The Importance of Documentation in Security


The best way to deal with a security incident involves preparing before the fact. While you can have the best-laid defenses, patch everything regularly, and have great technology backing you, security incidents can still happen. Ultimately, the security incident doesn’t need to be catastrophic—but how you respond matters.

Preparing for security incidents is an absolute must and documentation plays a central role in your preparation. Today, we’ll talk about the importance of documentation in security and why automating as much of it as possible makes a huge difference.

Why documentation matters in security

Most people panic during a security incident without proper training and preparation—even security and technical professionals. Yet successfully handling security incidents requires steady hands and calm minds from everyone involved. Without them, it’s hard to make sound decisions, solve issues fast, or communicate clearly with customers and other interested parties (including law enforcement if necessary).

Reducing these nerves should be an essential part of any IT services providers’ security strategy. You can help reduce nerves by practicing drills for common incidents like ransomware attacks or major account takeovers. However, taking time out of your team’s busy schedule to run a drill for a cyberattack often eats into your budget. And if you work for or own an MSP rather than an MSSP, you may not want to take the time away from day-to-day operations to practice these scenarios.

If that’s the case, documentation is essential. Even when people do practice drills, documentation still plays a critical role in a successful outcome. You don’t want people hunting for information or taking the wrong steps when a disaster strikes. Just like you run backup before you need it, you should have documentation in place before a security incident occurs.

Documentation: Five tips for better security

When it comes to documentation and security, there are a few things to consider.

  1. Write down your security processes: If you can’t practice drills frequently, you should at least have a written incident response plan in place. It can make a major difference during a security incident. Everyone should know their roles during the different phases of a security event—from investigation to resource coordination to communication. It’s important to put the plan in writing so your team doesn’t make things up on the fly due to an unclear process. If you can take the time to create playbooks for specific kinds of incidents or attack types, that’s even better. A specially tailored plan for different types of attacks can further reduce confusion and help your team conduct a swift and orderly response to the cyberattack.
  2. Format documentation consistently: Some people write wordy descriptions, while others believe less is more. Whatever your style, it’s important not to let employees decide what’s essential—try to create templates that explain what must be documented for all work. This includes setting up environments and documenting edge cases. It also includes deciding what information is required in tickets after a problem gets resolved. When a security incident occurs, the team should be confident the information they need will be readily available. So make sure you have a sound documentation policy around formatting—it’s more important than you may think at first glance.
  3. Keep documentation up to date: This may go without saying but keeping documentation up to date is paramount to resolving issues correctly. If someone tries to fix an issue, they need the most current information. If a technician updated something on an endpoint and neglected to fully document the issue, the next person’s decisions could have unintended negative impacts. Make sure documentation remains up to date to help prevent bad situations from getting worse.
  4. Document resolutions: After each security incident (or any incident), document how the incident was solved and what steps you took. If the incident happens again, your team will have a playbook to help them potentially solve the issue the second time.
  5. Get a good, secure documentation platform to manage it: Finally, having a central repository for documentation will help your team save time when looking for this information. The last thing you want during a security incident is for the team to hunt across systems for the information they need. One central source of truth allows the team to worry about one less thing. It’s also important to make sure the documentation solution includes strong security protocols including encryption and authentication controls. It would be a hacker’s dream (and your nightmare) if they got hold of client documentation. It would be like handing blueprints to a bank robber. So make sure you choose a documentation platform vendor who takes security seriously.

The essential role of documentation

Preparing for potential security incidents is an absolute must. Your goal should be to reduce potential confusion and simplify as much of the process as possible to prevent mistakes and keep the team calm and cool under pressure. Documentation—from standard operating procedures (SOPs) to service histories—play an essential role in reducing the potential chaos of a cyberattack. So make sure to get your documentation in order before you need it.

More: Speaking of documentation, SolarWinds Passportal + Documentation Manager is built to help make documentation easy, consistent, and secure. With it, you can make sure technicians have the information they need by linking together assets, documents, knowledgebase articles, and passwords in one spot. Additionally, it offers team-wide password management features to help you enforce password best practices across your team. Learn more by visiting today.

Guest blog courtesy of SolarWinds MSP. Read more SolarWinds MSP blogs here.