance with legal obligations for privacy and data protection.

Organizations can enhance their incident response capabilities and effectively counter security incidents by leveraging real-time data on emerging threats, fostering an environment of ongoing education and information exchange, and guaranteeing privacy and data protection.

Intelligence-Driven: This feedback loop aims to help organizations better understand and address security incidents by utilizing the intelligence and knowledge they possess. An intelligence-driven approach encourages continuous improvement through data analysis and learning.

Feedback Loop: Establishing a continuous feedback loop for dealing with security incidents allows organizations to continually enhance their security policies, procedures, and response plans.

Phase Two: Identification and Scoping: This feedback loop begins at the initial stages of incident response, specifically during the identification and scoping phase. The goal of this phase is to understand the nature and scope of the incidents.

Proactive and Dynamic Approach: The feedback loop focuses on anticipating and proactively mitigating security incidents rather than merely reacting to them. It also assists in dynamically adjusting an organization’s security strategy.

This concept forms the foundation of an approach aimed at helping organizations better prepare for and respond to security incidents, enabling faster responses, and fulfilling their information security obligations. The Intelligence-Driven Feedback Loop has the potential to keep organizations up to date with the latest developments in security and build a stronger security infrastructure.

The Identification and Scoping phase within the Incident Response Process stands as a pivotal moment that necessitates seamless coordination among individuals, procedures, and technology. During this phase, we unravel the nature of security alerts and ascertain the scope of the incident.

This stage involves a delicate balancing act, demanding technical expertise, efficient utilization of security tools, and a relentless commitment to ongoing learning and vigilance.

We’ve thoroughly discussed the significance of comprehending security alerts, the vital role played by technical proficiency and security tools, and the cultivation of a culture marked by continuous learning and unwavering watchfulness. Furthermore, we’ve delved into the importance of adhering to proper protocols, ensuring that incidents are accurately identified and promptly communicated to the right experts capable of addressing them.

It’s essential to bear in mind that the effectiveness of the identification phase hinges on the harmonious collaboration of these elements. By fostering a culture characterized by awareness and vigilance while harnessing the appropriate tools and processes, you can significantly augment your organization’s incident response capabilities.


Nist Incident Response


Incident Response Plan

IR Playbook

Incident Response Phases