Cyber Threat Intelligence: What is it?
Many of us are familiar with Cyber Threats and Intelligence concepts, but how these concepts are related is a topic that needs to be discussed. Let us start with the reason that led to the introduction of Cyber Threat Intelligence. Cyber Threat Intelligence has been introduced in the world of cybersecurity because of its capability to foresee future attacks before it reaches the targeted networks. This helps the organizations to guard the networks by accelerating the decision-making process, itemizing the responses, and also provides better protection to the organization itself. In short, Cyber Threat Intelligence is the solution to prevent cyber threats or attacks faced by any network or organization.
Different Types of Cyber Threat Intelligence
Cyber Threat Intelligence can be characterized into 4 different types.
- Strategic Threat Intelligence – This is the most difficult form of Threat Intelligence to create and usually it is in the form of reports. Strategic threat intelligence comes up with an outline of the threat landscape of the organization. Strategic threat intelligence provides statistics such as defensive actions, threat actors, their targets, and the intensity of potential attacks while considering the loopholes and risks in the threat landscape of the organization. It demands the collection and analysis of human data that urges a thorough understanding of cybersecurity and the accuracy of the global geopolitical situation.
- Tactical Threat intelligence – Tactical intelligence is the easiest Threat Intelligence to create, and it is mostly automatic. The tactical threat includes more explicit details about TTP (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures), intelligence threat actors, and is primarily intended for the security team to understand the attacking group. Intelligence provides them the idea of how to devise defensive strategies to alleviate those attacks. The report covers every vulnerability and risk possessed by the security systems that could be taken advantage of by the attackers and ways to recognize such attacks. The findings can help in strengthening the existing security controls/protection mechanisms and eliminate the vulnerabilities in the network as well. It is machine-readable as well, which means security products can include it via API integration or feeds.
- Technical Threat intelligence – As the name suggests, it is technical in nature. Technical Threat Intelligence mainly focuses on particular evidence of attack in the immediate future, identifying Simple Indicators of Compromise (IOC) which includes malicious IP addresses, URLs, file hashes, phishing mail content, and other known fraudulent domain names. The timing of sharing technical intelligence is critical, as fake URLs or malicious IPs will expire in a few days.
- Operational Threat Intelligence – Operational Threat Intelligence has expertise in cyber attacks. It provides detailed information on various factors such as nature, purpose, timing, how, why and what behind every attack. The information is collected by invading online discussions of hackers and their chat rooms which is quite difficult. Operational Intelligence is beneficial for cybersecurity professionals who are responsible for everyday operations and work in Security Operations Centers (SOC). The biggest clients of Operation Intelligence are cybersecurity departments such as vulnerability management, incident response, and threat monitoring, which makes them adept and more constructive at their assigned duties.
Who Benefits from Threat Intelligence?
It is very important to know who are the beneficiaries and how they are benefitted from Cyber Threat Intelligence. Cyber Threat Intelligence helps organizations to process threat data which gives a better knowledge about the attackers, react quickly to incidents, and move one step ahead of the threat actor. This data helps in protecting small to medium-sized organizations beyond normal security. Contrarily, the enterprises with big security teams can influence the external threat Intel to lower the cost and requisite capabilities, thus making their analysts more fruitful.
Threat Intelligence provides unique benefits to all members of the security team from the top to bottom level, including:
- Sec/IT Analyst – Enhance prevention and detection techniques while strengthening defenses against threats or attacks.
- Security Operation Center (SOC) – Helps the organization prioritize events considering the risk and impact on the organization.
- Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) – Speed up management, prioritization, and Investigation on incidents.
- Intel Analyst – Helps in finding and tracking threat actors who target the organization.
- Executive Management – allows understanding the options and solutions that help in addressing the issues faced by organizations.
How to power Your Cyber Security with Cyber Threat Intelligence?
So far we have gone through Cyber Security and the role of Cyber Threat Intelligence as a defense mechanism. The use of Threat Intelligence may vary depending on the user and use. This is why it is necessary to choose a ‘use-case’ approach that can help identify the exact threat intelligence required for the organization. As a security program, Cyber Threat Intelligence needs to be monitored and evaluated continuously to ensure the smooth functioning of the program. Cyber Threat Intelligence work as a cycle rather than a step-by-step process and there are 6 processes in the Threat Intelligence Cycle;
- Direction – The direction/requirements phase is important to the threat intelligence lifecycle as it prepares the strategic roadmap for a particular threat intelligence operation. It should cover many things such as the list of assets and business processes to be defended, prioritizing the threats, and the threat intelligence you will use. At this planning stage, the team will approve the motives and methodology of its intelligence program centered on the requirements of the participants involved. The team may set forth find:
- The attackers and the motives behind the attack.
- The surface of attack.
- Actions need to be taken to reinforce the defenses against future threats.
- Collection – After defining the requirements, the team starts to gather the information needed to meet specified goals. Information can be obtained from different sources, including reports of threat intelligence, social media, online forums, threat data feeds, and security specialists.
- Processing – Once the raw data is collected, it needs to be refined into a format appropriate for analysis. The difference in collection methods may often lead to disparate forms of processing. In most cases, this involves arranging data points into spreadsheets, decoding files, translating information from external sources, and assessing the data for significance and reliability.
- Analysis – Analysis is the process of converting processed information into intelligence that can lead the way to security decisions. After processing the dataset, the team has to conduct a comprehensive analysis to find solutions to the questions asked at the requirements level. The team works to convert datasets into functional items and make valuable recommendations to relevant people. It is important to display important data points in an easily consumable manner which helps the stakeholders to make informed decisions.
- Dissemination – Dissemination, as the name suggests, is the process of allocating threat intelligence to parties in need. The presentation of the analysis depends on the audience, as in most cases, suggestions should be presented concisely in a one-page report or on a small slide deck without using confusing technical terms.
- Feedback – Receiving feedback on a report to decide whether changes need to be made to future intelligence actions comprises the final stages of the threat intelligence life cycle. Participants may have changes in their preferences or in the activities on which they crave to receive intelligence reports or in how data should be distributed or presented.
This is the cycle process through which raw data becomes finished threat intelligence, a vital tool for keeping cybersecurity up to date on best practices.
Importance of threat intelligence in cybersecurity
Threat intelligence is useful for a number of reasons, most importantly helping security professionals understand the thinking process, motives, and nature of the attacker. This information enables security teams to realize and understand the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) used by hackers that leads to potential monitoring, identification of threat, and incident response time.
Backing the Cyber Threat Intelligence can help businesses to acquire enormous threat databases which can significantly enhance the effectiveness of their solutions. The main goal of cyber threat intelligence is to give institutions an in-depth understanding of the happenings outside their networks and to give better transparency in the cyber threats that pose the greatest risks to their infrastructure. Cyber Threat Intelligence also makes sure that the security defense system is capable of handling those threats and improvising them as needed.
In the end, security solutions display the strength of the threat intelligence that empowered them.