Integrating CloudEndure Disaster Recovery into your security incident response plan

An incident response plan (also known as procedure) contains the detailed actions an organization takes to prepare for a security incident in its IT environment. It also includes the mechanisms to detect, analyze, contain, eradicate, and recover from a security incident. Every incident response plan should contain a section on recovery, which outlines scenarios ranging from single component to full environment recovery. This recovery section should include disaster recovery (DR), with procedures to recover your environment from complete failure. Effective recovery from an IT disaster requires tools that can automate preparation, testing, and recovery processes. In this post, I explain how to integrate CloudEndure Disaster Recovery into the recovery section of your incident response plan. CloudEndure Disaster Recovery is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) DR solution that enables fast, reliable recovery of physical, virtual, and cloud-based servers on AWS. This post also discusses how you can use CloudEndure Disaster Recovery to reduce downtime and data loss when responding to a security incident, and best practices for maintaining your incident response plan.

How disaster recovery fits into a security incident response plan

The AWS Well-Architected Framework security pillar provides guidance to help you apply best practices and current recommendations in the design, delivery, and maintenance of secure AWS workloads. It includes a recommendation to integrate tools to secure and protect your data. A secure data replication and recovery tool helps you protect your data if there’s a security incident and quickly return to normal business operation as you resolve the incident. The recovery section of your incident response plan should define recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) for your DR-protected workloads. RPO is the window of time that data loss can be tolerated due to a disruption. RTO is the amount of time permitted to recover workloads after a disruption.

Your DR response to a security incident can vary based on the type of incident you encounter. For example, your DR plan for responding to a security incident such as ransomware—which involves data corruption—should describe how to recover workloads on your secondary DR site using a recovery point prior to the data corruption. This use case will be discussed further in the next section.

In addition to tools and processes, your security incident response plan should define the roles and responsibilities necessary during an incident. This includes the people and roles in your organization who perform incident mitigation steps, in addition to those who need to be informed and consulted. This can include technology partners, application owners, or subject matter experts (SMEs) outside of your organization who can offer additional expertise. DR-related roles for your incident response plan include:

  • A person who analyzes the situation and provides visibility to decision-makers.
  • A person who decides whether or not to trigger a DR response.
  • A person who actively triggers the DR response.

Be sure to include all of the stakeholders you identify in your documented security incident response procedures and runbooks. Test your plan to verify that the people in these roles have the pre-provisioned access they need to perform their defined role.

How to use CloudEndure Disaster Recovery during a security incident

CloudEndure Disaster Recovery continuously replicates your servers—including OS, system state configuration, databases, applications, and files—to a staging area in your target AWS Region. The staging area contains low-cost resources automatically provisioned and managed by CloudEndure Disaster Recovery. This reduces the cost of provisioning duplicate resources during normal operation. Your fully provisioned recovery environment is launched only during an incident or drill.

If your organization experiences a security incident that can be remediated using DR, you can use CloudEndure Disaster Recovery to perform failover to your target AWS Region from your source environment. When you perform failover, CloudEndure Disaster Recovery orchestrates the recovery of your environment in your target AWS Region. This enables quick recovery, with RPOs of seconds and RTOs of minutes.

To deploy CloudEndure Disaster Recovery, you must first install the CloudEndure agent on the servers in your environment that you want to replicate for DR, and then initiate data replication to your target AWS Region. Once data replication is complete and your data is in sync, you can launch machines in your target AWS Region from the CloudEndure User Console. CloudEndure Disaster Recovery enables you to launch target machines in either Test Mode or Recovery Mode. Your launched machines behave the same way in either mode; the only difference is how the machine lifecycle is displayed in the CloudEndure User Console. Launch machines by opening the Machines page, shown in the following figure, and selecting the machines you want to launch. Then select either Test Mode or Recovery Mode from the Launch Target Machines menu.
 

Figure 1: Machines page on the CloudEndure User Console

Figure 1: Machines page on the CloudEndure User Console

You can launch your entire environment, a group of servers comprising one or more applications, or a single server in your target AWS Region. When you launch machines from the CloudEndure User Console, you’re prompted to choose a recovery point from the Choose Recovery Point dialog box (shown in the following figure).

