What is Cyber Threat Hunting?
Essentially, cyber threat hunting refers to the proactive search for cyber threats or vulnerabilities that could leave your IT infrastructure vulnerable to attack. Cyber threat hunting seeks out any threats that may have made it past your system’s baseline cybersecurity. The cyber threat hunter will then find any concealed threats even if they are unknown, unresolved, or undetected.
Traditionally, threat-hunting solutions relied solely on the skills and time of security analysts and other cybersecurity professionals. However, those skills are now in high demand due to a lack of qualified technicians with the required experience, education, and instincts. This fact has made cyber threat hunting difficult and time-consuming. The expected human error involved also makes threat-hunting solutions less effective.
These days, hackers are just as sophisticated as the professionals trying to stop them. This forces companies to evaluate threat actor intentions and capabilities while monitoring for vulnerabilities – without any threat-hunting security tools or skills. However, a few open-sourced and commercially available threat-hunting tools can serve as effective threat-hunting solutions.
Why do Organizations Need Cyber Threat Hunting?
Cyber-attacks are growing more sophisticated and cybercriminals don’t rest. While most of your automated cybersecurity can securely deal with threats, they are not entirely foolproof. This is because cyber-attacks continue to evolve - becoming smarter and harder to detect. Given enough time and resources, these modern threats can break past most automated defense solutions.
Modern malware and viruses can also lay dormant within a network and go undetected for days when using typical cybersecurity protocols. Joseph Ochieng’s study revealed that cybercriminals can spend almost 192 days in a system on average before being discovered. This leaves your entire system open to ongoing damage from the inside. A cyber threat-hunting tool can act as a stealthy hunter catching these files unawares.
In 2022 IBM’s “Cost of a Data Breach Report”, the average cost of a data breach was estimated at US$ 4.35 million. Companies can no longer afford to be simply reactive in their approach to cyber threats. Effective cyber threat hunting helps organizations understand the areas of their cybersecurity that need extra attention. This will ultimately reduce the potential damage that can be done - which is a lot.
Objectives of Cyber Threat Hunting
The best way to determine which cyber threat hunting platform is suited to your business needs is to evaluate the potential attacker’s goals, capabilities, and opportunities.
The type of data you collect and store, the size of your enterprise, and the amount of money that flows through your business daily are indicators of your level of risk and the types of threats your system is vulnerable to. Determine if a cyber-attack will target your customers, or finances, or try to hold operations for a ransom. This will help you to measure the methods of attack you will likely experience. Formative threat-hunting solutions will prioritize this detection.
Staying updated on the latest cybersecurity trends will help your threat-hunting platform understand what attacks might be launched against your network. For example, if you know that your most valuable company asset is customer PII, you should research the latest and most successful cyber-attacks aimed at the theft of customer information. This will give you a head start in identifying security gaps in your network.
Closing the door to known and unknown threats before they can be used against you is an important way of proactively protecting your network. Being a victim of the same cyber-attacks as other companies gives your customers the view that your company lacks awareness and is not prepared. This passive commitment to network security is bad for your brand in general. However, maintaining effective cyber threat hunting will reduce the likelihood of that.
Threat Hunting Process: How Threat Hunting Works
There are specific threat-hunting steps that can be taken to find an actual threat. These steps can be sorted into the following six simple steps as follows:
Step One: Form a Hypothesis
This is where threat hunters will establish what type of threat they’re looking for. The hypothesis will be informed by analysis of previous malware attacks, trends in cybersecurity attacks, and critical areas of attack. Threat hunters must make use of threat-intelligent techniques to locate and develop a plan of action. This step is where your cyber threat-hunting goal is set.
Step Two: Data Collection
Threat hunting cannot be done without a sufficient amount of data collection. In step 2, your cyber hunter needs to establish centralized and organized data. Cyber threat hunting should also be built on the data of previous threat-hunting exploits. This ensures that threat hunting is continuous and that only the relevant data is used to critically analyze threats. Threat hunters can then use the data collected to determine if the hypothesis is worth expanding on.
Step Three: Critical Analysis
This step of the process is crucial and will provide the data needed to mitigate potential threats. Patterns and processes must be carefully monitored for anomalies and suspicious behaviors. As more analysis takes place, your threat-hunting team also learns new tactics and develops its threat-hunting capabilities.
Step Four: Critical Response
Time is of the essence when threat hunting and a rapid response is necessary to ensure your network’s safety. The response needs to consider both long-term and short-term measures to prevent and mitigate the threat. This includes disabling users, implementing security patches, blocking IP addresses, updating authorization privileges, altering network configurations, or introducing new identification requirements. The main goal of threat hunting is to protect the host, prevent system damage, and eliminate the possibility of a future attack.
Step Five: Isolation and Elimination
This step sees the threat dealt with in isolation to prevent further damage to the network. Using advanced threat detection sandboxing techniques will make sure that suspicious malware is quarantined away from other files. This will reduce the risk of damage to the server and automatically mitigate the threat.
Step Six: Evaluation
The last step of the process involves understanding the threat-hunting techniques and practices vital to your business. The evaluation also means implementing stricter controls over areas in your network that are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. This allows your IT team to predict and proactively safeguard your network before any damage can be done. The best threat-hunting tool is preventative measures.
Once these steps are involved, your threat-hunting team will be ready to fight off malware, but there are more threat-hunting tools and techniques that you can use.
Tools and Techniques Used for Cyber Threat Hunting
Cybersecurity experts use critical thinking, manual forensic investigation, and automated threat-hunting tools to protect companies. Threat hunters seek out insider threats and outsider attack surfaces to hunt down potential attackers or vulnerabilities before they can become a problem. This is done by executing a well-rehearsed incident response (IR) plan.
