CISA unveils government cyber security response playbooks

Playbook follows President Biden's April executive order

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CISA has published two playbooks for federal civilian agencies to plan and conduct cyber security vulnerability and incident response.

The Federal Government Cybersecurity Incident and Vulnerability Response Playbooks follow an executive order from President Biden in May urging the US to improve its cyber security measures following a series of data breaches in critical infrastructure and federal agencies, including the SolarWinds supply chain attack and the ransomware attacks on the Colonial pipeline.

The order from Biden urged better lines of communication between law enforcement and service providers to enhance investigations.

CISA said the playbooks should provide federal civilian agencies with a standard set of procedures to respond to vulnerabilities and incidents impacting Federal Civilian Executive Branch networks.   

“The playbooks we are releasing today are intended to improve and standardize the approaches used by federal agencies to identify, remediate, and recover from vulnerabilities and incidents affecting their systems,” said Matt Hartman, deputy executive assistant director for Cybersecurity. 

“This important step, set in motion by President Biden’s Cyber Executive Order, will enable more comprehensive analysis and mitigation of vulnerabilities and incidents across the civilian enterprise. We encourage our public and private sector partners to review the playbooks to take stock of their own vulnerability and incident response practices.” 

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Two playbooks outlined by CIS are for incident and vulnerability response. They should give agencies a standard set of procedures to identify, coordinate, remediate, recover, and track successful mitigations from incidents and vulnerabilities affecting systems, data, and networks. They also contain checklists for incident response, incident response preparation, and vulnerability response that can be adapted to any organization to track necessary activities to completion.    

CISA said the “Incident Response Playbook” applies to incidents involving confirmed malicious cyber activity and for which a major incident has been declared or not yet been reasonably ruled out. The “Vulnerability Response Playbook” applies to any vulnerability observed to be used by adversaries to gain unauthorized entry into computing resources. 

“Agencies should use these playbooks to help shape overall defensive cyber operations to ensure consistent and effective response and coordinated communication of response activities,” CISA said.

The playbooks also cover response activities, such as malicious activity detection or vulnerability discovery initiated by federal agencies, CISA, or third parties. CISA warned the playbooks don’t cover threats to classified data or national security systems.

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