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DFIR as a Service: Effective incident response when you need it

If cybercriminals breached your systems today, would you be ready to act? Zandre Janse van Vuuren explains why DFIR as a Service is such a compelling solution for businesses that don’t have their own Digital Forensics and Incident Response teams.

By Zandre Janse van Vuuren | Service Delivery Manager: Cyber DFIR, BUI

Cybercrime has become more sophisticated, more frequent, and more damaging than ever, with companies falling victim to data breaches, ransomware scams, and other types of cyberattacks that often result in substantial financial losses and reputational damage. In the aftermath, they’re turning to Digital Forensics and Incident Response specialists to find answers – and to help them strengthen their security posture and avoid a repeat incident.

What is Digital Forensics and Incident Response?

Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) is a niche field within cybersecurity that concentrates on identifying, preserving, analysing, and recovering digital information to investigate and respond to security incidents and cybercrimes.

DFIR specialists play a critical role in mitigating cyber threats and maintaining the integrity of connected digital systems. Their key focus areas typically include Incident Response, Digital Forensics, Analysis, Recovery, and Reporting.

Incident Response

DFIR specialists are responsible for quickly identifying and responding to security incidents like network intrusions, data breaches, malware infections, and cyberattacks. Their primary goal is to minimise the damage caused by the incident and prevent further unauthorised access by the perpetrator.

Digital Forensics

DFIR teams use sophisticated tools and investigative techniques to gather and analyse digital evidence from various sources, including servers, computers, portable drives, smart devices, mobile phones, and network logs. They must follow strict collection procedures and maintain a chain of custody to preserve the integrity of digital evidence so that it is admissible in any legal proceedings related to the incident.


DFIR teams thoroughly examine all digital evidence to uncover the scope of the incident and identify the perpetrator’s methods and motives. They also evaluate the extent of the damage caused to the victim’s connected environment by analysing logs, file systems, memory data, and network traffic, among other things.


DFIR specialists have advanced technology and security skills and can work to recover data, systems, or services lost or compromised due to the incident. This process may involve restoring backups, removing malware, and implementing new, more comprehensive security measures to reduce the victim’s attack surface in the future.


DFIR specialists are responsible for documenting their findings and preparing detailed technical and forensic reports suitable for legal purposes, regulatory compliance, or internal investigations. They can also appear in court as expert witnesses.

DFIR as a Service

Last year, the average cost of a data breach was $4.45-million. Researchers estimate that cyberattacks will cost the global economy $10.5-trillion by the end of 2024. And by 2025, lack of skill or human failure will be responsible for more than half of significant security incidents.

It’s clear that cybercriminals are taking advantage of a perfect storm: our hyperconnected digital world, the global shortage of security professionals, readily available hacking tools, and the relative ease of operating anonymously on the web. In this volatile climate, you have to go beyond protecting and defending your IT environment and plan for when disaster strikes.

If you do not have an in-house team of DFIR experts to identify and contain threats, mitigate the impact of security incidents, and conduct in-depth investigations, then you should consider opting for a DFIR-as-a-Service solution. This will enable you to leverage the expertise of a trusted security partner and enjoy the five main benefits of DFIR-as-a-Service.

1. Access to experienced security pros

DFIR-as-a-Service partners usually have a team (or teams) of security professionals specialising in incident response and digital forensic investigation. These experts have cutting-edge skills and a wealth of experience gained from working on DFIR cases involving business and enterprise organisations in diverse industries. As a customer, you can tap into a much broader knowledge base than your company’s own and take advantage of the insights and lessons learned by these pros.

2. Rapid response when it matters most

Every second counts when you’re dealing with a security incident. DFIR-as-a-Service partners are prepared to respond quickly when called upon. They have established procedures and playbooks to deal with the incident, and defined service-level agreements governing their engagements with you. As a result, you can expect swift incident analysis and containment, proper incident management, and dedicated support from DFIR experts – all crucial elements for minimising the impact of the incident.

3. Specialised tools and technologies

DFIR-as-a-Service partners invest in cutting-edge tools to give their teams advanced incident response and digital forensic analysis capabilities. They also harness their relationships with technology peers, think tanks, and research institutions to gain deeper insights into the evolving threat landscape. As a customer, you can benefit from specialised technologies and sophisticated industry research without ever having to source these independently.

4. Reduced legal and regulatory risks

DFIR-as-a-Service partners are external parties who provide objective assistance and an outsider’s perspective on your security posture and any incidents. As DFIR experts, they are equipped to ensure that all digital forensic investigations are conducted thoroughly and impartially in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. You can rest assured every incident will be handled responsibly, professionally, and with complete transparency.

5. Cost efficiency

Creating and managing an in-house DFIR team is a costly and time-consuming process. It involves finding and training DFIR professionals and procuring state-of-the-art hardware and software – all of which can strain your budget. On the other hand, when you hire a DFIR-as-a-Service partner, you instantly broaden your organisation’s DFIR capabilities without having to bear the overhead costs associated with maintaining a full-time internal team.

As cybercrime continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace, the importance of Digital Forensics and Incident Response cannot be overstated. If you’re serious about holistic protection for your organisation, then a robust DFIR strategy is not just advisable – it’s imperative.