A few critical elements of any cyber threat-hunting mission are:
- Data analytics and reporting
- OS and network knowledge
- Information security experience
Evolved Cyber Threat Hunting Techniques
Cyber threat hunting today has evolved from more traditional and manual methods. Thanks to advancements in technology, we can threat hunt more effectively and efficiently. Coupled with advances in automation, machine learning, and behavior analytics, cyber threat hunting is imperative to an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. Here are some core techniques used today:
- Baselining: As its name suggests, this technique helps threat hunters understand what a normal baseline IT operation looks like within an organization. This acts as a baseline for comparison when threats are possible. Baselining is critical as it helps establish a clear difference between malicious and non-malicious events to identify anomalies.
- Attack-Specific Hunts: Unlike baselining - where the overall environment is analyzed - this technique focuses on a threat actor or threat alone. This helps threat hunters find malicious activity faster. Attack-specific hunts can often be limiting, however, which is why they are often used in conjunction with baselining to get better results.
- Time Sensitivity: Threat hunting is generally constrained by time. Time is valuable when protecting against malicious attacks. Threat hunters should validate their baseline terms and data periodically to keep up with the rapid pace of hackers.
- Help from Third-Party Sources: Threat hunting can be an overwhelming process because of the sheer number of threats and data that need to be analyzed. Getting some help ensures your organization is better protected. These third-party sources can also help with geolocation, encrypted traffic metadata, ruling out false positive leads, and more.
Types of Cyber Threat Hunting
Threat-hunting techniques differ in organizations, industries, and environments. However, many of the core threat-hunting strategies remain mostly the same. The main three types of cyber threat hunting include:
Structured threat hunting
This type of threat hunting is more organized. It is based on an indicator of attack and tactics, techniques, and procedures of an attacker. This method allows you to gain a better understanding of the techniques used by attackers. Structured threat hunting is usually based on previous methods of attacks found which means that it’s driven by a particular technique.
Unstructured threat hunting
An unstructured threat hunt is primarily based on indicators of compromise. These hunts are initiated based on a trigger. The trigger then pushes threat-hunting programs to look for pre- and post-detection behavior.
Situational threat hunting
A situational threat hunt comes from an internal risk assessment of the vulnerabilities of a specific organization - unique to its IT environment. This type of cyber threat hunt involves uniquely generated data from previous attack assessments to check if a similar situation might repeat itself.
Challenges of Cyber Threat Hunting
As cyber threat hunting is a proactive activity - that not many are familiar with - it may come with challenges. Here are some of the common challenges of cyber threat hunting:
- Lack of Skilled Hunters. While threat-hunting solutions have evolved, there is still a human element to the methods. Hiring skilled cyber threat hunters who can use the tools, techniques, and software better can be difficult with the current gap in cybersecurity talent in the industry.
- Gathering Wrong or Poor Data. To identify hidden cyber threats and keep watch over a network, it’s essential to have the right security data in the first place. Having poor data will waste time and resources - leading to inefficient results.
- Using Outdated Threat Intelligence. Threat hunters need to be equipped with the latest and most accurate cyber-attack tactics, techniques, and procedures. It is vital to generate an effective threat-hunting hypothesis model and threat intelligence. This allows threat hunters to better analyze attack trends and protect the organization.
Professional Cyber Threat Hunting: Sangfor’s Cyber Command
Professional threat hunting platforms and vendors are the most reliant when it comes to protecting your business from cyber-threats. These expert threat hunting capabilities provide encompassing protection from stable and secure vendors who make it their priority to ensure your data is safe.
Sangfor’s Cyber Command is real-time threat intelligence, detection and response platform designed with the singular purpose of improving enterprise IT security and risk posture and presents several advantages when considering a threat hunting platform solution for your enterprise. Threat-hunting cybersecurity platforms and vendors are the most reliable when it comes to protecting your business from cyber threats. Their expert threat-hunting capabilities provide encompassing protection. A stable and secure vendor will make it their priority to ensure that your data is safe. Sangfor Technologies is proud to be a leading cybersecurity provider capable of that and so much more.
Sangfor’s Cyber Command is a real-time threat intelligence, detection, and response platform. Designed with the singular purpose of improving a company’s IT security and risk posture, it has several advantages for your threat-hunting needs:
- Cyber Command Is a Fully Integrative System. Being able to integrate with existing software and multiple other cybersecurity and cloud-compatible products allows Cyber Command to be accessible and easy to deploy within your network.
- Secure Access. While most open-source threat-hunting tools can be deemed sketchy and unstable, Cyber Command provides reliable and secure protection for your data from a professional perspective. This gives you peace of mind knowing that your network is in good hands.
- Ease of Operation. The Cyber Command platform offers simplified operation and a holistic view of your entire network through an easily navigable dashboard. Sangfor also provides expert teams on-hand for additional support whenever you need it.
- Cost Efficient. Lastly, we know that the main reason open-source threat-hunting is favored over professional vendors is the implied cost of an expert threat-hunting platform. Sangfor seamlessly eases those worries by providing the most advanced and encompassing cybersecurity without breaking the bank.
Sangfor Cyber Command is used and trusted by customers worldwide to significantly improve threat detection and response. You don’t have to only take our word for it though, just read some of the success stories of the Cyber Command platform from our esteemed clients - J&T Express, SmartCar Hardware Vendor, and Zotye Auto.
Watch this introduction video to learn how Cyber Command provides elite and advanced threat detection and cybersecurity for your enterprise.