Use point-in-time recovery to respond to security incidents that involve data corruption, such as ransomware. Your incident response plan should include a mechanism to determine when data corruption occurred. Knowing how to determine which recovery point to choose in the CloudEndure User Console helps you minimize response time during a security incident. Each recovery point is a point-in-time snapshot of your servers that you can use to launch recovery machines in your target AWS Region. Select the latest recovery point before the data corruption to restore your workloads on AWS, and then choose Continue With Launch.
 

Figure 2: Selection of an earlier recovery point from the Choose Recovery Point dialog box

Figure 2: Selection of an earlier recovery point from the Choose Recovery Point dialog box

Run your recovered workloads in your target AWS Region until you’ve resolved the security incident. When the incident is resolved, you can perform failback to your primary environment using CloudEndure Disaster Recovery. You can learn more about CloudEndure Disaster Recovery setup, operation, and recovery by taking this online CloudEndure Disaster Recovery Technical Training.

Test and maintain the recovery section of your incident response plan

Your entire incident response plan must be kept accurate and up to date in order to effectively remediate security incidents if they occur. A best practice for achieving this is through frequently testing all sections of your plan, including your tools. When you first deploy CloudEndure Disaster Recovery, begin running tests as soon as all of your replicated servers are in sync on your target AWS Region. DR solution implementation is generally considered complete when all initial testing has succeeded.

By correctly configuring the networking and security groups in your target AWS Region, you can use CloudEndure Disaster Recovery to launch a test workload in an isolated environment without impacting your source environment. You can run tests as often as you want. Tests don’t incur additional fees beyond payment for the fully provisioned resources generated during tests.

Testing involves two main components: launching the machines you wish to test on AWS, and performing user acceptance testing (UAT) on the launched machines.

  1. Launch machines to test.
     
    Select the machines to test from the Machines page of the CloudEndure User Console by selecting the check box next to the machine. Then choose Test Mode from the Launch Target Machines menu, as shown in the following figure. You can select the latest recovery point or an earlier recovery point.
     
    Figure 3: Select Test Mode to launch selected machines

    Figure 3: Select Test Mode to launch selected machines

     

    The following figure shows the CloudEndure User Console. The Disaster Recovery Lifecycle column shows that the machines have been Tested Recently.

    Figure 4: Machines launched in Test Mode display purple icons in the Status column and Tested Recently in the Disaster Recovery Lifecycle column

    Figure 4: Machines launched in Test Mode display purple icons in the Status column and Tested Recently in the Disaster Recovery Lifecycle column

  2. Perform UAT testing.
     
    Begin UAT testing when the machine launch job is successfully completed and your target machines have booted.

After you’ve successfully deployed, configured, and tested CloudEndure Disaster Recovery on your source environment, add it to your ongoing change management processes so that your incident response plan remains accurate and up-to-date. This includes deploying and testing CloudEndure Disaster Recovery every time you add new servers to your environment. In addition, monitor for changes to your existing resources and make corresponding changes to your CloudEndure Disaster Recovery configuration if necessary.

How CloudEndure Disaster Recovery keeps your data secure

CloudEndure Disaster Recovery has multiple mechanisms to keep your data secure and not introduce new security risks. Data replication is performed using AES 256-bit encryption in transit. Data at rest can be encrypted by using Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) encryption with an AWS managed key or a customer key. Amazon EBS encryption is supported by all volume types, and includes built-in key management infrastructure that has no performance impact. Replication traffic is transmitted directly from your source servers to your target AWS Region, and can be restricted to private connectivity such as AWS Direct Connect or a VPN. CloudEndure Disaster Recovery is ISO 27001 and GDPR compliant and HIPAA eligible.

Summary

Each organization tailors its incident response plan to meet its unique security requirements. As described in this post, you can use CloudEndure Disaster Recovery to improve your organization’s incident response plan. I also explained how to recover from an earlier point in time when you respond to security incidents involving data corruption, and how to test your servers as part of maintaining the DR section of your incident response plan. By following the guidance in this post, you can improve your IT resilience and recover more quickly from security incidents. You can also reduce your DR operational costs by avoiding duplicate provisioning of your DR infrastructure.

Visit the CloudEndure Disaster Recovery product page if you would like to learn more. You can also view the AWS Raise the Bar on Data Protection and Security webinar series for additional information on how to protect your data and improve IT resilience on AWS.

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Author

Gonen Stein

Gonen is the Head of Product Strategy for CloudEndure, an AWS company. He combines his expertise in business, cloud infrastructure, storage, and information security to assist enterprise organizations with developing and deploying IT resilience and business continuity strategies in the cloud.