A DFIR-as-a-Service solution customised for your company is a proactive investment in security that will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a team of specialists on standby to help you safeguard your assets, protect your reputation, and preserve business continuity in challenging times.

BUI Cyber DFIR Service Delivery Manager Zandre Janse van Vuuren is a certified computer, digital and mobile forensics specialist and incident handler with a background in security operations.

Call in our security and digital forensics experts when it matters most. From lone attackers to ransomware groups, cyberspace is filled with adversaries. Solid preparation is essential. Our Cyber DFIR team can provide all the support you need in times of crisis. Learn more about our Digital Forensics and Incident Response retainer service, available now.

Five questions to ask your leadership team before the POPIA grace period ends

South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act gives individuals more control over how their personal information is collected, processed, and used by private and public bodies. The Act requires such bodies (AKA responsible parties) to meet several minimum requirements for the lawful processing of data – and the grace period is almost over. From 1 July 2021, SA organisations must be compliant. Are you ready? Ask your leadership team these five questions to check that key areas of accountability have been addressed…

1 | Do we have a registered Information Officer?

As a responsible party, you are required to register your Information Officer with the Information Regulator by 1 July 2021.

You can do this online via the Information Officer Registration Portal on the Information Regulator’s website, where electronic and PDF versions of the registration form are available. The portal also contains relevant documentation, including guidance notes, official notices, and policies.

Remember, your Information Officer (IO) is the person responsible for making sure your organisation adheres to POPIA. They need to encourage and ensure your organisation’s compliance with POPIA, deal with any information access requests pursuant to the legislation, and work with the Information Regulator in relation to any investigations conducted in terms of POPIA.

They also need to see to it that an organisational compliance framework is developed, implemented, monitored and maintained, and that internal awareness sessions are conducted regarding the provisions of the Act, among other duties. The IO’s responsibilities are listed in Section 55 of POPIA and in the POPIA Regulations.

2 | Do we have adequate security measures in place?

As a responsible party, you are required to secure the integrity and confidentiality of personal information in your possession or under your control.

According to Section 19 of POPIA, this includes the implementation of “appropriate, reasonable technical and organisational measures” to prevent loss of, damage to, or unauthorised destruction of personal information.

Whether you manage personal data on paper or online, POPIA calls for you to identify all reasonably foreseeable internal and external risks to the data; establish and maintain appropriate safeguards against the risks identified; regularly verify that the safeguards are effectively implemented; and ensure that the safeguards are continually updated in response to new risks.

In addition, POPIA decrees that you must have “due regard to generally accepted information security practices and procedures” which may apply to you generally, or which may be required in terms of specific industry or professional regulations (e.g., hospitals are expected to have strict security measures in place to protect the detailed, sensitive medical records of their patients).

3 | Do we know what to do in the event of a data breach?

As a responsible party, you are required to report security compromises to the Information Regulator and the data subject(s) involved as soon as reasonably possible.

Section 22 of POPIA describes the obligations of the responsible party when there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that the personal information of a data subject has been accessed or acquired by an unauthorised person.

You should have a comprehensive incident response plan on hand to guide your actions in the event of a data breach, data leak, or cybersecurity incident. Make sure that your IO and key members of your leadership team follow a systematic process to identify the incident, respond appropriately, escalate where necessary, and communicate clearly in line with POPIA’s stipulations.

If you fail to notify data subjects in such circumstances, you could face imprisonment, fines, or both. Remember, you must notify affected parties in writing as soon as reasonably possible after the discovery of a security compromise.

4 | Do we have employee training initiatives in place?

As a responsible party, you should ensure that your employees are educated about basic information security protocols and procedures.

From your Human Resources Department, which handles sensitive staff info, to your employees themselves, who may manage personal data from customers, suppliers, and service providers, your teams have to deal with personal information on a regular basis.

Make sure everyone in your organisation is familiar with POPIA’s requirements – and that individual staff members, line managers, and department heads understand their duties and responsibilities when it comes to data processing, data management, and data security.

Educate your personnel about the collection, use, and storage of personal information under POPIA, and remember that they may need specialised training for new systems and new productivity tools deployed now, or in the future.

5 | Do we understand the risks of non-compliance?

As a responsible party, you could face hefty fines or imprisonment if you’re found to be in contravention of the law.

There are civil and criminal consequences for non-compliance with POPIA. Section 99 of the Act describes how a data subject (or the Information Regulator, at the request of a data subject) may institute civil action against a responsible party for breach of POPIA.

Offences, penalties, and administrative fines are outlined in Chapter 11 of the legislation. If you are convicted of an offence in terms of POPIA, you could be fined up to R10-million, or imprisoned for up to 10 years.

Non-compliance also poses a risk to your reputation: public trust in your organisation could be eroded overnight if you suffer a data breach, and serious brand damage could cripple your business irrevocably.

Get expert help for all your data security needs.

The BUI Cyber Security Operations Center is the first of its kind in Africa. Take a look inside to see how our security experts protect and defend critical data 365 days a year.

Or contact our team directly to learn more about next-generation security solutions to safeguard your personal information, customer files, and business resources.