If you feel like cybersecurity today has become more challenging than ever, you’re right. Alarming trends in DDoS and ransomware, the need to modernize security to accommodate remote work and other trends, an ever-increasing number of hard-to-detect bad bots, and a shortage of skilled security personnel have left many teams scrambling to respond to cyber attacks. Fortunately, building a strong cyber threat intelligence program can help teams not only mitigate the fallout from attacks, but plan targeted, proactive strategies to get ahead of attackers and make the most of their team’s capabilities.
This blog will explain what cyber threat intelligence is and how it’s used, why it’s so important, how it’s collected and analyzed, and how different stakeholders and security personnel can use it to combat the latest threats.
What Is Cyber Threat Intelligence?
Threat intelligence is data that is collected, processed, and analyzed to help security teams understand the tactics, techniques, and procedures of threat actors and other malicious users.
Threat intelligence data comes in four types:
- Strategic intelligence provides high-level, non-technical information in an integrated view that helps contextualize threats – the kind of information that could be presented to a board of directors to help them understand, for example, how a certain action might make them more or less vulnerable to a threat vector.
- Tactical intelligence provides technical details about how threats are being carried out–such as attack vectors, tools, and infrastructure–in order to support day-to-day security operations.
- Operational intelligence is information used in active threat management to mitigate risk and respond to threats with specific actions, like updating firewall controls.
- Technical intelligence is specific details about the resources used to launch an attack, like file hashes used to identify malware, or malicious IP addresses.
Why Is Cyber Threat Intelligence Important?
Cyber threat intelligence is widely recommended by experts as an important component of modern cybersecurity, especially as attacks become more complex and widespread. According to Gartner, cyber threat intelligence is now “a key aspect of security architecture” , and NIST lists threat intelligence reports as a crucial information source that can help organizations identify, assess, monitor, and respond to threats .
With the rise of advanced persistent threats as well as bigger, more complex, and more frequent DDoS and ransomware attacks, security teams must be more proactive. As we illustrated in a recent infographic on Proactive Cybersecurity, the risk of being attacked increases each year, as shown in this 2022 graph from the 2022 Cyber Threat Defense Report :
To minimize these risks, teams must focus their efforts and budget in the right areas and take fast, decisive action where it’s needed most. This is why key industry reports like the 2021 Verizon Mobile Security Index cite cyber threat intelligence as a crucial step in detecting common threats like malware and network layer attacks.
By implementing a more proactive and targeted approach to mitigating these threats, teams with a strong cyber threat intelligence program are able to:
- learn about the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of attackers
- use actionable data to enable faster and better incident response
- understand the threat actors’ decision making process
- plan and invest cybersecurity budgets in the areas that will have the biggest impact
How Is Cyber Threat Intelligence Collected and Analyzed?
During the threat intelligence lifecycle, raw data is collected, analyzed, and organized so it can be understood by all stakeholders and used to optimize security protocols and responses. The five stages of the threat intelligence lifecycle are:
- Goals & Objectives: where the team agrees on the goals and methodologies they will use in their threat intelligence program
- Data Collection: where information about threats is collected from internal and external sources such as logs, SOCs, third-party feeds, etc.
- Data Processing: where raw data is organized and evaluated in a way that is easy to understand and analyze
- Analysis & Production: where data is deciphered into action items and recommendations
- Dissemination & Feedback: where data is interpreted and concisely presented for stakeholders and feedback is given to inform future operations.
By following this process, teams can transform raw data into actionable intelligence with the context that will help them take action to mitigate risk.
Who Benefits from Cyber Threat Intelligence?
Cyber threat intelligence benefits every member of a security team, from the security analyst to the CISO and other executives:
- It helps security analysts improve their ability to detect attacks and proactively strengthen their defenses.
- It helps SOCs (security operations centers) cut through the noise of endless alerts and prioritize incidents based on the organization’s specific risks and which actions will have the most impact.
- It helps CSIRTs (computer security information response teams) gain more speed and agility in investigating incidents and managing and prioritizing their investigations.
- It helps intelligence analysts find out which threat actors are targeting the organization and track their activities.
- It helps CISOs and other executive managers gain a comprehensive understanding of their organization’s risks and the options for addressing those risks.
In today’s threat landscape, security teams today must respond to bigger, more complex, and more frequent attacks than ever. This job is made even harder by a shortage of cybersecurity talent that makes it difficult to fully staff teams and adequately manage risk. By integrating analytics solutions with security software, teams can establish a threat intelligence program that leverages real-time data to inform fast, smart decision-making, maximizing their impact and focusing their efforts where they’re needed most.
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 Cyberedge Group