With the rates of cyber attacks increasing in volume and complexity, cyber threat hunting is now an essential process in any modern organization’s cyber security strategy. Especially since threat actors can often lurk in networks for weeks or even months before they are discovered, posing a significant risk during that period for data, information or services to be stolen or damaged.

However, not all organizations are able to afford, or even know where to start, with cyber threat hunting. Thankfully, the introduction and innovation of threat hunting tools have made it easier for an organization to deploy established cyber threat hunting security measures — to ensure that added layer of security for networks everywhere.

What are Threat Hunting Tools?

What is Cyber Threat Hunting?

Briefly, threat hunting, or cyber threat hunting, is the process of proactively analyzing an organization’s network to identify and neutralize unknown or unfamiliar threats. By doing so, organizations have a better understanding of what is working in their cyber security and what is not, and the opportunity to then resolve these issues before any threat actors have a chance to do real harm.

You can learn more about threat hunting in our comprehensive guide, which includes detailed information about how it works, different types of threat hunting, and evolving challenges and solutions.

What are Threat Hunting Tools?

Threat hunting tools are the software, equipment and technologies that help security professionals find and handle threats. These tools can include a wide range of services, including analytical insights, security monitoring, integrated security information, automation, response systems and managed detection and response systems. 

In the past, threat hunting would have taken a significant amount of time to complete as all the data, intelligence, logs, history and research would have to be done manually. Today, these threat hunting tools enable threat hunters to quickly and efficiently find threats to streamline the threat hunting process. 

Threat Hunting Tools and Platforms

Threat-hunting platforms use different tools to fully analyze and detect threats within the system. These are all specific in function and play vital roles in seeking out suspicious or anomalous behavior. Broadly, they are categorized into five sets of threat-hunting tools:

  1. SIEM Solutions: These are the usual Security information and event management (SIEM) solutions available which provide real-time threat analysis and raw security data management capabilities.
  2. Security Monitoring Tools: These tools allow for the collection and monitoring of threats to your network’s cybersecurity through antivirus agents, firewalls, and endpoint security measures.
  3. Analytics Tools: A good threat hunting tool will make use of elite analytics that can use statistical knowledge and provide clear and concise patterns created by network usage to indicate any potential threat.
  4. SOAR Systems: Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) systems apply a better level of protection through automated management and effective identification of threats. 
  5. MDR Systems: These Managed Detection and Response (MDR) systems are a third-party security layer that helps by constantly monitoring the network for threats. 

These threat hunting tools should be optimized with machine learning and AI technology to provide automated and advanced protection. Furthermore, with all these critical tools integrated, it would be difficult for any cyber-threat to gain access to your network, however, it is difficult to imagine any person, or even a team of people, who can keep up with the dynamic elements that make up elite threat hunting in an ever-changing IT system.

With the sheer volume of data flowing through enterprises daily, automation is vital to threat hunting processes and generating real-time threat intelligence. Enterprises of all sizes should invest in threat hunting tools and platforms that are designed to perform all these necessary functions constantly.

5 Free Open-Source Threat Hunting Tools

Most smaller enterprises choose to rely on open-source threat hunting tools in order to maintain budget-friendly cybersecurity for their business. These options are usually freely available online but even choosing the correct one can be slightly tricky at times.

Some of the open-source threat hunting tools we’ve rounded up include:

1. Snort

An open-source Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) that defines malicious activity and then generates alerts for users on any abnormal or suspicious activity. Snort is highly efficient for network traffic debugging and full-blown threat prevention. The tool can be downloaded and configured for personal use or for businesses.

2. Suricata

The next open-source tool is Suricata which is owned and supported by the Open Information Security Foundation (OISF), a non-profit that is committed to keeping Suricata open-sourced forever. Suricata can log HTTP requests, log and store TLS certificates, extract files from flows and store them to disk while the full pcap capture support allows easy analysis - making it a powerful engine for a threat hunting tool.

3. Zeek

Zeek is a threat hunting monitoring solution that interprets what it sees and creates compact, high-fidelity transaction logs, file content, and fully customized output that is suitable for manual review on disk or in a more analyst-friendly tool like a security and information event management (SIEM) system.

Without licensing fees, some enterprises seek out threat-hunting tools like Snort and Suricata, both open-source, rules-based intrusion detection systems (IDS) or Zeek (formerly known as Bro) - an IDS system that focuses on network analysis but is also resource-intensive.

4. Cuckoo Sandbox

This free, open-source tool is perfect for analyzing malware and has several benefits as a threat-hunting tool. It can monitor different files and allows users to customize the analysis and reports created. Being compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android makes it suitable for any digital environment.

Cuckoo Sandbox is made up of a Linux Ubuntu host with a nested Windows 7 system on top of it. The tool’s primary package is based on Python and has multiple dependencies – which can make it difficult to install. VirtualBox is used on the Ubuntu host while Windows 7 acts as a guest system – with a Cuckoo agent to help the 2 devices communicate.

5. APT-Hunter

The APT-Hunter is a free open-source tool designed to find abnormal patterns and track APT movements for Windows event logs. The tool notes Mitre ATT&CK tactics and techniques for Windows event log event IDs to help with finding the indicators of an attack.

Learning from previous experiences, the tool can detect an attack faster before containing it. APT-Hunter acts as a filter in your network and speeds up Windows log analysis.

While these are all effective in their ways, commercial security tools provide guaranteed services and solutions that can be essential for bigger organizations. Professionals also provide timely services and updates to keep your network completely secure.

Need a Commercial Threat Hunting Tool that works for you? 

Cyber security should not take on a “one and done” approach. It needs to be configured carefully and correctly by each organization to ensure the best protection possible.

Open-source threat hunting tools can be a great asset if done properly, but what’s even better is creating a threat hunting strategy that works for your unique organization’s needs and covers all your cyber security bases fully. That’s why we have created Sangfor Cyber Command to address all of the elements critical to threat hunting, going well beyond any open-source tools available on the market, to ensure that organizations are getting full visibility into their threats.

If you would like to talk to us to learn more about how Sangfor can help you get started with threat hunting tools or learn more about Sangfor Cyber Command, contact us today.


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Frequently Asked Questions

The top 5 best open source threat hunting tools are Snort, Suricata, ZeekCuckoo Sandbox and APT-Hunter as mentioned above. You can visit their websites and download the latest recommended version.

While open-source threat hunting tools are cheap, they are not always easy to work with and are often incorrectly configured and installed. They are also not powerful or comprehensive enough to protect an entire enterprise.  Should the worst happen, and you suffer a cyber-attack, it’s important to consider how your customers will react to your cyber security strategies — will they congratulate you on your frugal approach to cyber security practices – or seek out a company that invests in protecting their data?

Open-source threat hunting platforms do hold a higher level of accessibility to most people who think that deploying professional threat hunting tools might be too costly or include too much red tape. There’s a growing understanding that freely available and easily modified open-source threat hunting gives you the comfort of cybersecurity without the hassle of admin.

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