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Incident Response and Emergency Contact


Incident Response within the context of an audit refers to setting up a procedure for handling incidents during an audit in the event the auditor causes or uncovers a security incident during the course of the assessment. nist_sp_800-115-section_7.1^,^pets_emergency_contact

It is important to know these procedures in handling incidents to protect data integrity and create an audit trail to be used for investigation and collection of information.


    • Having an established emergency contact through the agreement process is critical
    • A clear understanding of the legal and technical context from the Context Research method will be critical in choosing how to proceed.
    • Consider moving sensitive conversations to a separate, offsite location.


    What counts as an incident should be agreed with the organization's management during the agreement phase, and should include possibilities informed by the Context and Technical Research work.

    Incidents can include problems such as insider threats, active remote access malware systems, or the discovery of physical surveillance of the office, as well as many other possibilities. The auditor must use their best judgement along the SAFETAG Auditor Code of Conduct, their agreement with the organization, personal ethics, legal responsibilities, and balance this in the frame of the organization's context, capacity, and the need to in good faith gain the trust of the staff of the organization to fulfil a successful audit.

    Variant: Malware / Remote Access

    For the implementation of mitigation measures, you can refer the auditees to a third party. This may be the organization's IT staff, a rapid response helpline, a malware researcher, etc.

    Some of the mitigation steps can be implemented by the user, following the instructions included in the Rapid Response Network's Digital First Aid Kit.

    You should consider a compromise serious and coordinate an incident response if any of the following is happening:

    • files are being leaked
    • you have detected a keylogger or spyware in a device
    • the infected device is critical for the organization

    Possible mitigation steps are below. This step should not take more than 2 hours, and the auditor should coordinate the response, rather than carry it out themselves. The auditor should keep in mind the organization's capacity and be extremely careful when reformatting devices, as there may be critical programs which the organization does not have the installation media / license keys for any more, or critical data on the disk which did not come up in other discussions. Check to see if the organization has trustworthy operating system installation media and license keys. In almost every situation, these mitigations should be done post-audit so as to ensure the audit itself has time to complete and be thorough.

    • if the device is not critical, avoid using the infected device and disable its ability to access the network until a thorough investigation has been completed
    • In consultation with the organization and any IT staff, delete the hard disk content and reinstall the system
    • if the forensic capture of the whole hard disk would take too long, and an investigation is needed, the hard disk can be replaced (See the Advanced Threats Method for further guidance)
    • if reinstalling the system is not possible, the device should be replaced
    • mobile devices can be reset to factory settings. After resetting to factory settings, make sure any app or data recovery is not including potential compromise vectors, such as browser extensions, malicious applications, etc.

    Variant: Insider Threat

    Insider Threat refers to any threat to an organization that comes within or inside the organization. These can include (but not limited to)

    - Employees
    - Former employees
    - Contractors
    - Interns

    Suspicions or evidence for insider threats must be raised discretely with organisational management through the audit contact person.

    Variant: WebApp Hacking

    For the implementation of mitigation measures, you can refer the auditees to a third party. This may be the organization's IT staff, hosting service provider, a rapid response helpline, a digital forensic expert, etc.

    You should consider a web application compromise serious and coordinate an incident response if any of the following is happening:

    • Unusual accounts are created in server and CMS
    • Access logs from regions beyond the organization's location
    • Malicious scripts (webshells) are present on the server
    • Defaced web pages